From cooking at high temperatures to storing leftover food, aluminum foil is a powerhouse in the kitchen. But this versatile tool also comes with costs to our environment and your health that you might not realize.
Thankfully, there are plenty of eco friendly alternatives to aluminum foil that deserve a place in your cooking arsenal.
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Why Isn’t Aluminum Foil Eco Friendly?
On the surface, aluminum foil seems like a sustainable material. Unlike plastic wrap, it can be reused and even recycled under certain circumstances. A win-win, right?
Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple.
First of all, mining and manufacturing aluminum foil is energy-intensive. And when not recycled, aluminum takes a whopping four hundred years to degrade naturally.
Next, consider the fact that aluminium foil needs to be reused at least six times before the health impacts and fossil-fuel usage compare to cling wrap.
Finally, there’s also the issue of recycling the foil. Most areas in the US don’t tolerate even lightly soiled foil in a recycling bin, and some require the foil to be balled up into a minimum size in order to be processed.
Is Parchment Paper Eco Friendly?
Parchment paper certainly sounds eco friendly–it’s made of paper, after all. However, most of the brands you’ll find in the supermarket are neither recyclable nor biodegradable, as they’re covered in a thin film of silicone to make them nonstick.
The brown, unbleached kind that comes unlined with silicone is really the only kind that is truly biodegradable. The problem is that this variety is not only hard to find, but also not suitable for baking without additional prep.
But don’t despair–there are more eco friendly alternatives to aluminum foil aside from parchment paper!
Alternatives to Aluminum Foil for Cooking
If your foil requirements are limited to grilling, roasting, and baking, you want a high-heat-resistant material that does not stick to your food.
Using stainless steel grill baskets (also known as grill toppers) is a convenient way to grill and roast sustainably.
Simply place the basket on top of your grill rack and set your food on top. Once you’ve finished cooking, you can carry the whole basket over to your serving area–no plate balancing required. They’re ideal for grilling slender items like shrimp or asparagus that can fall through a normal grill grate.
For stovetop or oven cooking, a cast-iron pan greased with a generous dab of cooking oil should do the trick. However, it’s not the best option for cooking acidic foods due to unpleasant flavors leaching from the pan.
Himalayan salt slabs or bricks are a unique (and aesthetically pleasing) option for searing, roasting, and curing thinly sliced meats and veggies. They’re not only reusable and 100% natural, but also a unique way to impart a rich flavor to your food.
And when it comes to simple, creative, and flavorful ways to avoid aluminum foil, nothing beats using a bed of veggies or lemons as a barrier between the pan or grate and your meats.
If none of those options will do the trick for your needs, keep reading for the best aluminum foil alternatives.
Silicone Baking Mats
High-quality, food-grade silicone that is extremely thin-lined is, believe it or not, more eco friendly than plastic due to its long-lasting nature.
Being non-stick, biodegradable, and reusable, silicone mats can do more than just help your cookies bake evenly. I use mine for everything from roasting tofu to making candy.
In my opinion, they’re the best alternative for lining a baking sheet.
Grand Fusion No Leak Non-Stick Silicone Clear Baking Mat
Grand Fusion’s eco friendly tin foil alternative is a silicone baking liner with a trick up its sleeve–it can also transform into a leak-proof baking tray.
This BPA-free mat is oven safe up to 450F, making it suitable for most baking and roasting jobs.
If you’re cooking meat, the raised edges keep flavorful juices safely inside the convertible tray which saves cleaning time. The transparent design also makes it ideal for tracing and piping using stencils.
Zefiro Silicone Baking Sheets
Sustainable, functional, and pocket-friendly, Zefiro’s innovative silicone sheets are tailored to distribute heat for even cooking.
I love that these baking sheets are dishwasher friendly, though it’s best to clean them with warm water and phosphate-free soaps.
The convenient circle patterns are great for portioning out cookie dough, too!
Cedar Food Wraps
Wondering how wraps made from cedar wood can possibly be a sustainable solution to tin foil? It’s because they’re sustainably sourced, biodegradable, and made from renewable resources.
Aesthetically appealing, durable, and compostable, this foil swap checks most, if not all the boxes.
These wraps are meant to be composted after use. However, you may be able to get a second use out of them if you clean them with a mild organic cleanser and warm water.
True Fire Gourmet TF Wraps 8-8 Cedar Wraps
Gas, charcoal, oven grill, or stove-top steaming–you name it, this wrap can do it. Each one comes with a handy butcher’s twine that helps hold the food in place while cooking.
Aluminum Foil Swaps for Food Storage
Beeswax wraps were one of the first zero waste swaps I made.
Before, I used plastic wrap and aluminum foil to cover leftovers or transport food to family gatherings. Today, I use beeswax wrap for those jobs, as well as wrapping up snacks and sandwiches.
Made with organic cotton fabric, coconut oil, and tree resin, beeswax wraps naturally absorb moisture and act as an antifungal and antibacterial seal to preserve food.
Just mold the wrap with your hands to fit the desired shape and allow your palm’s heat to seal it in place.
Washing your wrap with cold (not warm!) water and a mild soap will keep them nice and clean. Once air-dried, these wraps are ready for sealing once again.
Lilybee Wraps are utterly gorgeous. The fun, colorful patterns are perfect for packing cute school lunches or brightening up the inside of your fridge.
These wraps are the optimum thickness–enough to protect the food inside without being a pain to seal. They’re also durable and last up to 12 months with proper care.
Each pack comes with 6 wraps (2 small, 2 medium, 1 large, 1 extra large), so you’ll have a range of sizes and designs on hand for different storage needs.
Bee’s Wrap’s beeswax food wraps are another cute and versatile eco friendly tin foil alternative.
Their wraps come in three sizes and are made with organic cotton, beeswax, tree resin, and plant oils.
Bee’s Wrap is also 100% committed to sustainable production and operation. They use GOTS certified organic cotton in their wraps, and their Vermont-made products ship in plastic-free and totally recyclable packaging.
Organic Vegan Wraps
Made of eco friendly materials like plant waxes, oils, and resins instead of beeswax, these sandwich bags are totally cruelty-free.
Bee’s Wrap Organic Reusable Vegan Food Wraps
The fabulous Bee’s Wrap company also makes a vegan alternative to beeswax wraps!
Candelila wax and jojoba oil combine together to form a strong seal that is easy to fold with the warmth of your hands. Despite the absense of beeswax, the wrap remains durable and fights bacterial build-up even when used to cover food.
Silicone products, unlike plastic, are ocean-friendly. When reused and recycling, they are definitely a notch better than plastic as a zero-waste material.
Silicone lids are made of very high-quality silicone (medical or food grade), tested for BPAs, and other hazardous chemicals before they are made into stretch lids. Microwave safe, easy to clean, and reusable, these stretchable lids are useful for covering bowls, cups, and containers that have lost their own lids.
True Nature Silicone Stretch Food Covers
Made with premium platinum-coated silicone, BPA tested, and 100% free from chemical fillings, True Nature’s transparent silicone stretch wraps come in standard sizes that can fit air-tight and smooth over most dishes in your kitchen.
I like that they make your dishes easily stackable and see-through, saving space and time in the fridge.
Zefiro Reusable Silicone Lids
Zefiro strikes again, this time with a pack of 6 reusable food-grade silicone lids of assorted sizes that fit like magic.
These silicone food covers “hug” your dishes, creating a tight seal to keep food fresher longer. They’re also dishwasher safe and transparent, making them a convenient yet sustainable way to store leftovers and reduce food waste.
Stainless Steel Boxes
If you want durable food storage that won’t absorb odors, a stainless steel box is one of the most sustainable alternatives to aluminum foil.
LunchBots Uno Stainless Steel Sandwich Container
LunchBot’s stainless steel sandwich containers are another great option for carrying dry foods like sandwiches, salads, and wraps. They are dishwasher safe, long-lasting, and tear-free–practically indestructible.
And if you’re wondering about the colorful topper attached to the lid, it’s BPA-free and designed to help little kids grip onto the lid for easy opening.
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