When to Use Aluminum Foil or Plastic Wrap for Wrapping Food

When to Use Aluminum Foil or Plastic Wrap for Wrapping Food

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plastic wrap or aluminum foil when wrapping food

Overtime, I’ve learned to heavily rely on plastic wrap, especially, and sometimes aluminum foil, for wrapping food. I stopped using both plastic baggies and plastic containers quite a few years ago. Using solely glass containers, plastic wrap, and aluminum foil – I eat leftovers all the time, never throw food out, and feel much less wasteful

Years ago I abandoned plastic baggies and no longer buy them. This was a conscious decision after spending one evening rinsing them out to re-use again. I felt so ridiculous that I quickly realized plastic baggies are wasteful, whether you re-use them or not. They can’t do anything that plastic wrap or aluminum foil can’t do. With one exception, plastic baggies are useful for item storage (not food storage) like puzzle pieces, board game cards, etc. But for food, don’t bother.

Not too long after that, I also gave up on plastic containers. Since I lived with roommates, I would always use their leftover chinese takeout plastic containers. But it’s such a hassle. You have a cupboard overflowing with containers and lids, few of them matching. Sometimes the plastic will melt in the microwave. Or the plastic will stain. Or start to smell funny. And there’s nothing like eating out of a plastic container to remind yourself that you’re eating yesterday’s leftovers.

However, it took me some time to figure out exactly what food is best wrapped in plastic wrap and which is best wrapped in aluminum foil. Plus, there’s some other really good uses for both other than food. Also, wrapping food tightly in wrap or foil takes up far less space in your fridge or freezer than all those plastic containers.


Plastic Wrap

Sealing Containers for Leftovers or Liquids
Honestly, I use plastic wrap a lot. I can get by without aluminum foil, but not plastic wrap. For leftovers, I do have a nice set of glass bowls & lids that I use a lot. But sometimes I want to use a plate or a serving bowl for leftovers. And plastic wrap is perfect for this. Although it may not stick very well to plastic containers, it works great on glass/ceramics; like actual serving plates, bowls, and glasses.

I trust the plastic wrap enough to wrap it over a bowl with pasta + sauce, then tip the bowl sideways and put it in my bag everyday to go to work. It has yet to fail me. And I don’t mean the fancy ‘press n seal’ kind. Just the every day original kind. Besides, even when I’m just eating lunch at my desk at work, I still prefer eating out leftovers out of a real bowl with a real fork. It makes it feel like I’m eating an actual meal, not just reheating something in plastic.

Freezing Foods
I’ve previously mentioned that a key to making perfect chocolate chip cookies, is refrigerating the cookie dough for at least 24-hours before baking; or freezing beforehand. During this process, the best thing to use to wrap up the dough is plastic wrap. It makes a tight seal to prevent the dough from drying out or absorbing other odors in the fridge. I just directly wrap up the whole ball of dough with wrap and set it in the fridge.

I also use this same method when freezing food. Either cookie dough or meats, especially chicken. I just wrap it all up in plastic wrap and store it in the freezer. I have never had any problems with this. Though, if you’d prefer, you can then wrap that up in foil, if you’re worried about freezer burn. Just be sure to use plastic wrap first.

I tend to buy the family pack of chicken breasts when it goes on sale, then I come home and immediately slice them up into single servings for me. I’ll wrap up a few pieces in plastic wrap and put them in the freezer. This way no food goes to waste and I don’t have to make 10 chicken breasts all at once. When I want the chicken, I just take out one of the bundles from the freezer and put it in the fridge; with a plate under it because it will leak chicken juices. Plastic wrap works very well for freezing up smaller sized portions in the fridge.

Storing Foods
Plastic wrap is great for providing a tight steal to really keep foods fresh. I use this method for cheese all the time. Whenever I open a block of cheese, I take it out of it’s original packaging then wrap it up tightly in plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge. As long as the plastic wrap is tightly sealed, the cheese will last a really long time that way. I would’t know though, I eat those things so quickly.

This is also a useful method for sauces and dips when you don’t want them to get a film on top. For guacamole, hummus, or any other sauce, just lay the plastic wrap directly on top of the dip then push it against the sides to create a tight seal along the bowl or plate. Make sure all the dip is sealed tightly in the plastic without air. This also prevents avocados from browning.


When To Use Aluminum Foil

Reheating Leftovers
Now that I no longer have a microwave, I use the oven for everything including heating up leftovers. For awkward leftovers like pasta or mashed potatoes, aluminum foil really comes in handy for re-heating. I’ll usually just put the leftover food directly on a rectangle of aluminum foil, wrap it up into a sealed packet, then place it directly on the rack in the oven. I’ll put the temperature to warm and wait a bit. Of course the oven takes longer to reheat than zapping food in the microwave. But it all comes out at an even temperature and the foil packet helps keep pasta moist.

Liner/Separator For Baking
Because aluminum foil is oven-friendly, it is very useful in baking. You can either use it as a separator when cooking multiple food in the same pan. Or also when baking multiple cakes. For example, I’ve made separator’s out of foil when baking different color cakes in the same pan. The foil is sturdy enough to separate the batter and can withstand the heat of the oven; without tainting the taste of your food. You can also line a pan with foil to help with clean-up.


Oddly enough, wrap and foil are two products where the generic version just does not hold up. Store-brand plastic wrap just sticks together or is so thin it rips apart before you can even use it. You’ll end up throwing away the whole thing without barely using it. Splurge on the name-brand larger size of both foil and plastic wrap.


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3 Replies to “When to Use Aluminum Foil or Plastic Wrap for Wrapping Food”

  1. I tried to give up plastic wrap but couldn’t. I bought “Abeego” reusable wraps, but they stained quickly and had a limited number of reuses. I use as many glass containers with lids as possible. If I take a muffin or cookies to work, I just wrap them in a cloth napkin because they won’t go stale in a few hours. But I still have a back-up roll of plastic wrap, especially for messy things or food that stains, like tomato sauce or curry.

    1. I’ve thought about using fabric sleeves/wraps but the mess of it all didn’t seem worth it. I haven’t heard of Abeego, those look interesting! I think anything re-usable like that will stain easily and be a bit of a fuss. I don’t use paper towels at all and use washable rags instead and that is just enough maintenance for me. I do use paper napkins, mainly for guests, and like the idea of just wrapping food items up in them instead of plastic, good idea.

  2. I used to be ‘frugal’ and save takeout containers. It was a bit disgusting really. We moved houes, I threw them all out and we bought a pack of tupperware. Big improvement.

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