Baking Cookies on Aluminum Foil: Things to Know

Published Categorized as Cooking Tips
A woman holding aluminum foilshalunx13 /Depositphotos

Can you bake cookies on aluminum foil? Let’s finally put this debate to bed.

As the holidays approach, the question of what to make for a festive baking project may arise. Baking cookies is a great option, but there are a few things to keep in mind. One of those things is to use aluminum foil to line the baking sheets.

For baking cookies, you can use aluminum foil to line your pan. Many consider it a good substitute for parchment paper. However, because aluminum conducts heat faster, the side of the cookie exposed to the foil will brown more than the opposite side.

In this article, you will learn how the foil affects the quality of the cookies and even get some practical tips on baking with foil.

You can certainly use aluminum foil for baking cookies. However, you should ask yourself this question instead, “Is aluminum foil best for baking cookies?”.

We will get to the details in a minute, but the long and the short of it is that aluminum foil isn’t the best material for baking.

Using aluminum foil when baking cookies can speed up the baking process, cause the cookies to bake unevenly, and result in one side of the cookie stack being darker and crispier than the other side.

So not only will it be harder to follow the recipe (you may need to adjust cooking times), but the aluminum foil may even increase the likelihood that your cookies will burn.

This all has to do with the properties of the aluminum foil itself. Aluminum is an excellent conductor of heat. For this reason, many people choose to use it for cooking, for example, to prepare their favorite beef with a potato mixture on the grill—delicious!

However, it is not quite suitable for baking for this reason: The part of the cookie dough that comes in contact with the aluminum foil is exposed to greater heat, and that can be counterproductive to your baking.

Does It Matter Which Side of the Foil You Use?

Perhaps this issue has been a point of contention in your household for some time: Your mother-in-law thinks you should cook with the shiny side up, while others think you should cook with the dull side up.

Or maybe you have read various recipes over the years that have always differed in their instructions for using aluminum foil, and you have wondered what the point was. Well, here is the answer:

If you use aluminum foil with the shiny side up, you are right. And if you aluminum foil dull-side up, you are also right.

It turns out that the foil’s external appearance has nothing to do with how well it can reflect or conduct heat. Instead, it is simply a result of the manufacturing process. So use the film however you like.

As usual, there is an exception to this rule.

When you use non-stick foil, there is a side that goes up and a side that goes down. When using non-stick foil, be sure to use it with the dull side up, as there is only one side on which the non-stick coating is applied.

Tips for Using Aluminum Foil When Baking Cookies

If you decide to use aluminum foil, we have listed some useful tips and tricks that will help you to cook that perfect cookie.

Tip #1: Grease the foil generously

Cookie ingredients, while delicious, can easily stick to aluminum foil. It’s easy to understand why when you consider that cookie batter contains sticky substances such as chocolate, sugar, and peanut butter.

In fact, cookie batter is notorious for sticking to surfaces when browned and caramelized (it’s also the reason why many home cooks opt for non-stick cookie sheets). So it is crucial to properly grease the foil before placing the cookies on top to counter that stickiness.

To do this, spray the foil generously with baking spray before placing the cookie dough on top. Alternatively, you can lightly grease the foil with butter. However, be careful not to apply too much butter to the foil.

Butter not only imparts a heavier taste to your cookies, but it burns rather quickly. If you use too much butter and it ends up pooling on the foil, it can make your cookies greasy, soggy, and, if it burns, bitter.

Tip #2: Adjust the cooking time accordingly

As we already mentioned, aluminum speeds up the cooking process on recipes developed for parchment paper. For this reason, consider reducing the cooking time by 10-20%, approximately.

If the recipe calls for 10 minutes of baking at a certain temperature, try baking the cookies for 8-9 minutes. If the first batch of cookies comes out slightly burnt, either reduce the cooking time or reduce the heat.

Tip #3: Use heavy-duty foil

Heavy-duty foil is thicker, which gives it extra strength and durability during cooking. So it won’t tear as you fold it onto your pan, and the pan will come out spick and span—not covered in grease—after baking.

While this tip will not directly affect the quality of your cookies, it can make kitchen work a little easier. Use heavy-duty foil, fold it into a tray, and save yourself the extra mess and extra dishes!

Is It Safe to Use Aluminum Foil?

Evidence shows that using aluminum foil can result in aluminum leaching into your food during the cooking process. The percentage of aluminum varies depending on the type of food cooked and the amount of heat used to cook it.

For instance, research shows that aluminum reacts more to acidic food compared to others. So, this means those lemon bars and cherry cookies may be at a potential for higher aluminum content of your food.

The jury’s out on whether there is a definitive link between aluminum consumption and Alzheimer’s disease.

“At present,” the UK Alzheimer’s Society says, “there is no strong evidence to support the fears that coming in to contact with metals through using equipment or through food or water increases your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.”

Some scientists disagree. In a 2011 paper, researcher Lucija Tomljenovic wrote, “The hypothesis that aluminum significantly contributes to Alzheimer’s disease is built upon very solid experimental evidence and should not be dismissed.”

So, as with many other things in cooking, you will have to decide for yourself. In any case, if you are worried about the potential of aluminum on your health, consider limiting the number of times you use the foil on a weekly basis.

Conclusion

Due to the conductive properties of aluminum foil, it is easy to see why this would be the first choice in the kitchen. However, care needs to be taken when baking cookies as one side can cook faster, leaving a potential for burnt cookies.  

That said, some people like their cookies crispier than others do. If you are one of them, and you don’t happen to have parchment paper in the house, cooking with aluminum foil might be your best option.

By Jim Stonos

When Jim isn't in the kitchen, he is usually spending time with family and friends, and working with the HCW editorial team to answer the questions he used to ask himself back when he was learning the ropes of cooking.