If you’ve come across a recipe that instructs you to place plastic wrap over the food while cooking it in an oven, you might be wondering:
Can plastic wrap go in the oven? Is it safe? Will the plastic wrap melt?
These are understandable concerns, all of which will be addressed in this article.
But the short answer is this:
Using plastic wrap in the oven is a common practice in restaurants, and many chefs believe it’s safe if the plastic wrap is covered in foil and the heat is low. However, plastic wrap manufacturers warn against using it in the oven, and the EHN.org claims chemicals from the plastic can migrate to the food before melting occurs.
In this article, I dive deeper into this topic.
You’ll learn why there’s so much debate around using plastic wrap in the oven and how to do it in the safest way possible.
Let’s dive in.
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Is It Safe to Use Plastic Wrap in the Microwave?
With responsible use, microwave-safe plastic wraps are perfectly safe to use.
Again, it depends on the brand and type of plastic wrap you’re using. Some plastic wraps are designed for microwave use. If this is the case, it will say it on the packaging.
According to the USDA’s Food Safety recommendations, consumers should only use plastic wrap clearly labeled “microwave safe” in microwave ovens. All other cookware used in conjunction with the wrap should also be marked “microwave safe.”
- Make sure there’s a one-inch gap between the food and the wrap. The plastic wrap should never touch the food. You may need a deeper bowl or container to make sure this is the case.
- Turn back a corner of the plastic wrap to allow steam to vent
- When the food is done heating, wait a few minutes and allow the steam to escape before lifting the plastic wrap
Brands that include a microwave-safe label include:
A Safer Alternative to Using Plastic Wrap in the Oven
At this point, it’s pretty clear that there are some risks in using plastic wrap in the oven.
So, if you’d rather play it safe, skip the plastic wrap and instead use an oven bag.
An oven bag is pretty self-explanatory — it’s a flexible bag used to cook meats in the same moisture-locking way that plastic wrap does, but without the use of thin plastics that might release harmful chemicals into the food.
Oven bags are usually made with thick, industrial plastic with a high melting point or culinary parchment, a heat-resistant, grease-proof kind of paper designed for oven use. These bags are cheap, durable, and can be purchased at your local grocery store or on Amazon.
To use an oven bag, slip the food into it and cook the bagged meal in whatever pan or other cookware you’d normally use. Oven bag manufacturers provide detailed instructions on their websites or the product’s packaging, so be sure to refer to these throughout your culinary exploits.
If you’re understandably concerned about the risks of using plastic wrap in your oven, using an oven bag is a safe, simple alternative that will provide you with the same result: delicious, tender meals (sans toxins).
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Can Plastic Wrap Go in the Oven? The Great Debate
If you search online, you’ll find a plethora of varying opinions from chefs, manufacturers, and food bloggers. The topic has been a subject of surprisingly intense debate all over the internet.
If you look through food forums, you’ll find divided comments that leave you with more questions than answers.
Adding to the confusion is the fact that most plastic wrap manufacturers warn against using their products in the oven. You’ll find this warning right on the wrap’s packaging and in the FAQ sections of some of the larger brands’ websites.
For example, Stretch-Tite clearly states on its website: “No, Stretch-Tite, as is the case with most plastic wraps, is not for use in conventional ovens, browning units, toaster ovens, or on stovetops.”
Glad, maker of Cling Wrap, states on its website: “We do not recommend using Glad wraps in the oven.“
Saran Wrap also warns against using its plastic wrap in the oven, saying it’s “Not for use in browning units, conventional ovens, stovetops or toaster ovens.“
All of this to say, using plastic wrap in the oven isn’t recommended, but many believe there’s a safe way to do it (more on this in the next section).
In the past, plastic wraps were made with harmful chemicals called phthalates that could — and did — leach into food during use.
This created a certain level of unease in consumers’ minds and resulted in manufacturers switching to other materials such as low-density polyethylene and polyvinylidene chloride, which don’t contain phthalates and are believed to be safe.
Although today’s plastic wraps don’t include phthalates (or plasticizers, as they’re sometimes called), some of that unease remains in the collective consumer consciousness, making people understandably wary about using plastics during cooking or baking.
Common sense dictates that when the plastic is exposed to heat, it’ll melt or, at the very least, release some of these toxins into the food and environment.
This may be why no manufacturer or brand recommends using plastic wrap in the oven and why so many people search online or call companies regarding this topic.
After the Washington Post posted a Thanksgiving turkey recipe that included the use of plastic wrap, so many people called to question the technique that they had to bring in an expert and write up a thorough explanation to reassure their readers.
Using plastic wrap in the oven is more common in the food industry than you might think. Restaurants rely on plastic wrap to lock in moisture and ensure a more evenly cooked and tender meal.
Many chefs believe that using plastic wrap in the oven poses little risk, as long as you use certain techniques and take necessary precautions.
What are these techniques and precautions? Let’s take a look.
Is Cooking With Plastic Wrap in the Oven a Good Idea?
The answer depends on your own comfort level, as well as your commitment to using extreme caution when cooking with this method.
Remember that most brands actively warn against using their plastic wraps in the oven, and organizations, such as EHN, discourage it citing plastic’s harmful effects on both the body and the environment.
Ultimately you’re better off purchasing and using an oven bag when cooking recipes that call for plastic wrap. This alternative is cheap, safe, and easy — and they’re specifically designed to be used in the oven. This means less stress, less risk for your family, and an overall better cooking experience.
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Is Cooking With Plastic Wrap in the Oven Really Safe?
Okay, you might be wondering, if it’s safe to use plastic wrap in the oven, why do so many manufacturers say it isn’t?
First, household plastic wrap is thin and generally unsafe to use in the oven. If there’s a warning on the package or manufacturer’s website against using their products in the oven, don’t do it.
Second, there haven’t been any studies to prove the safety of using plastic wrap in the oven.
While chefs and recipes state that you can safely use plastic wrap when cooking certain foods in an oven, organizations such as Environmental Health News (EHN) beg to differ. According to these groups, the toxins found in plastic can enter food before the plastic actually melts.
Just because it doesn’t turn into a messy pile of goo doesn’t mean that plastic wrap is completely safe to use in the oven (even when covered in foil).
So if you do decide to cook using plastic wrap, proceed with extreme caution.
How to Safely Cook With Plastic Wrap in the Oven
As it turns out, there is a safe way to use plastic wrap in the oven that minimizes the risks (according to chefs and recipe makers that practice this technique).
The key is to cover the plastic wrap completely in aluminum foil, keep the temperatures low (ideally below 250°F), and use commercial-grade wrap (household plastic wraps like Saran Wrap and Glad Cling Wrap are too thin and will melt).
When you place aluminum foil over the wrap during cooking and keep the plastic in contact with the skin of whatever meat you’re cooking — as in the case of a roast turkey — heat is dissipated and doesn’t reach a temperature high enough to melt the wrap.
It’s important to note that cooking with plastic wrap in the oven is only safe at low temperatures, such as those used to roast or slow-cook meat dishes. Each part of the plastic wrap must be covered with foil, and none of the plastic should be left exposed.
The foil protects the plastic from the oven’s convection (the rising of hot air and falling of cooler air in an enclosed space) and infrared radiation (a form of thermal energy produced by the cooking apparatus’s internal components).
Aluminum foil also doesn’t reach very high temperatures — which is why you can often touch it directly or soon after use in an oven — and the plastic wrap beneath it collects the moisture from the meat and locks it in.
As the moisture from the food collects, the plastic wrap remains at about 220°F and prevents the food from overcooking and drying out.
When finished cooking, remove the plastic wrap in one piece, even if it’s a little thinner than it originally was.
Keeping all this in mind, plastic wrap should only be used in an oven if:
- You cover the wrap in aluminum foil — ideally, several layers of it.
- You use commercial-grade plastic wrap (the kind used in restaurants). Saran Wrap, Glad Cling Wrap, and most household plastic wrap is too thin and will melt.