Ever start a recipe, only to discover halfway through that your pan is too big, or you don't have a pie shield, or a double boiler? I've been there too, but have discovered that there's one common household item that always comes to my rescue: aluminum foil! Here are 8 surprising uses for aluminum foil, plus clever tricks so you'll never be foiled again (sorry — I can't resist!).
1. Clean your grill
As grilling season kicks into high gear, there's an increased risk of ingesting bits of wire from grill brushes. The bristles can cling to the grates and get embedded in grilled foods. A simple way to avoid that risk is to use a wad of aluminum foil to scrub the grates. Always follow with a damp cloth. Use tongs to hold the foil wad if your grill is already hot.
2. Create a makeshift broiler pan
Tear a sheet of heavy duty foil so it is twice as long as a rimmed baking sheet. Trim it so that it fits width-wise in your pan. Then, at 3-inch intervals, make accordion pleats. Set the foil in the pan and stretch it to fit lengthwise. Arrange the food on top and roast or broil. This works especially well for bacon because the fat settles into the grooves, making the bacon extra crispy. Mmm...bacon.
RELATED: How to cook bacon in the oven
3. Protect your pie crust
You can buy pie shields at any housewares store, but if you're not an avid pie baker, or have limited storage, you're not likely to have one. Aluminum foil is a great foil (hahaha) against a quickly browning crust. Many recipes recommend tearing three or four strips of it to fold over edges, but I've found that method pretty unwieldy and dangerous because the strips rarely stay in place.
Instead, I use a different method that's both safe and effective. Tear a sheet of foil that's slightly larger than the pie. Fold it in half, and then in half again three more times until you have a triangle. Cut 3 inches off the tip of the foil triangle and carefully unfold. You'll have a sheet with a perfect circle in the center to protect your quiche or pie crust perfectly.
4. Customize the size of your pan
Don't have a square pan? Or the right sized pan? Make your pan smaller by creating a foil dam. Tear a long sheet and trim it to fit widthwise in your pan. Then fold the short side to create a wall, until you have the correct size pan. Reinforce the wall by folding it two or three times.
5. Twist foil into a coil to make a roasting rack or double boiler
TODAY Food contributor Katie Lee likes to create an aluminum foil "roasting" rack: If you don't have a roasting rack, take aluminum foil and twist it into a coil and set a chicken or turkey on top of it, she says.
Also, many cheesecakes, custards, meringues, and sauces require a double boiler or bain Marie. A simple alternative to buying something that you'll use once or twice and then tuck away in a cabinet and forget about, is using a foil coil. It allows the bowl to sit just above the simmering water. Tear a long sheet of heavy-duty foil and scrunch it into a long snake. Loosely form the snake into a coil that fits inside your pan.
6. Make a slow-cooker sling
For things that bake in the slow cooker (yes it's a thing!) the best way to remove them from the slow cooker in one piece is to make a foil sling to grab onto when unmolding–basically two long, wide strips of foil that criss-cross in the crock. Here's how: Tear two 30-inch lengths of foil. Fold each in half lengthwise twice into two 30-inch long, 4-ply strips. Criss-cross the foil strips into the slow cooker, covering the bottom and sides, and allowing excess foil to overhang.
7. Cook food in foil hobo packs
Hobo packs are foil packets filled with raw ingredients that are cooked over an open fire or in a hot oven. While you won't get that charred smoky flavor, you can cook the entire meal–protein, vegetable, starch–in one step. Bonus: cleaning up is super easy!
8. Scrunch up foil to make a double boiler
A variation on the foil coil bain Marie is foil balls. This is great for rectangular baking dishes that require a water bath in a roasting pan. Tear five equal-sized sheets of foil and crumple into 2-inch balls. Place them in the corners and center of the roasting pan, fill with a bit of water and set the baking dish on top.