Many cooks choose between aluminum foil or plastic wrap to cover and store food. Aluminum foil is a more durable barrier against light, air, microorganisms and liquids, and it is also flexible and has the capacity to be molded and joined while still maintaining its strength. Sometimes a more lightweight material that does not interfere with the presentation of food may be in order, however; in that case, plastic wrap is the better candidate.
Charles Martin Hall discovered and implemented the process of mass producing aluminum foil in 1910. Dow scientist Ralph Wiley created plastic wrap, which was commercially introduced by the Dow Company in 1953.
The primary use for plastic wrap and aluminum foil is to cover and protect food. It is safe to use plastic wrap to reheat foods in the microwave, but not aluminum foil. Similarly, it is safe to use aluminum foil in conventional ovens to cook or reheat foods, but it is not safe to use plastic wrap in conventional ovens. When using either product to reheat food, leave an inch between the wrap and the food to allow steam to escape. You can also use plastic wrap to wrap gifts.
Plastic wraps and aluminum foil come in different weights. Lighter weights are suitable for everyday uses like covering foods. Heavier or premium weight plastic wraps have the ability to stretch or cling to containers, and heavyweight aluminum foil is used to line pans and dishes to minimize cleanup. Plastic wraps can be used to freeze foods for short periods, although it may require multiple layers. Heavyweight aluminum foil can be used to freeze foods for long-term storage.
The clear finish of plastic wraps makes it easier to see what's underneath it on platters or in containers, while aluminum foil completely conceals what's beneath the wrap.
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