Wrapping a potato in aluminum foil and baking it in the oven is the traditional baking process. Unfortunately, traditional methods are not always the healthiest or the safest options. From illness to burns, aluminum foil can potentially be a health hazard. As researchers uncover more information about the possible dangers associated with aluminum foil, health-conscience cooks look for alternative ways to bake their favorite types of spuds.
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Research is ongoing as to whether aluminum foil has any ties to Alzheimer’s. What the research does show is that exposing an acid to aluminum foil results in leaching. If the aluminum leaches into the food of an Alzheimer’s patient, there is a potential for higher than normal amounts of aluminum to enter his brain. The jury is still out as to whether there is a link between aluminum and other diseases. The Michigan State University Extension website warns against wrapping acidic or salty foods in aluminum foil. Potatoes contain phosphoric acid, so to be on the safe side, skip the foil.
Clostridium botulinum is the bacteria responsible for a deadly type of food poisoning called botulism. Spores produced by this bacteria are resistant to heat, and can quickly become active if the conditions are favorable. According to the Ohio State University Extension website, the aluminum foil wrapped around a baked potato is the perfect environment for botulism spores to grow. This is especially true for foil-wrapped potatoes left at room temperature conditions before eating. Refrigerating baked potatoes immediately after cooking can reduce botulism exposure.
If you must bake your potatoes in aluminum foil, be wary of burns. During the baking process, steam builds between the potato skins and the foil. When you unwrap the potatoes, steam quickly escapes. If this steam comes in contact with your skin, it can cause serious burns. If too much steam builds up under the foil, the potatoes can explode — a scenario that can be quite dangerous. The United States Department of Agriculture suggests poking holes in the foil with a fork prior to baking. The holes will allow dangerous steam to escape during baking.
Alternative Baking Methods
It is not necessary to wrap potatoes in anything for baking. Placing potatoes directly on the oven rack makes for a crispier skin. Poke a few holes in each potato after scrubbing them clean and bake them in a 425-degree Fahrenheit oven. You may also want to try baking potatoes in the microwave. Clean, poke and place the potatoes on a paper towel and set the heat to high, cooking for six to seven minutes.