Can You (Safely) Fry Chicken In An Aluminum Pan?

From foil to cookware, aluminum is all over our kitchens. It's cheap and it conducts heat well, which is why it shows up in plenty of products that both help to cook food and keep it hot afterward. But actually, it can be unsafe to cook food in aluminum products that are only designed for serving.

So when a TikTok creator used a disposable aluminum serving pan — not a cooking tool, but one to keep food warm — to deep-fry chicken cutlets, it raised some eyebrows. The creator called it the "best life hack." But there are good reasons why this is just one of many food hacks that are actually dangerous.

In cooking pans — expensive ones in particular — you'll often find metals like aluminum in the core of the vessel but not the exterior. When used for cooking, aluminum is commonly coated with other materials like ceramic or clad in stainless steel. However, aluminum products made for serving or keeping food hot, like foil and the cheap pans in the viral TikTok, are not coated in the same way and are therefore significantly less sturdy. It's not safe to deep-fry chicken in thin serving pans because if you accidentally poke through the metal, hot oil could splash around your kitchen — and if you have a gas stove or boiling oil spills onto you, it could be disastrous or even deadly. Let's just say this isn't the way to make your favorite fried chicken.

Cooking in uncoated aluminum pans could actually leach metal into your food

When it comes to the safety of cooking in cheap aluminum serving pans, structural integrity is not the only reason your dinner could quickly go from life hack to fire department call. One of the most important things you need to know about aluminum cookware is why the coating itself is so important to your well-being.


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♬ Fry Baby ChezChaya – ChezChaya

Aluminum is a reactive metal, which means it can interact with acidic or salty ingredients and can leach metal into your food. Coatings like stainless steel or anodized oxides are non-reactive, so they form a barrier between the aluminum and your food. Because cooking exposes food to higher reactivity than storing food, it's important to cook in coated cookware. And this is why foil, as an uncoated product, is best for already-cooked food.

However, it's important to note that, all things considered, the amount of aluminum that could leach into your food is probably not enough to actually do harm. Only a small percentage of aluminum ingested is actually taken up into the body, and for most people, everyday aluminum exposure, even from cooking acidic foods, is relatively harmless.