History of tin foil

It crinkles, hurts to chew on and can even be made into a hat to ward off alien mind probes.

Tin foil may not be the most exciting kitchen accessory, but junior Kylie Woodford said it plays an important role in the kitchen at Mancino’s Grinders and Pizza. Woodford, a Mancino’s employee, said the restaurant uses tin foil on a regular basis to wrap up leftovers.

“It’s very versatile and very nice to use and also inexpensive,” she said. “I’m a tin foil fan.”

Actually, the “tin foil” used in homes and restaurants is not tin at all. Tin foil was originally used for industrial purposes such as lining cigarette packages, said Pat Schweitzer, an Alcoa spokesperson. However, Reynolds Wrap foil has been made of aluminum since 1926.

“‘Tin foil’ is just carried over from days when it was used for other more industrial uses,” Schweitzer said, adding that all household foil is now aluminum. Today Reynolds Wrap is made of 99 percent alloy aluminum; iron and silicon add strength and puncture resistance in the remaining one percent. Reynolds Wrap is now owned by Alcoa, which purchased the popular brand name six years ago.

Schweitzer said aluminum foil went on the market as a household product in the 1940s, when a Reynolds Wrap sales representative used an extra roll of foil from his car to save his family’s Thanksgiving Dinner. His wife could not find a pan for the turkey and the representative doubted there would be any pans left in the store on Thanksgiving Day, Schweitzer said.

“He wrapped the turkey up in the foil and it turned out perfectly,” she said.

The European Aluminum Foil Association claims aluminum foil is an ideal product for protecting food because it is malleable; it does not absorb grease, oil or water; it does not react with most common compounds; and it is sterile, tasteless and odor-free.

Aluminum foil is more effective than plastic wrap when freezing food because of its ability to hold moisture. Woodford finds aluminum foil works especially well in wrapping Mancino’s Grinders, or submarine sandwiches, according to Alcoa’s corporate Web site.

“It seems to work best with Grinders,” she said. “It doesn’t make them soggy or anything.”

Aluminum foil’s shiny and dull side comes from rolling two sheets of aluminum together, Schweitzer said. The bright side gets its shine from coming into contact with the company’s heavy rollers during manufacturing. When it comes to cooking, freezing and storing food with the standard foil, Schweitzer said there is no significant difference between the two sides. However, she does suggest facing the dull (and non-stick) side inward if using Reynolds Wrap Release Non-Stick Foil.

Both Reynolds Wrap Aluminum and Release Non-Stick Foil are kosher and recyclable, according to Alcoa’s Web site.

Woodford also uses aluminum foil often at home, especially when baking.

“I always line my pan with tin foil,” she said. “It’s easy to clean up; things don’t stick to it at all. Then I don’t have to wash the dishes like crazy.”

Schweitzer said though Reynolds Wrap’s most common use is for food preparation and storage, it comes in handy in many other circumstances as well.

She recommends using aluminum foil on the grill and in the oven to prevent food, such as baked potatoes, from charring and drying out. Aluminum foil also works well as a wrap for storing paintbrushes between uses and as a liner between garden rows to thwart weeds, Schweitzer said.

Woodford finds aluminum foil also improves the reception on her television.

“I have some tin foil on my TV antennas,” she said. “It seems to work pretty well.”