To pick a good baking foil, a consumer should look at the foil's thickness, nonstick properties, size and recycled status. It is an old wives' tale that an ultra-reflective foil is better. If a person has to choose only one foil, a recycled heavy duty, nonstick foil of the largest available width will be most versatile, although a person might need to trim the foil to a smaller size to fit some baking jobs.
Choosing the best baking foil starts with determining the thickness of the foil. A standard thickness is 0.000866 inches (0.022 millimeters), which works for most baking needs, such as wrapping up a baked potato or covering the top of a pan. Heavy duty foil, by comparison, is slightly thicker at 0.001299 inches (0.033 millimeters), with some manufacturers producing super strength or extra heavy duty foils, as well. A thicker baking foil works better when it's necessary to line a pan, as they don't rip quite as easily if a chef needs to use a spatula or other tool to flip foods. They also work better for things such as grilling, as the thicker foil stands up as a more durable substitute for a container or basket.
Next, look at whether the foil is regular or nonstick. A regular baking foil works fine for most vegetables and needs such as covering pans. Any time a chef works with foods that could adhere, such as cheese, however, a nonstick foil wins out. These foils have one side with a nonstick coating, which should always face the food.
The size of a baking foil also is something to investigate. Baking foils come in two basic sizes, including 12 inch (30.48 centimeters) and 18 inch (45.72 centimeters). The small size fits perfectly into standard baking sheets and works well for wrapping smaller items during cooking. When working with tall foods such as a turkey, however, or with larger pans, a 12-inch foil typically is insufficient. An 18-inch foil works better to cover the sides of the food.
Foils also can be made from recycled aluminum rather than first-use aluminum, which is the better choice for people who have environmental concerns. Whether a foil is recycled or first-use does not have a bearing on its cooking effectiveness, but the purchase of a recycled foil can make a person feel good about reducing waste. Recycled foils tend to be slightly more expensive, however.
Some people have noticed that baking foil has a matte side and a smooth, shiny side. Some people recommend facing the shiny side toward the food to keep it warm and out toward the room to keep the food cool, pointing out that the smooth surface is a slightly better reflector of heat. One of the major baking foil manufacturers in North America, Reynolds Wrap®, asserts that although this scientifically is true, the difference is so slight that which side is near the food has little bearing on its cooking. People who need to choose a baking foil need not be concerned about the reflectiveness of the foil.