Oven bags offer a means of cooking that speeds up roasting time, minimizes clean-up, and gives moist, succulent results. However, there are two big drawbacks of using oven bags, which consequently may mean you find yourself looking for oven bag alternatives. Unfortunately, since oven bags are made of plastic, they are adding to the plastic pollution problem on our planet. Plastic can also leach toxins into food when heated, which means using oven bags in the oven could actually be harmful to your health.
Instead of using an oven bag, you could use parchment paper bags which give very similar results. Creating an aluminum foil pocket is another way you could replace oven bags with a safer alternative, or if you want to completely eradicate your kitchen from single-use items, then a casserole dish with a lid is a good compromise.
Here we investigate the best oven bag alternatives.
What is an Oven Bag?
An oven bag, sometimes known as a roasting bag, is used to cook food in the oven. Oven bags are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is a type of plastic that can withstand high temperatures.
To use an oven bag, you simply put your food inside the bag and seal it, then place it inside the oven on a baking tray.
What are the Benefits of Oven Bags?
Oven bags, and oven bag alternatives, offer a number of benefits that can improve the quality of your food and also make the cooking process easier.
When you use an oven bag or an oven bag alternative, you contain all of the moisture from the food inside a small space. This allows the food to simultaneously steam and roast, resulting in extra moist dishes. The oven bag’s ability to cook food while keeping it moist is what makes this cooking accessory so popular for roasting chickens and turkeys.
Many people use oven bags over Thanksgiving to reliably ensure that their cooked birds are full of flavor and moisture. The bags also work really well for vegetables such as carrots and parsnips if you don’t like the way that roasting them usually dries them out. Cooking joints of meat or poultry in an oven bag effectively removes the need for you to continually baste, because the oven bag is self-basting.
Oven bags and some oven bag alternatives are disposable, so after you’ve used them, you can simply throw them into the garbage without having to worry about any cleanup at all. The inside of your oven will still be clean, and the baking tray you used won’t have any spillages on it, because all of the food and associated fats and oils will have been contained in the oven bag.
Using an oven bag takes the hassle out of cooking, because you just put the food in the bag and put the bag straight into the oven, and then leave it and allow the bag to work its magic. You won’t need to keep returning to the oven to baste; you can instead set a timer and leave the food until its done.
Oven bags cook food more quickly because they create a small enclosure that traps the hot air inside the oven. This is almost like a micro climate for your food, which will result in faster cooking. The benefits of cooking your food faster are twofold; you won’t have to wait as long for your meal to be ready, and you will save some money on electricity bills.
Are Oven Bags Safe?
There has been some debate surrounding the safety of oven bags, because research has shown that any type of plastic can leach toxins into food when it is heated up. This is the same reason why many people recommend that we avoid using plastic containers in the microwave.
A 2007 study found that PET roasting bags would leak harmful levels of toxins into the food in 50% of cases where the temperature exceeded 356°F. The types of toxins which are known to leach from plastic when the plastic is heated include endocrine disruptors and carcinogens, which are associated with cancers, diabetes, allergies, infertility, and obesity. If you want to get similar results to oven bags without using the plastic disposable type, there are oven bag alternatives that can work just as well and offer you more peace of mind.
What Can I Use Instead of an Oven Bag?
To use aluminum foil instead of an oven bag, you need to create an airtight pouch with the foil around your food. You can do this by folding the foil around your food, for example, a chicken, and crimping the edges of the foil together with your fingers to seal it.
When creating your foil container, you want to make sure you allow some breathing room around the food so that the hot air and moisture inside the foil can circulate. Essentially, don’t tightly wrap the foil around your food, and instead, try to create an enclosed environment for it with some room to spare.
Parchment paper bag
Parchment paper bags can be purchased from cookery stores, and they are designed to be used just like oven bags. Parchment paper is a type of paper coated in a waxy surface to prevent sticking, and it is specifically designed to be used in the oven. Unlike plastic oven bags, parchment paper won’t release any types of chemicals when it is heated, so it is a safer alternative for cooking.
It can be heated up to temperatures between 450 and 500°F without burning. Parchment paper bags are used in the same way as oven bags, and should be folded over to create a sealed and enclosed environment for the food to cook in. Cooking food inside paper is actually a traditional method in French cooking, which steams and bakes meat or fish with their own juices. One popular recipe in France is ‘salmon en papillote’ which literally translates to ‘salmon in the paper’.
If you can’t get your hand on parchment paper bags, you can easily create your own using regular parchment paper and some folding. Remember that you want space inside your bag for air to circulate, so don’t wrap the paper too tightly around the food.
Casserole dish with lid
One of the issues with oven bags, parchment paper bags, and aluminum foil pockets is that they are all disposable. If you’re trying to cut down on the amount of waste you send to landfill, then a good alternative is to use a casserole dish with a lid. This can create a similar environment for food to cook in because it will allow the meat to steam and bake inside its own juices, and the closed lid will help to prevent the meat from drying out.
If you can find one big enough, you can use casserole dishes with lids to cook whole chickens and turkeys. The main issue with using a casserole dish over a type of bag is that you are going to have to wash your dish afterward, whereas bags offer minimal cleanup because they can be thrown away. However, you can pat yourself on the back for helping to save the environment.