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Think about when you stacked your freezer with all your favorite frozen items. You must picture yourself with a lot of cardboard boxes.
Nuggets, frozen pizza, TV dinners, and almost all the deli come in well-received cardboard boxes. The reason? Cardboard boxes are cheap to produce, and they are excellent temperature insulators.
So, even if you leave the frozen items outside the freezer, these boxes will help the products to stay intact for at least a couple of hours.
Although cardboard boxes are quite handy as a packaging material, you might wonder: Can you put cardboard in the oven?
We intend to answer the question in great detail, so here we go:
Can you put cardboard in the oven?
The answer is no you cannot safely put cardboard in the oven because cardboard is not an oven-safe material.
What about pizza? Can you put a pizza box in the oven? The answer is still no because pizza cardboard is also made with unsafe oven material.
Why is it not an oven-safe material, though? We presume that we all know the source of cardboard—Wood. Even if you didn't know it before, you know it now.
The composition material of cardboard is wood pulp extracted through various processes. Although we may love to explore the processes, it will deviate us from the main question. So coming back, the wood is something that should not come in direct contact with fire if you're not barbecuing or not trying to make a fire.
Here are some of the more reasons to avoid putting a cardboard box in the oven:
Why you shouldn't put cardboard in the oven
Even when you're too tired to move your finger after a hectic day, cardboard in the oven is a disastrous idea. Forget about the tiredness you have now; instead, focus on what can come up if you use cardboard in the oven:
Your oven can catch fire
Almost all cardboard boxes are made of wood, so they have a low combustion point. So putting cardboard in the oven, especially at high temperatures, isn't a good idea because of the possibility of spontaneous combustion.
Wood is normally used as fuel for the fire, and fire is exactly what's inside your oven. So, is it a good idea to put a combustible product near the fire? No.
People may have a counterargument that their oven may never touch the ignition point of cardboard, so they have cooked in cardboard boxes quite a lot.
You may cook in a cardboard box directly put into the oven without turning your kitchen into ashes.
However, that may be pure luck not to get the heat as high as to combust the cardboard. There's absolutely no sure shot way of telling that the cardboard you have put inside the oven will not catch fire.
Food cooked in the cardboard won't taste great
Cardboard doesn't get to the packaging state without treatment. It goes through many tough processes like bleaching and pressure treatment to get to the shape of a cardboard box.
Often, harmful chemicals are used for printing on these boxes, and when these chemicals come into direct contact with high heat, they produce fumes.
These fumes will cause taste of your food to be bad but also to contaminate food. Moreover, there's a wax layer on the cardboard boxes that can seep into the food when it comes in contact with high heat. That's why cardboard in the oven is a bad idea!
It takes longer cooking time
Though cardboard may seem like a time-saving option to cook in, it is not. If you're cooking your food in cardboard, especially something like pizza, your crust will take ages to get nice and crisp. The reason is again the chemical coating on the cardboard sheet or box.
The only safe option for cooking in cardboard is the meals in oven-safe cardboard boxes. These containers are made of a material called paper board.
They have a thin grease layer to avoid the food's direct contact with the paper. Still, there's a problem in even putting these containers into the oven.
They may withstand heat up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit or sixty minutes, but they too are prone to combustion after that.
So, even the cardboard containers that are mentioned to be oven-safe need careful handling when putting them in the oven.
There are better options
Although cardboard is a quick and convenient option to cook in an oven, the costs attached can be horrible.
It is not wise to take so many risks when you have many reasonable and absolutely safe oven options to carry on.
Here are some better ways to cook your food:
Options to use instead of cardboard
The list includes types of containers and built-in oven options as alternatives to cardboard containers. You can put the frozen/fresh food directly to:
1. Oven rack
While an oven rack may seem like an inconvenient option for baking purposes, food such as pizza or roasts works great on the oven rack directly.
Most oven users face the issue of uneven heat distribution in the middle rack because it is a bit distant from the heating element. This makes the cooking process much slower and causes the meat/pizza to get slightly soggy if placed in another pan.
However, if you put the pizza directly on the middle rack, it will cook quicker and get a crispier crust.
The idea of cleaning the rack may keep people from trying this method, but there are other solutions to a messy oven.
You can clean it with your cleaning equipment or use another collection pan under the middle pan to avoid rigorous cleaning after a lazy meal.
2. Pizza Pan
Using a metallic pizza pan or baking sheet instead of a cardboard box inside the oven is an easy way to heat up your pizza. These pans come in handy in assembling all the ingredients, and since they aren't too thick, they do not affect the cooking time much.
Baking sheets are also a safer option to cardboard. For smaller items such as cookies, you can simply use a greased or ungreased (depending on if the baking sheet is non-stick or not) baking sheet to put inside the oven.
These baking sheets are oven-safe but make sure not to line them with regular paper. Instead, use oven-safe parchment paper because regular paper can also catch fire like cardboard.
Although cookie sheets are the specialized type of bakeware for baking cookies, you can still use baking sheets to achieve the results. We will see the difference between the two in the discussion of cookie sheets.
3. Casserole Dish
If you don't want to use the oven rack directly or don't have the pans or sheets, you can use a casserole dish, or oven-safe dish, inside the oven.
Casserole dishes are usually large and have enough space to hold up items such as roasts or lasagne. Hence, their size makes them an ideal choice for making big batches of food. You can use ceramic or glass casserole dishes inside the oven.
However, do not forget to know about the glass type you can put inside the oven. The casserole dishes must be oven-safe (there can be varieties that are not oven-safe, so avoid going for one).
4. Pizza Stone
Pizza stones are another way of putting your food inside the oven without the fear of setting the kitchen on fire. These pizza stones are porous, rough, portable surfaces made of ceramic or stone to heat the food evenly.
If you receive your frozen food packaged in a cardboard box, replace the cardboard with a pizza stone for safe cooking. To not burn the food inside the oven, it is better to line the pizza stone with parchment paper.
Oiling the pizza surface is not recommended since it can ruin the stone's surface. However, you can use a little flour or semolina to the baking surface to keep the food from sticking to the pizza stone.
Usually, the pizza stones are an oven-safe option. Still, it is better to preheat them before starting the cooking process. The stone too, tends to get cracked due to thermal shock.
5. Cookie Sheet
Cookie sheets are flat baking pans with low edges. Although baking pans and cookie sheets are used interchangeably, they have a slight difference. The edges of a baking sheet are higher than the cookie sheets.
While baking pans are ideal for baking sheet cakes or brownies, cookie sheets make the cookies slide through the pan without breaking after the baking process.
You can use the cookie sheets for multiple dishes (even for baking bacon) other than cookies. The best part with these flat rectangular baking pans is that they do not pose a threat of breakage or combustion inside the oven (in contrast to glassware or cardboard boxes).
If you don't have casseroles or baking/cookie sheets, you can still avoid putting cardboard inside the oven. All you need to do is cover your oven rack with aluminum foil to prevent dripping juices or ingredients.
Foil is a cheap and heat-resistant way of replacing cardboard boxes in the oven. It has another great benefit. You can simply throw it away after baking. However, it cannot be used as a container for your food due to its fragile structure.
Although a cardboard pizza box may seem like a convenient option for cooking in an oven, it isn't good. People may state that they never encountered a problem doing that. Still, there are serious potential hazards attached to the practice, such as setting up your kitchen/oven on fire.
So, to avoid any hassle and risk of fire, throw away that cardboard circle and make sure to bake in an oven-safe option as described. Happy and safe baking!