Will I end up with aluminum-tasting lasagna?
January 26, 2012 9:30 AM   Subscribe

Should I freeze homemade lasagna in disposable tinfoil pans? If not, what else can I use?

I'm hosting a freezer-cooking "swap" this weekend and need to make 4 lasagnas for the attendees to take home with them and freeze.

My initial plan was to buy those disposable aluminum tins with cardboard lids that you can get at the grocery store, but some internet research has uncovered that the combination of tomato sauce + aluminum might cause my lasagna to take on a tinny taste. Other people, however, seem to have used the containers to freeze and bake tomato products with no problems.

What do you think, Metafilter? And if I shouldn't use the aluminum pans, what can I use instead? Perhaps go to the thrift store and find some cheap casserole dishes?
posted by sanitycheck to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I freeze in those all the time. If you're really worried about it, line the pans with parchment paper first.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:31 AM on January 26, 2012 [6 favorites]

Maybe put some oil on the pan first? I don't know if it would help or hurt the 'tinny' taste but it bears looking into. Perhaps consulting a cookbook-apedia like Joy of Cooking, if you have one, is in order.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:33 AM on January 26, 2012

I also do this a lot with zero ill effect. I've done it with lasagne I have baked before freezing and lasagne that will be baked after defrosting. No problems at all. I have also done this with chilli con fresa to which I had added a butt-tonne of vinegar. Again, no worries at all.

My only suggestion is to make sure they are thoroughly sealed so you don't get freezerburn on your top layer, but this is pretty much true of all frozen food.
posted by Jilder at 9:36 AM on January 26, 2012

You can get disposable ovenware containers that are not aluminum - glad and the like make plastic and paper single-use that are freezer to oven safe. Check at the grocery store in the bakeware aisle.
posted by pupdog at 9:37 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Aluminum oxidizes VERY quickly on a microscopic level (see this). This means that the acid in the tomato juice is not likely to etch into the aluminum itself.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:40 AM on January 26, 2012

I also freeze in those. Just wrap well in additional aluminum foil after is solid frozen.
posted by francesca too at 9:49 AM on January 26, 2012

Best answer: My mom made something like 8 lasagnas for a party once and froze them all ahead of time (in the aluminum trays), and they still tasted great.
posted by deansfurniture5 at 9:54 AM on January 26, 2012

FWIW, I find many things (not just acid/tomato based sauces) taste tinny when cooked in metal trays. These are things sold by supermarkets so I have to believe the majority of people can't taste it.
Are these individually sized portions or full, family sized portions? I prefer plastic because I can microwave it, I supposed if I was feeding the whole family it would be worth putting the oven on but just for myself I wouldn't bother.
posted by missmagenta at 10:31 AM on January 26, 2012

Response by poster: These are full family-sized portions, and I don't plan to bake them before freezing, so they will definitely need to go in the oven before being consumed.
posted by sanitycheck at 10:54 AM on January 26, 2012

Best answer: My MiL does this all the time, and her lasagna is the very best thing on earth. She will make several pans at a a time, some she will cook off and refrigerate and some she will freeze and cook off at a later date.
posted by blurker at 11:11 AM on January 26, 2012

Line whatever baking dish you're going to use when you bake the lasagna with enough plastic wrap to wrap the lasagna. Put the lasagna in the container(s), wrap the plastic around it, and freeze. Once it's frozen, you can remove it from the container and if you want, wrap over the plastic with aluminum foil. When it's time to bake, unwrap completely, plunk into the baking dish you used to freeze it, and you're ready to go.

I've read enough about the subject that I don't let any tomato-based food come in direct contact with aluminum.
posted by Dolley at 11:29 AM on January 26, 2012

I've read enough about the subject that I don't let any tomato-based food come in direct contact with aluminum.

Could you possibly cite some of those sources? I don't understand what you think might happen.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:39 AM on January 26, 2012

If you didn't want to/can't go the Glad Ovenware route, you could line your pans with Reynolds Wrap Pan Lining Paper. This is a new-ish paper from Reynolds that has aluminum on one side and parchment paper on the other. In fact, one of the recipes on that page is for lasagna!
posted by Fortran at 11:49 AM on January 26, 2012

Could you possibly cite some of those sources? I don't understand what you think might happen.


If nothing else, aluminum can taint the color and flavor of tomato-based foods. While there is no hard evidence of danger, there is enough soft evidennce that I have taken a "better safe than sorry" stance. The less aluminum in me, the better.
posted by Dolley at 12:01 PM on January 26, 2012

Best answer: Hmm, I'm not really sure about the science on those sites. For example:

Alternatively, look for pots made from anondized aluminum as it has been treated to develop an aluminum oxide (extremely hard and non-reactive) coating on the surface of the cookware.

Pure(r) aluminum, like what is found in foil and disposible pans has a natural microscopic film of aluminum oxide that formed as soon as the aluminum was exposed to the air after being smelted and rolled into sheets. Alternately, anodized aluminum is really an alloy of aluminum that won't naturally form a coating so they atificially adhere one to it. The natural forming oxide is bonded to the aluminum very tightly and if it gets scratched off (note, it won't dissolve off with exposure to an acid like iron oxide) the film reforms as soon as the raw aluminum hits air or another source of oxygen. On your anodized pan a scratch is permanent since the alloy won't make its own patina. In general, ingestion of aluminum is more likely from drinking water that has been treated with aluminum compounds or from breathing polluted air rather than from food storage or cooking vessels. The amount that might be "flavoring" your food will be extremely limited.

The CNS studies your links do reference are from the mid 1980's and have since been reviewed. There have since been tests that showed some connection to CNS toxicity at extreme levels of exposure, however most of the results linking aluminum to altzeimers and parkinsons have been concequential or non-reproducible. To reproduce some of the toxic effects through oral ingestion, one study (cited in the above) had to expose people to as much as 400mg per kg of body weight per day, or in English terms a 150 pound person would have to eat around an ounce of aluminum daily. So as long as you don't eat the foil (provided you could digest it), I think you should be fine.

To be super safe you could do a test. You could weigh a new, empty disposable pan, then fill it with an acid for a period of time and periodically dry it out and reweigh it to see if any of the pan is actually dissolving at all.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:08 PM on January 26, 2012

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