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Soda can as crockpot rack - clever reuse or poison? Answered

I like to roast meats and poultry in my crockpot, but they often wind up stewing in a pool of grease at the bottom. I'm thinking of putting a washed, crushed aluminum can in the bottom to lift the food. Is there any danger from the can or inks on the outside? Sure it's foodsafe in its normal usage, but that doesn't include heating or food coming in contact with outside surfaces. Any chemists or metallurgists care to weigh in? Thanks!



Best Answer 8 years ago

(For the record, I am a metallurgist, but have never done any formal research into the chemical and mechanical behavior of crushed aluminum cans in crock-pot environments.) There's the possible aluminum-alzheimer's connection, which you would get with the aluminum foil as well. The paint is probably more worrisome - crushing the can will break up the surface of the paint and create small paint particles. Those will allow the chemicals in the paint to migrate fairly readily into the food, and paint chemicals can be nasty - especially in gold & silver metallic-look paints. (This is not such a worry with Beer Can Chicken, because the can & the paint are used intact.) For me, personally, I would not want to eat meat that had been cooked over crushed aluminum cans. (I would eat Beer Can Chicken, but only if there were no metallics paints on the can - and only if the people surrounding the chicken had not emptied too many beer cans in the cooking process. :) What I'd suggest would be a layer of onions on the bottom of the crockpot - they'll hold the meat up and flavor it while it's cooking, and then you just toss them out with the rest of the greasy stuff - and, while they're not quite as cheap as used soda cans, plain white or yellow onions aren't at all pricey. (The bit about using onions was not covered in Engineering School - I learned that from my mother. :)

BTW The aluminium-Alzheimers link is largely discounted - a big study of areas with naturally high levels of aluminium in the drinking water showed no excess cases of AD. Steve

You maybe right. I haven't checked on any of the data in a good while. The "aluminum is bad for you" warning has been around since the first utensil was made of aluminum. We've been cooking in aluminum pans for a long time. I wonder if the aluminum in cookware is any different than the aluminum in soda cans. Is the aluminum in water the same as aluminum that might leach out during cooking?

Pretty well, its water soluble compounds, like aluminium silicates I think.

To be fair, almost everything is water soluble to some extent.  I think fat is the only exception.  Water is the "universal solvent", the charge on its molecules pull a little of almost everything into it.

Soda cans are coated with a varnish to prevent leaching of the metal into the food item.

That coating will be on the inside, where the manufacturer puts the soda; but not on the outside, where the beer-can-emptier puts the chicken. Also, it is not intended to outlast the draining of the can by much, and certainly not to withstand crushing.

If I remember right, whatever threat the aluminum cookware poses was eventually tied to old pans with scratched-up cooking surfaces, where tiny little aluminum particles might break off and wind up in the food.

Soda cans will be made of different aluminum alloys than cookware, but I don't know how that would affect their tendencies towards leaching or particulate generation.

Thanks for all the suggestions. I think I'll just recycle my cans and try a rack or onions. Gorfram, it sounds like between school and Mom you got a well-rounded education!

There is differing evidence that aluminum cookware contributes to several kinds of brain diseases like altzimers. I would just find a steel rack that fit in the bottom of my crock pot and use that. Easy to clean, save and almost as cheap.

Can you show me the evidence ? The latest I heard is that, in areas with high aluminium content in the water, there is no excess of alzheimers cases.


8 years ago

Put a pasta dish- (it's shallow, but has the raised edge)-upside down in the crockpot. That will raise the meat off the surface and give you a wider base for it to rest on.

You can get racks for just this purpose, but I find that the meat fibres/juices stick like crazy to it and it's a bind to clean.

Well, I suppose it's no worse than "beer can chicken". And probably no worse than using an aluminum cookpot, outside of the inks. As to what the ink contains: Gods only know. But that doesn't seem to stop the beer can folks. Of course the beer itself may explain that. But it does seem that there has to be _something_ in a typical kitchen, or available cheaply from a kitchen supply house, which would do the job better (eg, have handles to help you lift the meat out). Personally, my solution is to stick with stew/soup, where I can simply skim the grease off the top.