15 Amazing Things Aluminum Foil Can Do

iStock
iStock

Aluminum foil is more than just a handy way to wrap leftovers. The thin metal sheets are all-purpose powerhouses around the house, ready to help you with your cooking, cleaning, laundry, and even home decorating. There are plenty of unusual ways to put foil to use. You can use it as a ...

1. Dish scrubber

When the rough side of your sponge isn’t enough for set-in grease and food remains, use a balled-up piece of foil to wipe your baking dishes clean. Foil works just as well on a dirty grill. 

2. Scissor sharpener 

Fold a piece of aluminum foil several times. Cut a few straight lines through the foil with your dull scissors. This cleans and sharpens the blade, sort of like a razor strop

3. Cupcake holder

Make an easy-to-carry disposable cupcake or muffin holder by lining a regular cupcake pan with a layer of foil. Make sure to push the foil all the way into the recesses of the pan, creating cupcake-shaped indents. Pop it out, and wrap the whole thing (cupcakes inside) again in foil. 

4. Makeshift funnel 

Twist a piece of foil into a cone shape, and stick it in whatever bottle (or flask—we're not judging) you’re transferring to. Just make sure to hold the foil in place, and don’t pour too much too fast, or your funnel will come apart. 

5. Grilling tray 


Image Credit: Screenshot via YouTube

Keep melty or loose food from dripping and falling into your grill by turning your metal spatulas into miniature grilling trays. Fold around two feet of heavy-duty foil in half, put a griddle spatula in the middle, and fold the foil up around it to create a tray. See an example (pictured) in this grilled cheese tutorial by Alton Brown. 

6. Vegetable crisper 

To keep celery crisp, wrap it in aluminum foil before you put it in the fridge, so when it produces ethylene gas, it doesn’t get trapped in a plastic bag. 

7. Silver polish

Silver becomes darker with age because of a chemical reaction with the sulfur in the air. Aluminum foil can help reverse the process by converting silver sulfide back into silver with the help of some baking soda and hot water. Coat the bottom of a pan with aluminum foil, and put whatever silver you’re looking to polish on top. Pour a mixture of boiling water and baking soda (one cup of baking soda for every gallon of water) into the pan, covering the silver, and wait until the tarnish disappears. If your silver is too big for a pan, use a bucket like in the video above. 

8. Dryer sheet

Image Credit: iStock

Throw a crumpled up foil ball or two into the dryer with your laundry instead of dryer sheets. While the trick doesn’t make your clothes quite as soft as a commercial softener, the foil will keep garments static-free. 

9. Gift wrap

The best gifts come in shiny packages, and there is very little difference between silver wrapping paper and the aluminum foil you have lying around your kitchen. 

10. Photography background

How to Photograph Products With Great Background Using One Light. Part One from Andrey Mikhaylov on Vimeo.

Crinkle up a large sheet of aluminum foil and tape it to the wall as a mod set piece for your photography. 

11. Light reflector 

Perk up the shadowy areas of your photos with a reflector made out of foil. Just tape foil to a large display board (like the kind you'd use for the science fair) and angle it to get the lighting conditions you want. Note that the two sides of aluminum foil aren’t the same—one is shinier. Make sure to keep the same side facing up throughout the board. 

12. Hair curler 

Wrap a piece of hair around two fingers and cover the resulting loop in foil. Clamp the packet of foil in a straight iron for a few seconds to heat up the hair, then let it cool. Instant waves. 

13. Home decor

Use recycled aluminum foil to decorate your house. The project above turns foil from the tops of cans into handmade flowers using scissors, pliers, and a glue gun. 

14. Millennium Falcon 

Image Credit: via Instructables.com

Who says aluminum foil can't be a toy? Check out this Instructable for turning a basic coloring-book image of the Star Wars Millennium Falcon into a piece of foil-relief art. Essentially, you glue an image of the space ship onto a piece of cardboard and trace its lines with tacky glue. Wrap the whole thing in foil and rub the foil into the space around the glue to create a shiny Millennium Falcon that pops. 

15. Anti-bug mulch

Reflective mulch can help keep invading insects away from your vegetable garden. Cover pieces of cardboard with aluminum foil. Cut 4-inch diameter holes and plant seeds inside, or simply lay the aluminum foil between planter beds and bury their edges in soil. One study [PDF] associated aluminum foil mulch with a 96 percent reduction in aphids over a growing season. 

BONUS: Anti-alien helmet 

Image Credit: iStock

Never forget the most tried-and-true uses for foil: to keep aliens out of your head. Instructions: Wrap foil into a skullcap. Place on head. Wear until the threat of alien invasion passes. (Or you could just accept the inevitable: These caps probably wouldn't actually stop aliens.)

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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15 Fascinating Facts About Julia Child

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images
TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

Julia Child was much more than just a bestselling cookbook author and chef. Over the course of her life, she was also a breast cancer survivor, a TV trailblazer, and a government spy. It's the famed chef's spy game that will be the focus of Julia, a new series being developed by ABC Signature and created by Benjamin Brand.

The project will draw its inspiration from Child's PBS program Cooking for the C.I.A. “I was disappointed when I learned that in this case, the C.I.A. stood for the Culinary Institute of America,” Brand told Deadline. “Cooking Secrets of the Central Intelligence Agency always seemed like a more interesting show to me. Many years later, when I read a biography of Julia Child and learned about her experiences during World War II, working for the Office of Strategic Services—the precursor to the C.I.A.—the story of Julia quickly fell into place.”

Though Julia will be a work of fiction, here are 15 facts about the beloved cook, who was born on August 15, 1912.

1. Julia Child met the inventor of the Caesar salad when she was a kid.

As a preteen, Julia Child traveled to Tijuana on a family vacation. Her parents took her to dine at Caesar Cardini’s restaurant, so that they could all try his trendy “Caesar salad.” Child recalled the formative culinary experience to The New York Times: “My parents were so excited, eating this famous salad that was suddenly very chic. Caesar himself was a great big old fellow who stood right in front of us to make it. I remember the turning of the salad in the bowl was very dramatic. And egg in a salad was unheard of at that point.” Years later, when she was a famous chef in her own right, Child convinced Cardini’s daughter, Rosa, to share the authentic recipe with her.

2. The WAVES and WACs rejected Julia Child for being too tall.

Like so many others of her generation, Child felt the call to serve when America entered World War II. There was just one problem: her height. At a towering 6'2", Child was deemed “too tall” for both the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) and Women’s Army Corps (WAC). But she was accepted by the forerunner to the CIA, which brings us to our next point.

3. Julia Child was a spy during World War II.

Child took a position at the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which was basically the CIA 1.0. She began as a research assistant in the Secret Intelligence division, where she worked directly for the head of the OSS, General William J. Donovan. But she moved over to the OSS Emergency Sea Rescue Equipment Section, and then took an overseas post for the final two years of the war. First in Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka) and later in Kunming, China, Child served as the chief of the OSS Registry. This meant she had top-level security clearance. It also meant she was working with Paul Child, the OSS officer she would eventually marry.

4. Julia Child helped develop a shark repellent for the Navy.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

While Child was in the Emergency Sea Rescue Equipment Section, she helped the team in its search for a suitable shark repellent. Several U.S. naval officers had been attacked by the ocean predators since the war broke out, so the OSS brought in a scientist specializing in zoology and an anthropologist to come up with a fix. Child assisted in this mission, and recalled her experience in the book Sisterhood of Spies: “I must say we had lots of fun. We designed rescue kits and other agent paraphernalia. I understand the shark repellent we developed is being used today for downed space equipment—strapped around it so the sharks won’t attack when it lands in the ocean.”

5. Julia Child got married in bandages.

Once the war ended, Julia and Paul Child decided to take a “few months to get to know each other in civilian clothes.” They met with family members and traveled cross-country before they decided to tie the knot. The wedding took place on September 1, 1946. Julia remembered being “extremely happy, but a bit banged up from a car accident the day before.” She wasn’t kidding; she actually had to wear a bandage on the side of her face for her wedding photos. The New York Review of Books has one of those pictures.

6. Julia Child was a terrible cook well into her 30s.

Child did not have a natural talent for cooking. In fact, she was a self-admitted disaster in the kitchen until she began taking classes at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, where she and Paul lived for several years. Prior to her marriage, Child simply fed herself frozen dinners. It was probably the safest choice; one of her earliest attempts at cooking resulted in an exploded duck and an oven fire.

7. A lunch in Rouen changed Julia Child's life.

Child repeatedly credited one meal with spurring her interest in fine foods: a lunch in the French city of Rouen that she and Paul enjoyed en route to their new home in Paris. The meal consisted of oysters portugaises on the half-shell, sole meunière browned in Normandy butter, a salad with baguettes, and cheese and coffee for dessert. They also “happily downed a whole bottle of Pouilly-Fumé” over the courses.

8. It took Julia Child nine years to write and publish her first cookbook.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking revolutionized home cooking when it was published in 1961—but the revolution didn't happen overnight. Child first began work on her famous tome in 1952, when she met Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle. The French women were writing a cookbook aimed at teaching Americans how to make French cuisine, and brought Child on board as a third author. Nine years of research, rewrites, and rejections ensued before the book landed a publisher at Alfred A. Knopf.

9. Julia Child got famous by beating eggs on Boston public television.

Child’s big TV break came from an unlikely source: Boston’s local WGBH station. While promoting Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Child appeared as a guest on the book review program I’ve Been Reading. But rather than sit down and discuss recipe semantics, Child started cracking eggs into a hot plate she brought with her. She made an omelette on air as she answered questions, and viewers loved it. The station received dozens of letters begging for more demonstrations, which led WGBH producer Russell Morash to offer Child a deal. She filmed three pilot episodes, which turned into her star-making show The French Chef.

10. All of Julia Child's essential utensils were kept in a "sacred bag."

According to a 1974 New Yorker profile, Child carried a large black canvas satchel known as the “sacred bag.” Rather than holy artifacts, it contained the cooking utensils she couldn’t live without. That included her pastry-cutting wheel, her favorite flour scoop, and her knives, among other things. She started using it when The French Chef premiered, and only entrusted certain people with its care.

11. Julia Child survived breast cancer.

Child’s doctors ordered a mastectomy in the late 1960s after a routine biopsy came back with cancerous results. She was in a depressed mood following her 10-day hospital stay, and Paul was a wreck. But she later became vocal about her operation in hopes that it would remove the stigma for other women. She told TIME, “I would certainly not pussyfoot around having a radical [mastectomy] because it’s not worth it.”

12. Julia Child's marriage was well ahead of its time.

As their meet-cute in the OSS offices would suggest, Paul and Julia Child had far from a conventional marriage (at least by 1950s standards). Once Julia’s career took off, Paul happily assisted in whatever way he could—as a taste tester, dishwasher, agent, or manager. He had retired from the Foreign Service in 1960, and immediately thrust himself into an active role in Julia’s business. The New Yorker took note of Paul’s progressive attitudes in its 1974 profile of Julia, noting that he suffered “from no apparent insecurities of male ego.” He continued to serve as Julia’s partner in every sense of the word until his death in 1994.

13. Julia Child was the first woman inducted into the Culinary Institute of America's Hall of Fame.

Child spent her early years working for what would become the Central Intelligence Agency. In 1993, she joined another CIA: the Culinary Institute of America. The group inducted Child into its Hall of Fame that year, making her the first woman to ever receive the honor.

14. Julia Child earned the highest civilian honors from the U.S. and France.

Along with that CIA distinction, Child received top civilian awards from both her home country and the country she considered her second home. In 2000, she accepted the Legion D’Honneur from Jacques Pépin at Boston’s Le Méridien hotel. Just three years later, George W. Bush gave her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

15. Julia Child's kitchen is in the Smithsonian.

In 2001, Julia donated the kitchen that Paul designed in their Cambridge, Massachusetts home to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Although it’s not possible to walk directly through it, there are three viewports from which visitors can see the high counters, wall of copper pots, and gleaming stove. Framed recipes, articles, and other mementos from her career adorn the surrounding walls—and, of course, there’s a television which plays her cooking shows on loop.