You may use toothpicks to check whether a cake you’re baking is done, but can you put toothpicks in the oven itself? Here are the right ways to use toothpicks when it comes to your oven.
Toothpicks are one of those often overlooked kitchen tools. But they have a bunch of great uses. they can act as an ideal way to serve appetizers like meatballs or melon and mozzarella bites. They can even keep icing off cakes if you need to cover them in plastic wrap.
And of course, you can use them for the toothpick test to check the doneness of cakes and other baked goods. You just stick one in the center of the cake and if it comes out clean, the cake (or brownies) are ready to be taken out to cool.
But can toothpicks go in the oven? In most cases, wooden and metal toothpicks can go in the oven. However, there are some best practices to follow to make sure you and your foods stay safe.
Here’s what you need to know if you’ll be using toothpicks in your oven.
Why would you put toothpicks in the oven?
Along with using toothpicks as a way to serve appetizers, they can be really useful to help keep more delicate dishes from coming apart during the cooking process.
You may use them to affix bacon to bacon-wrapped shrimp. Or to make stuffed jalapenos for a party.
The key is to swap them out for fresh ones after the food is done cooking so you and your guests aren’t eating charred toothpick remains.
Of course, you may already use toothpicks to check whether your baked goods are done. But generally, you just quickly poke these foods while the food is out of the oven.
Don’t put toothpicks into your batter and bake it. Chances are you’ll lose them and they could end up hurting someone.
What types of toothpicks can go in the oven?
You generally have three main types of toothpicks to choose from: wooden, metal, and plastic. And the kind of toothpick you use can make all the difference.
Wooden toothpicks in the oven
Wooden toothpicks are safe to use in the oven. Typically, moisture in the food you’re making will help keep the toothpick damp so it doesn’t catch on fire.
To help prevent the ends of wooden toothpicks from charring, soak them in cold water for 10-15 minutes. This may not completely keep them from getting a little burned, but it will slow down the process.
If your wooden toothpicks will be in the oven for a long time or at very high temperatures, soak them for longer or consider using a different material like metal.
Finally, make sure the toothpicks aren’t splintered or cracked. Those splinters could be harmful if they end up in your food!
Metal toothpicks in the oven
A good alternative to wood is metal toothpicks. You may often see these marketed as metal cocktail toothpicks. They work well on all sorts of foods and are a great option if you’ll be cooking with toothpicks often, or if your dishes require a long time in the oven.
Plus, metal toothpicks are easy to clean and won’t leave a charred residue on food.
Just be sure to let them cool completely before your dish serving or removing the toothpicks. To keep safe, consider using heat-proof silicone mitts or metal tongs if you plan to remove them while they’re still hot.
Don’t use plastic toothpicks in the oven. As you can imagine, the plastic will melt under the high heat and contaminate your food, making it inedible.
It will also likely leave a tough mess in your oven or on your baking sheet.
Plastic toothpicks can be great as appetizer serving utensils, but only use them on your food after it’s out of the oven, not before.
One more type you may have seen is decorative toothpicks. These could be bamboo skewers with a knot at the end. Or they may have other decorative elements like colored plastic frills (common for use with cocktails).
Avoid using these in the oven as well. The delicate knots can burn easily. And the frills are usually made from plastic which will melt and could make your food unsafe to eat.
Even brightly colored toothpicks should be avoided as the dyes could seep into your foods.
Alternative to using toothpicks
What if you’ve run out of toothpicks but still need them to make that awesomely delicious appetizer for your upcoming party? Here are a few good options.
Either metal or wooden skewers could be a good substitute. These long, thin stakes are usually meant for making things like shish kabobs, but they may meet your needs if you find yourself out of toothpicks.
If you have a home bar, you may also have some cocktail sticks stored away. These are used mainly as a way to garnish cocktails with fruit or olives, but this can also be a great alternative if you need something to help keep food together in the oven.
Can toothpicks go in an air fryer?
Air fryers work by rapidly circulating hot air. That makes the food crispy, but what will it do to toothpicks?
Turns out plain wooden toothpicks are generally air fryer-safe. As with a regular oven, it’s a good idea to soak the toothpicks before using them in an air fryer. And check on them periodically while the food is cooking to make sure they aren’t charring extensively or burning.
You could also use metal toothpicks in the air fryer, but be careful when removing them as they will be very hot.
Do not use plastic toothpicks — they’ll melt in the air fryer.
Can I use toothpicks in a deep fryer?
Just like the way they absorb moisture from food in the oven, wood toothpicks will absorb the oil used in deep frying. That means they’re safe to use in a deep fryer as they won’t catch fire or char.
The best way to use them is to not soak them in water beforehand. The water could react with the hot oil and cause hot oil to spit out. So going with dry toothpicks is best.
Metal toothpicks are also fine to use in a deep fryer. But avoid using plastic. They’ll melt and contaminate your food, along with your deep fryer.
Can I use toothpicks in the microwave?
Let’s start by eliminating the metal ones first. As a general rule, metal should not be placed in the microwave. Metal is a great conductor of electricity, which means the microwaves themselves will bounce off of them and that could cause arcing, where sparks start to fly inside the appliance.
This is especially true for metal with sharp edges or points (think knives and forks).
In fact, the same is true for any object with sharp points, as those features themselves can be trigger areas for arcing and could present a fire hazard.
So you should avoid using any type of toothpick in the microwave, whether it’s metal, wooden, or plastic, as they could pose a risk of fire.
If you decide to heat up something in the microwave that has a toothpick in it, be sure to remove it beforehand.
If you plan to make dishes that require some help to hold them together in the oven, the good news is you can use regular wooden toothpicks or metal ones that you find at your local grocery store. Just be sure to follow a few safety guidelines and be careful when removing them from both your hot oven and your food.
And in most cases, remember it’s not safe to use plastic toothpicks along with any sort of cooking appliance that involves heat — like an oven or air fryer — as the plastic can melt and pose potential risks.
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