Cooking can get messy. Spills and splatters are inevitable when baking, roasting, or broiling. For quick and easy cleanup, paper towels seem like an ideal solution. But is it safe to put paper towels in the oven?
The short answer is no. Paper towels are not designed to withstand oven temperatures. Putting paper towels in the oven creates a fire hazard.
Read on to learn why paper towels and ovens don’t mix and what safe alternatives exist for containing oven messes.
Why You Should Never Put Paper Towels in the Oven
Paper towels are made of wood pulp fibers. While the fibers are pressed and dried to create a strong, absorbent paper, they remain flammable.
Most paper towels are designed to withstand temperatures up to 220 degrees Fahrenheit. Standard oven temperatures exceed 400 degrees, sometimes reaching over 500 degrees.
At high heat, paper towels can ignite, creating a oven fire. The whoosh of oxygen that hits when you open the oven door feeds flames. In moments, the fire can spread through your kitchen.
In addition to fire risks, heating paper towels can release toxic fumes. The glues and inks used to color paper towels often contain chemicals that break down under extreme heat.
Breathing in the resultant fumes and gases exposes you to toxins that can irritate eyes, skin, and respiratory tracts.
Safe Alternatives for Messy Oven Cooking
To contain spills and drips during oven cooking, reach for a safe alternative designed for high heat:
Heavy-duty aluminum foil is naturally heat-resistant. It can withstand temperatures up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Shape sheets of foil to line baking sheets, roasting pans, oven racks, and more.
The reflective surface helps baked goods brown evenly. After cooking, allow foil to cool before disposal. Ball up lightly used foil for recycling.
Unbleached parchment paper won’t catch fire, char, or sticks to foods during oven cooking up to 420 degrees Fahrenheit. Parchment is ideal for lining baking sheets.
Nothing sticks as cookies, cakes, and more slide right off after baking. Look for FDA food-grade parchment paper that stands up to heat. After cooking, let parchment cool before tossing in the trash.
Silicone Baking Mats
Flexible silicone mats provide a nonstick surface that withstands temperatures from -40 to 480 degrees Fahrenheit.
Reusable mats go directly on oven racks. They make cleanup easy and negate the need for greasing pans. Check that mats are food-grade and BPA-free. Wash silicone mats in sudsy water after each use.
Stoneware Dishes and Ceramic Bakeware
Glazed stoneware and ceramic casserole dishes or baking pans won’t burn in the oven, even at very high temperatures.
The thick glaze protects the stoneware or ceramic underneath from heat damage. Choose sturdy oven-safe dishes to contain messy foods. Take care though—drops or sudden temperature changes can crack glazed stoneware.
Oven Liners for Easy Cleaning
For a protective layer between spills and your oven, try these reusable liners:
- Silicone oven liners: Flexible, nonstick silicone mats stick to oven floors and lower racks. They provide full coverage to catch drips and stains.
- Aluminum oven liners: Shiny aluminum foil liners fit oven floors and lower racks. The reflective surface helps distribute heat. Remove liners for easy cleaning by hand or in the dishwasher.
- Ceramic oven liners: These unglazed ceramic tiles or baked clay sheets create a protective coating over oven surfaces. Built-up food residue brushes or scrapes away after cooking.
Frequently Asked Questions About Paper Towels in Ovens
Still unsure about paper towels in the oven? Here are answers to some common questions:
No, do not put paper towels on the floor or anywhere in the oven. Oven temperatures exceed 220 degrees Fahrenheit which can cause paper towels to ignite. Use foil, silicone mats, or oven liners on the bottom of the oven instead.
What about parchment paper—is that the same as paper towels?
Parchment paper and paper towels are very different. Parchment is treated with silicone so it can withstand oven heat up to 420 degrees Fahrenheit. Standard paper towels burn at 220 degrees Fahrenheit. Only use parchment paper in the oven.
Can I put paper towels under my pizza on the pizza stone?
It’s not recommended. A pizza stone mimics the conditions inside a brick oven, reaching temperatures between 500-800 degrees Fahrenheit.
At these high temps, paper towels pose a fire risk. Instead, sprinkle cornmeal or use parchment paper under the pizza. Better yet, bake the pizza directly on the preheated stone.
What if I only put paper towels in for a short time, like when toasting bread?
Avoid putting paper towels in the oven for any length of time, even just a minute or two. The instant heat in the oven environment can ignite paper in seconds. Use an oven-safe alternative like foil or silicone mats when toasting or broiling foods.
Can I use paper towels if I keep the oven under 400 degrees?
It’s still risky. Oven temperatures vary, especially with the constant opening and closing of the oven door. The sudden rush of oxygen from opening the door can cause paper towels to rapidly ignite. Don’t risk it—play it safe by using an oven-safe alternative.
The Takeaway: Keep Paper Towels Out of the Oven
Paper towels seem convenient, but they have no place in a hot oven. The risk of fire and toxic fumes makes using paper towels unsafe.
Stick to oven-safe liners and bakeware like aluminum foil, silicone mats, parchment paper, stoneware, and ceramic dishes for mess-free cooking. With smart prep and the right tools, you can keep your oven clean while cooking safely.
Hi, I’m Julie, the passionate foodie and founder of Juliesfamilykitchen.com. I created this blog out of a drive to prove someone wrong, and then I realized how much I truly enjoy cooking and trying new recipes. In my free time, when I’m not running around after my kids or spending quality time with my partner, you can usually find me in the kitchen experimenting with new dishes.