We’ve all been there. You want to eat a delicious pizza so you put it in the oven and walk away. A few minutes later you realize you forgot to take the cardboard off the bottom. Now you’re wondering, can I put cardboard in the oven?
To be safe, don’t put cardboard in the oven. Cardboard has an ignition point of 427 degrees. Theoretically, if the cardboard stays under this temperature, it won’t ignite. However, there is still a chance it will catch on fire depending on the style of oven that you have.
If the risk of spontaneous combustion isn’t enough for you, there are a few other reasons not to put cardboard in the oven. We’ve also put together a list of alternatives that you CAN put in the oven. Let’s have a look…
3 Reasons Cardboard Should Never Go in the Oven
Pizzas aren’t the only thing that’s packaged with cardboard. Most frozen foods are packaged in a cardboard box as well as a plastic cover of some kind.
Because of this, always make sure you completely remove all packaging from your food before you bake it. Otherwise, you might end up with melted plastic on your food, and nobody wants that.
No matter what food you’re trying to make, you should never put cardboard in the oven. Here’s why.
1. Threat of Spontaneous Combustion
Cardboard can catch on fire if it reaches the very specific temperature of 427 degrees. Most pizzas bake at or above 425 degrees. This two degree margin is a little too close for comfort.
If you cook your pizza with the cardboard still on it, one of two things will happen. Your pizza will be crisp and delicious and nothing will happen. Or, the cardboard will smoke terribly and possibly even catching on fire ruining your night and your pizza.
The type of oven you have can greatly increase or decrease the chance of your cardboard catching on fire. Older ovens tend to have heating elements that are more exposed to the inside of the oven which increases the risk of fire.
Newer ovens have the heating elements covered better and circulate the heat making fire less likely. But, just to be on the safe side, don’t do it.
And, while it’s pretty unlikely that your cardboard will catch on fire, the mere possibility of catching something on fire in your house should give you pause.
2. Slows Down Cooking Time
Although you may think you’re saving time by leaving the cardboard on your pizza, the exact opposite can actually be true.
Leaving the cardboard on the bottom of your pizza, or surrounding your food, can slow down the cooking time and keep the bottom of your pizza from getting nice and crispy.
However, there are some things that are designed to be baked with the cardboard on. For example, some frozen dinners have treated paper dishes that are made to withstand the heat of the oven.
With any kind of paper product that is not specifically designed for baking in the oven, do not put it in the oven. Just take the extra time and take it off. The fire department will thank you.
3. Makes Your Food Taste Weird
Even if your cardboard doesn’t completely catch on fire, it can still smoke and give off fumes. These fumes can leave a bad taste on your food as well as make your oven and kitchen smell.
In addition to cardboard, most frozen foods also include plastic packaging to prevent freezer burn. If you don’t remove the packaging and just throw the whole thing in the oven, then that can really create a nasty smell/taste.
The plastic could even melt to your food making it inedible. But, no worries, it’s easy to avoid. Just take all the packaging off.
The small benefits of leaving the packaging on your food do not outweigh the risks. Unless it’s made to be baked, remove the cardboard and other packaging materials.
What to Use Instead of Cardboard
We’ve got a few things you can do to eliminate the need to keep the cardboard on the bottom of your pizza (or other food).
If you’re cooking a frozen pizza, follow the heating instructions on the packaging.
If you’re reheating leftover pizza in your oven, heating it at 350 degrees on a cookie sheet is what most restaurants recommend.
Here are 5 alternatives to cardboard you could consider using for baking or reheating your food:
1. Cookie Sheet
The best way to replace the cardboard under your pizza is to bake it on a cookie sheet. The metal will heat up to evenly cook and crisp the bottom of the pizza.
This is also a great option for any other frozen food. From pre-made casseroles to chicken nuggets, the cookie sheet is a fantastic baking solution.
Just put your pizza or other food on the cookie sheet and slide them both into the oven together. No threat of fire and nice crispy food. It’s a win-win.
2. Casserole Dish/Baking Pan
If you don’t have a flat cookie sheet, the next best thing is to put it in a casserole dish or baking pan.
You may not have a casserole dish big enough to fit your whole pizza in it but these are also good for baking other types of frozen food.
If you have premade casseroles, the dish they come in can sometimes be fairly flimsy and the contents might bubble out. It would be a good idea to put it in a baking dish in case it breaks or drips. No one wants food to drip into the oven.
3. Aluminum Foil
If you’ve got some aluminum foil and nothing else to put your pizza on, then you can cover the oven rack in aluminum foil.
Before you preheat your oven, take out the oven rack and cover it in aluminum foil. You could even just cover the middle part if you don’t want to waste the foil.
This is a great cheap alternative to cookie sheets and casserole dishes. It helps bake it evenly and prevents stuff from dripping into your oven.
4. Pizza Block
If you eat a lot of pizza, a pizza block might be a worthy addition to your kitchen.
These are specially made ceramic sheets that you put directly into your oven to bake your pizza on. They prevent cheese from dripping into your oven and make the crust nice and crispy.
They can also be used to bake other frozen foods. You can put a frozen casserole on it or even some delicious burritos. Whatever food you like, a pizza block will help make it crispy.
5. Directly on the Rack
Some things can be baked directly onto the rack.
If you’re making a pizza, you can take the cardboard off the bottom and place the pizza right on the rack.
If your food comes with an oven safe container, then you can usually put it directly on the rack.
Putting food directly on the rack is a good approach if you have no other alternative, but you do run the risk of cheese and toppings dripping into the bottom of your oven.
Altogether, if you’re tempted to leave the cardboard on the bottom of your pizza (or other food), use these alternatives instead. Avoiding the cardboard will reduce your risk of fire, and will probably also make your food cook better.
Is it OK to Put a Pizza Box in the Oven?
You should generally avoid putting pizza boxes and other cardboard in the oven. There is a chance the box or cardboard will catch on fire. If you’re cooking a frozen pizza, you should also remove all plastic packaging, because the plastic could melt to your pizza making it inedible.
Is it OK to Cook Pizza on Cardboard?
You should generally avoid cooking pizza on cardboard. The cardboard could catch on fire from the heat of the oven. Leaving the cardboard on the bottom of the pizza can also increase the cooking time and could even make the pizza taste worse.
What Temperature Does Cardboard Burn At?
Cardboard ignites at around 427 degrees Fahrenheit (219 degrees Celsius). But, before it reaches that ignition temperature, cardboard can smoke and smolder. For example, if you try to bake a pizza in the oven with cardboard on the bottom, it could ruin your pizza and your oven, or it could even start a fire.