Classic brown toothpicks are a kitchen staple and are used for everything from checking cakes for doneness to spreading royal icing to binding appetizers and more. I even use them for cleaning my stovetop! But what about the brightly colored variety? Are colored toothpicks safe to cook with, or are they just for decoration?
Cooking with colored toothpicks is not recommended. While some cooking methods are possible – baking, and grilling, for example – you run the risk of the color transferring into your food; although non-toxic, this is unappealing. In this case, choose a regular toothpick instead. Wooden toothpicks of any variety should not be used in the microwave.
Keep reading to learn more about colored toothpicks and which cooking methods they can safely be used with.
Are colored toothpicks safe to cook with
Most kitchens have at least a couple of toothpicks rolling around in the catch-all drawer. You know the one. They’re probably with your spare batteries, a random charger from a phone you don’t even have anymore, and at least three pairs of scissors that you definitely won’t be able to find when you need them.
Mine are all regular brown toothpicks, remnants from a box I inherited from my mother 10 years ago, but what if yours are red, green, or blue? Can they still be used for cooking?
Colored toothpicks can be used in common cooking applications, although it’s not recommended. The dye used to color dental toothpicks is non-toxic and won’t harm you. However, moisture may cause the color to leach into your food. While not dangerous, it’s probably not ideal either.
Diamond, one of the top producers of toothpicks, states in their Support pop-up that their colored toothpicks are dyed with FDA-approved acetate dye that won’t discolor food. Despite this, they recommend against using colored toothpicks for baking.
Note that if you picked up your picks in the craft aisle, it’s worth checking the package to be sure. Chances are they’re non-toxic, especially if they’re designed for kids’ projects, but better safe than sorry!
Are colored toothpicks food safe?
Both colored and non-colored toothpicks are food safe.
Toothpicks are intended to be used in conjunction with food in one manner or another, so they are absolutely food safe.
However, you may deal with the colors running when exposed to excessive moisture, especially if you’re using a lower-quality brand.
Are colored toothpicks toxic?
Toothpicks are, by their nature, designed to be put in your mouth or used with food.
The dyes used in kitchen toothpicks are FDA-approved and are not toxic.
This does not, however, necessarily apply to craft picks. Check the packaging carefully upon purchase and don’t use them with food unless you’re confident.
Can you cook with colored toothpicks?
When you’re working with smaller cuts or a proper wooden skewer isn’t available, it’s not uncommon to reach for a wooden toothpick to take care of the task at hand. If a plain one isn’t available, is it acceptable to cook with a colored toothpick?
Colored toothpicks can be used in the oven, air fryer, deep fryer, or on the grill, although they are not recommended. Toothpicks should never be used in the microwave, regardless of their color.
While the dye used to color toothpicks is non-toxic and FDA-approved, it may bleed into your meal. While this isn’t dangerous, it could certainly be off-putting.
Can you put colored toothpicks in the oven
Colored toothpicks can be used in the oven, especially for baking.
It’s possible to used toothpicks, even colored ones, in the oven. The color may bleed, but it won’t be dangerous.
Depending on the temperature you’ll be cooking at and how exposed the toothpick will be, you may want to consider soaking it before placing it in the oven – it is still wood, after all!
What about pizza boxes? Can you put pizza boxes in the oven?
Can you put colored toothpicks in the microwave
Never put toothpicks of any variety in the microwave.
Do not put toothpicks in the microwave. The point of the toothpick can become overheated, combust, and cause sparks to be thrown around inside the microwave.
Can you put colored toothpicks on the grill?
Colored toothpicks are safe to use on the grill, although soaked wooden skewers are probably a better choice.
Wooden – not plastic – toothpicks are safe for use on the grill. Of course, the possibility of the color transferring is still there, but less likely as grilling tends to be much faster than baking.
If you are going to try and use toothpicks over the grill, they should be thoroughly soaked. Since they’re wood, they could easily catch fire, especially if the grease starts dripping!
Can you put colored toothpicks in the air fryer?
It may be surprising, but colored toothpicks are actually safe for use in an air fryer.
Wooden toothpicks are good for holding food together in an air fryer, and colored toothpicks can be used as an alternative if necessary. Air fryer cook using a convection effect that basically pushes hot air around the food, meaning that the toothpicks won’t be exposed to direct heat as long as you’re careful not to allow it to touch the heating element.
While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend using a colored toothpick for this cooking method, it shouldn’t have any negative effects.
That being said, this applies only to wooden toothpicks. Plastic of any kind should never go in an air fryer!
Can you put colored toothpicks in the deep fryer?
Toothpicks can be used in the deep fryer to hold foods in shape, but colored toothpicks are typically only recommended for serving or decoration.
Although the dye used to color toothpicks is food safe, I’m not sure I’d risk exposing it to heat and oil.
Are decorative toothpicks safe to cook with
Decorative toothpicks differ from colored toothpicks, which are also sometimes called party picks.
Decorative toothpick varieties are safe for cooking with. The decorative pieces are likely to either catch fire or come off in the cooking – along with whatever was holding them on.
Decorative toothpicks are so-named because they include decorative elements such as an umbrella (think beach cocktails), a twist or piece of plastic at one end (like you’d see in a restaurant sandwich), or even an on-theme bit of paper (like you often see sticking out of a party cupcake).
Are plastic toothpicks safe to cook with
Plastic toothpicks are great for decoration, less so for cooking.
Plastic toothpicks are not safe to cook with and should never be exposed to the high temperatures found in an oven, air fryer, deep fryer, or grill. Items that come to a point, like toothpicks, should never be used in the microwave, regardless of their composition.
Save the plastic toothpicks for cupcake toppers, and cook with either metal or wooden skewers.
What can I use if I don’t have a skewer?
Wooden skewers are perfect for cooking small pieces of meat, holding your food in place, or grilling a carefully arranged shish kabob. If you don’t have a proper skewer on hand, what do you do?
Some items that might work in place of a wood skewer are:
- Wooden toothpicks
- Rosemary stalks
- Green sticks
- Paper clips
- Bay leaf twigs
- Bamboo chopsticks
- Disposable chopsticks
If you’re like me and more likely to have a wooden skewer in your kitchen than some of these alternatives, you might want to pick up a set of metal skewers so they’re always on hand when you need them.
What are toothpicks if not tiny skewers?
If you’re cooking something small or only need a little assistance in keeping a food item in place while it’s cooking, a plain toothpick may be your best bet.
This option may not offer you the size of a standard skewer, but it’s a good first try if you have a job that needs to get done.
This option really only works if you have a herb garden with rosemary available, but it’s surprisingly effective!
Rosemary stalks are strong and durable, plus they’ll add some a bit of extra flavor to your meal.
To use a rosemary stalk as a skewer:
- Harvest a handful of strong stalks, and trim to the desired length (about 6 inches should work).
- Remove the leaves, leaving the ones at the tip.
- Thread the food on the stalk, from the stripped side to the remaining leaves.
- Cook as usual, although be aware the stalks may require additional support when being moved.
The rosemary stalk is not only sturdy enough to thread foods but strong enough to withstand high temperatures thrown at it.
Green sticks from a tree
Sharpened sticks are the original skewer, so why not use one when you’re in a pinch?
Find the straightest stick you can, cut it off the tree, and carve the tip to a point. If possible, you should try and carve off the outer bark as well. Since you’re using a green stick, it hasn’t dried out yet, so you don’t have to worry bout the wood catching fire!
Admittedly this one is a a lot work, but it can be very helpful if you’re trying to skewer something over a fire or while you’re camping.
Paper clips may seem like an obvious one, but make sure you’re using a plain, uncoated one. Plastic or plastic-coated paperclips will melt in the oven.
Straighten out the paperclip and use it exactly the way you would a toothpick.
Keep in mind that the metal will be hot and hold that heat longer than a wooden toothpick would.
Bay leaf twigs
Similar to the rosemary stalk, a bay leaf twig can make an excellent skewer alternative.
Bay leaf twigs can be used in much the same way as rosemary stalks and add a similar herby flavor to the final dish.
The obvious disadvantage to this option is that most people are more likely to have rosemary in their garden than bay leaf.
Uncoated wooden chopsticks can be used as a skewer if necessary.
Chopsticks have a similar tapered design as a skewer, but they don’t come to the same extreme point. It may be difficult to spear your foods on a chopstick, but it should work once you have everything in place.
If possible, attempt this with disposable chopsticks, not your nice bamboo set. While it should be able to take the heat, chopsticks are designed to be used in cooking and may be damaged.
Final thoughts on colored toothpicks and cooking
It is possible to cook with colored toothpicks, but it’s not recommended. Use plain wooden toothpicks or skewers for your cooking needs, and save the colored toothpicks for decorative uses.
Speaking of which, never use decorative toothpicks of any variety for cooking. Umbrellas, flags, plastic, and the like should never be exposed to heat.
Additionally, toothpicks of any color should never be used in the microwave, although they are safe for use in the oven, air fryer, deep fryer, and on the grill.
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