There are various kinds of paper used in the culinary arts, with parchment the most common, followed by wax paper. But there's a third kind you might not be familiar with: It's called freezer paper. But what is it? What is it good for? And how does it differ from the other two types of paper?
What Is Freezer Paper?
Freezer paper is a heavy duty paper with a plastic coating on one side only. The plastic coating seals in moisture. When wrapping food in freezer paper, the plastic coating goes against the food, with the plain paper side on the outside. This allows you to label the parcel with a marker.
Parchment paper, on the other hand, is a thinner gauge of paper with no coating on it, although some parchment paper is treated with silicone to make it non-stick.
Wax paper is even thinner and is coated with a thin layer of wax on both sides. This makes it unsuitable for baking, but fine in the microwave. Neither wax or parchment paper, however, is good at sealing foods for the freezer. Which is where freezer paper comes in.
What Is Freezer Paper Good For?
Freezer paper is good for storing foods, especially cuts of meat like steaks or chicken, in the freezer. Because it's made from heavy-duty paper, it's stronger than foil, which is easily punctured or torn. And because you can fold it around a piece of meat to wrap it tightly, it is better than plastic containers, which naturally leave some air around the meat, which makes the item prone to frost and freezer burn.
Note that frost is not the same as freezer burn. Frost is simply the appearance of crystallized moisture on the surface of a frozen item, which is due to the way water seeks the nearest coldest location. Over time, the water inside a piece of meat moves toward the surface, forming ice crystals.
Freezer burn is what happens when a section of a piece of meat becomes excessively dehydrated due to moisture loss. The frost doesn't cause it, but when this evaporation goes on too long, freezer burn can occur.
Note also, however, that freezer burn isn't dangerous. You can simply trim away the affected parts and still safely eat the food. Freezer burn can also occur if the freezer temperature fluctuates, instead of staying at or below 0 F as it should.
If you're looking to store a steak for a long time, wrapping it tightly in freezer paper and then sealing the parcel in a plastic freezer bag would easily keep it fresh for up to a year—provided your freezer stayed consistently at 0 F or below.
What Is Freezer Paper Not Good For?
Because of its plastic coating, freezer paper can't be used in the oven or the microwave, as the plastic would melt onto the food.
It is probably not the best choice for freezing loose items like peas or corn, mostly because of the difficulty in wrapping such small, loose items.
Defrosting in Freezer Paper
One disadvantage to freezer paper is that it limits you in how you can defrost your food.
Generally, the best and safest way to defrost frozen items is to transfer them to the refrigerator and let them defrost there overnight. And this method will certainly work if you wrap your food in freezer paper.
But what if you're in a hurry? In a pinch, you can defrost a frozen item, like a steak or a chicken breast, by immersing it in a bowl of cold water with the tap running to keep new water circulating.
The convection effect of the running water helps thaw evenly, and ensures that the surrounding water is always fresh and doesn't get too warm (which could create a food safety hazard).
But of course, you can't do this with freezer paper, as the water would seep in and soak your food. The only way to confidently use this faster thawing method is if your food is sealed in a plastic freezer bag. But again, if you're happy to stick with conventional refrigerator thawing, freezer paper will work just fine.