What Is Parchment Paper?

A Guide to Buying and Using Parchment Paper

Roasted tomatoes on parchment paper
Agnese Siciliano / Getty Images

Parchment paper is a food-safe coated paper used in baking and cooking. Its heat-resistant, nonstick surface is ideal for a variety of kitchen tasks, from lining pans to funneling ingredients, and even pipe icing onto baked goods. Professional bakers and chefs have relied on it for years, and home cooks quickly realized how indispensable parchment is when it became more available. Parchment is sold in grocery stores and baking shops as rolls or precut sheets, and its versatility is a great addition to any kitchen.

What Is Parchment Paper?

Parchment paper is coated with silicone, making it nonstick, grease-proof, and heat-resistant. It's also called baking or bakery paper. Brown parchment is unbleached, while white parchment is chemically treated to remove the paper's natural color. Parchment can be used in the oven and microwave. Most brands are oven-safe up to 420 F, though you should always check the manufacturer's recommendation.

Parchment paper is often sold on rolls, similar to aluminum foil, so you can tear off precisely what you need for a particular task. Pre-cut sheets of parchment are convenient and available in various sizes; the most common size covers the average baking sheet. There are also perforated parchment circles that can line bamboo steamers and air fryers and parchment imprinted with rings that help with spacing cookies and macarons.

Parchment Paper vs. Waxed Paper

The coating is the most significant difference between parchment paper and waxed paper. While parchment's silicone coating can resist high temperatures, waxed paper is coated with paraffin wax, which will melt or even burn in the oven. Waxed paper tends to be less expensive and can handle many of the same room temperature jobs where you would use parchment. The key thing to remember is that you should never use wax paper in the oven or microwave.

Parchment Paper Uses

Once you have a roll of parchment paper in your kitchen, you’ll find countless ways to use it. Here are some of our favorites:

Line Baking Sheets and Cake Pans

The most common use of parchment is to line baking pans. A layer of parchment paper on baking sheets eliminates the need to grease them and makes cleanup easier. Cookies will easily slide off the parchment, and you can reuse the paper when making multiple batches.

For cakes or bread, cut the parchment to fit the pan. Greasing then pressing the parchment onto the pan keeps it in place. Leave an inch overhang for square or rectangular pans, and the baked goods will be even easier to remove: just lift the hanging edges! Parchment also works great on baking sheets for roasting vegetables.

Layer Between Sticky Cookies or Candies

Keep baked goods and candies from sticking together or frosting from smearing by putting a sheet of parchment between each layer in your container or box. You can even repurpose the parchment that you used to line the baking pan for this.

Cover a Work Surface

Tape a sheet of parchment onto the counter and your work surface is a breeze to clean up. It's a great trick when forming meatballs, rolling out pastry dough, and doing similar dirty tasks. When you're done, loosen the tape, roll the parchment over the mess, and throw it away.

Funnel Ingredients

Use parchment to make filling a little shaker with homemade cinnamon sugar, sifting flour and other dry ingredients, or transferring grated cheese into a pan a little easier. Do the work on a piece of parchment, then pick up the sides and bend it into a funnel or a pouring spout. Every little piece will end up in its destination, and there's nothing to clean afterward.

Cook en Papillote

En papillote is a technique that cooks food and seasonings in a pouch. A piece of fish or chicken in a sealed packet has its own fragrant steam bath, ensuring a flavorful and tender dish. While foil works, parchment makes a better presentation that can go directly onto the dinner plate.

Create an Impromptu Piping Cornet for Icing

Culinary students, especially those learning baking, are usually required to master the art of creating chocolate decorations. Whether to garnish pastries or pipe writing onto personalized cakes, they often do it with an ad hoc piping bag made of parchment paper. The rigid parchment holds melted chocolate or icing without leaking, and it's stiff enough to form a small aperture for detailed writing and decorating.

Making a cornet from paper is not complicated: Cut a triangle from a piece of parchment paper. Roll it into a funnel, creating an open point at the tip that's the precise size you need. Tape the seam and fill the piping bag no more than halfway with chocolate or frosting.

Substitutions

Several options are available if you don't have parchment paper. Use foil or a silicone baking mat for cooking and baking, or simply grease the pan with cooking spray or butter. When you need an easy-to-clean work surface, waxed paper does the trick just fine.