All paper is not created equal, and this holds true for papers that are used in the kitchen too. Wait . . . paper in the kitchen? There are actually all kinds of papers that are used in cooking and baking, and today, we are going to talk about two of the most versatile choices out there, wax paper and parchment paper. They are both useful in tons of different recipes, but they each have distinct qualities that make them desirable in different situations. We have gathered up everything you could ever want to know about waxed paper and parchment paper, so you can figure out which kitchen paper is right for your next project! But first, let’s answer an important question:
Can You Put Wax Paper in the Oven?
So, the short answer to the question of whether you can put wax paper in the oven is a resounding no! This is primarily due to the limited amount of heat that wax paper can stand before melting. As you will learn, parchment paper can stand much higher levels of heat than wax paper. However, you may not have known that there is a simple substitute all along that is perfect for any task involving heat. You definitely do not have to settle for your baked goods sticking to the pan. But, if you are out of parchment or wax paper, there are a few other options.
Aluminum foil is our favorite choice for the oven, as it cools almost immediately after removing it from the heat, although it can stick to some foods. Plastic wrap serves a similar purpose in preserving butters or other foods as wax and parchment paper do, but it should not be exposed to heat, and it can be tough to work with!
What Is Wax Paper?
Wax paper is the more common of these two types of paper, and it’s often used as a catch-all term for a few different types of paper, including parchment paper. Waxed paper has been used in some form as far back as the Middle Ages, although we don’t think their methods are ones you’d like to utilize in your kitchen today.
Throughout the 18th century, purified earwax was actually used to cover papers that would wrap foods with strong aromas or keep moisture off of certain foods. Yep, that’s right . . . earwax. Luckily, we no longer resort to such extreme measures. Paraffin wax was introduced as a paper coating in 1876, which is similar to our wax paper today.
Wax paper, also known as paraffin paper or waxed paper, is simply a paper that has been embedded or coated with wax on one or both sides. The most common use of wax paper is in cooking or baking, but it has several other purposes as well. Wax paper is often used in arts and crafts, has been used in film photography and is also used to wrap things like razor blades to protect them from moisture. However, we are mostly going to focus on wax paper’s functionality in the kitchen today!
What Is Parchment Paper?
Parchment paper is different from wax paper in many ways, and has only been around since the 20th century. Parchment paper is actually a different type of paper altogether. It’s made by running paper through a bath of sulfuric acid. This bath turns the paper pulp into a gelatinous or gel-like substance, which forms a cross-linked material that is much more durable than normal papers. Then, the parchment paper is coated in silicone, much like the wax coating on wax paper. A piece of parchment paper has a great deal of stability, density, resistance to heat, and low surface energy--the last of these makes parchment paper a great non-stick surface for cooking or baking food on a baking sheet.
Parchment paper often has a similar look to actual parchment, in that it is thin and brown, but it can be sold bleached or white as well. Though it is thin, parchment paper is actually quite durable. You may have also heard of baker’s paper or bakery paper, which are other names for parchment paper. While it is not as well known as wax paper, parchment paper has a myriad of uses in the kitchen, which we will explore in a moment!
How Are Wax Paper and Parchment Paper Alike?
Parchment paper and wax paper share a number of similarities when it comes to cooking. Most importantly, they both contain nonstick properties, which makes either an ideal surface for mixing ingredients or lining the inside of a pan before pouring in a sticky treat! These papers are both able to resist moisture as well.. Additionally, they also repel grease, which is helpful when preparing a greasy or oily batter--your dough won’t stick to the paper (just your hands).
Both wax paper and parchment paper are easy to use, come in rolls, are simple to tear, and have a variety of uses. If you are using them for arts and crafts, to protect your kitchen counters, to sift onto, or as a surface for frozen treats or no-bake cookies, then wax paper and parchment paper are basically interchangeable. In fact, the main--and really only functional--difference between wax paper and parchment paper comes when you start to use heat in your recipes. Let us explore . . .
How Are Wax Paper and Parchment Paper Different?
Despite being similar in many ways, and despite the fact that many people use the terms interchangeably, wax paper and parchment paper are not actually equal. Because wax paper is made with a coating of wax, it cannot handle heat well. Anything significantly above room temperature will cause the wax to start melting, and anything too high will be at risk for catching the paper underneath the wax on fire. Parchment paper, on the other hand, is covered in silicone and can thus handle heat well. Even at high temperatures (over 450°F), the paper may brown, but it will not burn. The temptation may be to just grab whatever paper is in the drawer to plop your cookies down onto, but the fact is, that could be a life-threatening decision. Wax paper will be your friend up until the point where any high temperatures are involved, so if you are going to be baking, toasting, sauteing, or otherwise heating your dish, then definitely err on the side of caution and use parchment paper.
One gray area is the microwave. Obviously microwaves heat things up, so your first instinct would be that wax paper cannot be used. But actually, microwaves don’t significantly affect wax paper, so you can heat up your food with wax paper, for the most part. This makes wax paper a great alternative for the microwave, as opposed to aluminum foil or plastic wrap, neither of which are microwave-safe products.
It sounds like parchment paper would be the clear winner in most cases, at least when there’s even a chance of heat involved, so why would you even want to use wax paper at all? There are actually a few reasons, and one big one is your wallet! Wax paper is still more prevalent in most stores than parchment paper, so it is easier to find, and as per usual, this does make it cheaper than parchment paper to purchase.
It also means that you will have more access to wax paper compared to parchment paper, so that may limit you in some ways. Most people are simply more familiar with wax paper, so you are more likely to find it if you are cooking in someone else’s kitchen, and in most scenarios, it is completely fine! However, keep in mind that you should not use wax paper if you are going to bake your treats.
Another great use for wax paper over parchment paper is for measuring dry ingredients. Wax paper is so smooth and nonstick that it is a perfect surface upon which to sift ingredients. You can sift, measure, and mix dry ingredients like flour, sugar, and baking powder, and then simply pick up the wax paper and funnel them into your bowl!
Of course, with its heat stability, parchment paper has a few applications where it excels over wax paper. Specifically, any time you are putting a baking pan into the oven, you can probably line it with parchment paper for easier release. You can actually purchase parchment paper in pre-cut pieces in the size and shape of some cake or pie pans. Parchment paper can serve as a makeshift cupcake tin liner, a bread or cake pan liner, a regular liner for a baking sheet, and is great to wrap up any type of fish that is cooked en papillote. None of these purposes would be ideal for wax paper, but parchment paper does the job perfectly!
In any case, when you select the right paper, you’re sure to create some delicious baked goods! Do we have any wax paper or parchment paper fans out there? Let us know in the comments below.