Wondering what the difference between parchment and waxed paper is and when to use them? The Never Cook Naked Guys have the answer.
Wax Versus Parchment Paper
Dear Never Cook Naked Guys: Is there any practical difference between using wax paper and parchment paper for baking?–Also Been Known To Confuse Wrapping Paper and Wallpaper
Dear Confused: Wax paper, which tends to be white, is coated with a thin, food-grade layer of wax to create a nonstick moisture barrier. It’s perfect for keeping sandwich bread soft in a lunchbox, cheese tasty in the fridge, pie crust or cookie dough stick-free when rolling it on the counter, and layers of square blondies and brownies blissfully separate when stacked.
However, wax paper is not heat resistant. In fact, it has a relatively low smoke point. This means it can burn when exposed to the heat of the oven. It can even set off fire alarms. Trust us.
Thus, parchment paper is the baking standard. In sharp contrast to the waxy stuff, parchment is heavy-duty, grease-and-moisture resistant paper treated with acid to give it high-heat stability. It’s also often coated with silicone to give it a nonstick finish and tends to be brown although is sometimes white. Reach for parchment paper to line cake pans as well as baking sheets to make for nonstick removal as well as easy cleaning. And, if you’re a stickler for details, to cover casseroles before then crimping with foil. (The last trick prevents acidic ingredients, such as tomatoes, from dissolving the aluminum. Which it can do. Literally.)
As a general rule, use parchment whenever and wherever heat is involved, and rely on wax paper for cold- and room-temperature storage. Technically, yes, you could cut wax paper to precisely the proportions of a cake pan so that it’s not actually exposed to the heat, but do you really want to have that wax then leach into your baked layers, lending them a film of foamy, off-white, scum-like coating? We didn’t think so.
Originally published June 19, 2012.
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