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What is Parchment Paper?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 16, 2024
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Parchment paper is a heavy white paper used for baking. Many chefs like to line baking pans with this paper as its double-sided, non-stick surface resists both moisture and grease. Foods can also be wrapped in the paper, which the French call en papillote, or in parchment.

The en papillote method is often used for cooking main dishes such as salmon and chicken, but fruits and vegetables may also be cooked this way. The semi-transparent paper parcel steams the food as it bakes in the oven. En papillote cuisine can be found in many upscale French restaurants.

Wax paper is not the same as parchment paper, although both may be sold in cardboard packages with a tear strip. Parchment paper also comes in packages of folded sheets. It is not coated in wax and more modern versions have a silicone coating that makes it heat resistant as well as non-stick. Waxed paper, on the other hand, should never be used in the oven, as its waxy coating tends to smoke and burn. Although parchment paper is safe in the oven, it should not be used at broiling temperatures, on a barbecue or in a toaster oven.

Parchment paper is also popular as a liner for baking sheets to prevent cookies, scones and cakes from sticking to the pan. Using paper liners may also help to keep baking pans free from stains such as chocolate and caramel. Cakes are often easier to remove from lined pans, and this replaces the need to grease and flour cake pans.

Bakers can also shape parchment paper into a cone, fill it with frosting, and use it to decorate cakes and cookies when the tip of the cone is cut. It’s also possible to cut stencil shapes from the paper, place it on top of cakes and sprinkle icing sugar on top to leave a design when the paper is removed. Cooks can also add pieces on the edges of a plate when icing a cake, and then remove the paper to reveal a clean serving dish. For a fun way to give baked cookies to others, people can wrap them in a fresh sheet and secure it with twine, raffia or ribbon.

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Discussion Comments

By amypollick — On Aug 29, 2011

I've really discovered how useful parchment paper is in the past couple of years. Before, I never used it, but after doing a couple of cheesecakes and low-carb cakes in a springform pan, I am a fan! It is so easy to use and really does give some peace of mind that my cake isn't going to stick like glue to the bottom of my pan, no matter how much I've greased and floured it!

I have just become a real shipper for using parchment paper, since I've found it to be so darn useful in baking. It's my newest kitchen tool and now it's available in grocery stores. You don't have to go to a kitchen utensil store to find it anymore.

By pharmchick78 — On Sep 09, 2010

Is parchment craft paper different from the parchment paper used for baking?

By galen84basc — On Sep 09, 2010

When using parchment paper sheets for baking, is it better to use unbleached, natural parchment paper, or silicone parchment paper?

I don't bake all that much, so I never keep any parchment paper around for cooking, but a recipe I have now calls for parchment paper under a cake.

Which one should I get?

By EarlyForest — On Sep 09, 2010

Great idea to give people parchment paper-wrapped cookies -- that sounds so thoughtful and cute, and I bet may people never think of using parchment paper for a craft like that.

By anon31981 — On May 14, 2009

Parchment paper has been used much longer than silicone additives have been around. It was originally made from regular paper, and quite simply too: by compressing paper by hard rubbing to a dense form that appeared somewhat similar to real parchment (dried animal skin). Making the paper dense slowed down the oxidization (char/burn) of the paper fibers and retained liquids longer than regular writing paper could - thus allowing cooking uses.

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