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What is Wax Paper?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 16, 2024
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Wax paper is a type of paper that is treated with wax to allow it to have a smooth surface that prevents other items from sticking to the paper. It can be used for a number of applications, though it is commonly utilized for baking, for setting cooling items on without sticking, or for wrapping up hot or cold dishes for transport. Parchment paper can often be used in recipes that call for wax paper, though the opposite is not always true. This paper can smoke or catch fire in an oven, though it can be used in baking at low temperatures or for baking applications where the paper is completely covered.

As the name would suggest, wax paper is typically made by treating paper with wax to coat the paper thoroughly. The process of waxing or oiling paper dates back to the medieval period, though modern wax paper was likely invented by Thomas Edison or an assistant of his named Thomas Conners. By applying wax to the paper, the paper becomes resistant to moisture transitions in either direction, keeping moist food wrapped in such paper juicy, and preventing dry wrapped foods from exposure to moisture. This is why many chefs and recipes recommend cookies, candies, and other baked goods be wrapped in such paper to avoid drying out.

Wax paper is also often used to prevent products from sticking, such as at the bottom of a cake pan or for items dipped in chocolate and needing to set. In applications that do not require baking, wax coated paper and parchment paper, sometimes called bakery paper, are fairly interchangeable. Most recipes that call for wax coated paper can usually use parchment instead. Parchment is not treated with wax, however, so it can be used uncovered in a hot oven without smoking or burning.

The wax on coated paper will melt and the paper will smoke and burn at high temperatures, making this type of paper a poor choice for something like cookies. For cakes, however, or other uses where the paper is completely covered by batter or whatever is baking, the baked goods will protect the paper and it will not burn or smoke. This is why most recipes for baking cookies will specifically call for a silicone mat or parchment paper, while cake recipes can often suggest wax paper or parchment paper. Wax paper can also often be used in scrapbooking and other crafting, and origami boats made with wax-covered paper will usually sail on water longer than untreated paper.

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Discussion Comments
By lighth0se33 — On Apr 07, 2012

Some people prefer to use a wooden board for rolling out biscuit dough, but I always use wax paper. I can use more than one sheet to give myself a large work surface if necessary, and cleanup is as simple as tossing the paper in the trash.

Since biscuit dough is super sticky, I sprinkle the wax paper generously with flour before using the roller. I also flour the top of the dough so that the roller doesn't stick to it.

Once the dough has been flattened into a disc, I use a glass to cut out biscuit rounds. The wax paper makes it so easy to pick up the biscuits. As long as there is a little bit of flour underneath, the dough will give me no problems as I lift it up.

By shell4life — On Apr 07, 2012

@OeKc05 – I like to use wax paper to wrap my candies and cookies in, because it doesn't make them taste funny. I used to use aluminum foil to wrap up my chocolate fudge, but I noticed that it gave it a metallic flavor.

Wax paper is perfect for wrapping fudge, because even though the fudge is sticky, it won't adhere to the paper. I like to cut a piece big enough to wrap the whole block of fudge in as though it were a gift. I fold in all four corners and tape it in the center.

I also wrap freshly cooked chicken in wax paper if I'm not serving it immediately. This keeps the juices sealed in, so if my husband is going to be ten minutes late for dinner, the chicken will still be moist when he gets there.

By OeKc05 — On Apr 06, 2012

Wax paper is excellent for holding gooey candy as it hardens. I like to make chocolate oatmeal candy, but it is a drippy mess until it solidifies. I always drop big spoonfuls of it from the pot to wax paper for this.

It hardens rather quickly. I have to work fast or it will start to stick to the pot.

I usually put the wax paper on top of a baking sheet. This makes it easier to transfer the candy to the refrigerator to help it take shape faster. When the candy is ready, I can easily peel each piece away from the wax paper, leaving nothing behind but a greasy spot.

By Perdido — On Apr 05, 2012

My crafty neighbor and I gathered violets and dandelions for the project. We kept the stems and leaves intact as well, because we were going to make a little preserved garden.

We put the flowers on top of a sheet of wax paper. Then, we covered them with another sheet of wax paper the same size.

We took a warm iron and slowly pressed down on the paper and flowers. I could hear them sizzling as the paper sealed them in, and I could see the purple, yellow, and green clearly through the wax paper.

That was twenty years ago, and I still have the preserved flowers today. This just shows how well wax paper and an iron can preserve flowers.

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