You might be thinking that this is a bit of a strange topic to write an entire blog post about? I join you there! But what has sparked this post is that if I had a penny for everytime I have been grumpy towards the wax wrap that has melted onto the bottom of my cake, instead of making it easier to get the cake out of the cake tin; I would be RICH! To be honest, sometimes I read the recipe and can see that it says parchment paper, but I just use wax paper because that’s what we have in our draws. I did not know the difference between the two. I decided to research the difference, and I hope that this post helps to improve your baking skills and you don’t keep making the same mistakes as I have made. I’m realizing more and more that baking is a science, and if it says use parchment paper, it didn’t mean wax wrap! :)
Any baker who’s substituted wax paper for parchment paper in a pinch can tell you that about halfway through their chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven, a strange smell—and soon after, smoke—arose from the oven. And that smell and smoke were the wax itself, overheating in the oven. And if you’ve ever been that baker who’s used wax paper in a pinch, you then and there discovered that wax and parchment paper are two very different things.
The basic difference between wax paper and parchment paper is in how they are each coated. Wax paper is coated with a wax to give it smooth, nonstick surface—but it is not heat-safe. Parchment paper, on the other hand, has a type of silicone coating, which gives it slickness and a heat-resistant surface (of up to around 420°F).
Much to the last-minute baker’s agree that you really shouldn’t substitute wax paper for parchment paper when tossing things into a hot oven. You will end up with the inevitable smell and smoke of melting wax … which will also permeate into your foods.
Instead, if you find yourself reaching for parchment paper only to find an empty tube, but you’ve got a fresh batch of cookie dough waiting to be baked, go for good ol’ grease. Line your baking sheet with aluminum foil and grease it well with butter or olive oil. The fat will sadly encourage the cookies or other batter to spread while baking, but it will at least do the trick. And the aluminum foil on the baking sheet provides easy cleanup later, as you don’t have to scrub the burnt bits off of the baking sheet.
But parchment paper is useful for so many other things besides just baking cookies. And wax paper, while inappropriate for using at high temperatures in the oven, has its own place in the kitchen, as well. Here’s a great breakdown of the best uses for each:
What to use parchment paper for:
- Line baking sheets for baking biscuits and similar sweet treats.
- Line cake pans and bread loaf pans before pouring batter in (make for easy pull-out once done).
- Anything in the oven up to 220°C.
- Make impromptu pastry bags (just roll up the paper into a triangular funnel, fill with frosting, and go nuts).
What to use wax paper for:
- Use in place of plastic wrap for storing cheese, cut fruits, and other foods in the fridge.
- Use in place of plastic bags for wrapping sandwiches.
- Layer in between burgers and raw meats when storing in the freezer.