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Can you Put Parchment Paper in the Oven?

 

Yes. Parchment paper can be used in the oven. In fact, parchment paper is formulated precisely for this purpose. 

Culinary experts and particularly grilling and baking aficionados swear by this product and insist every decent kitchen must have some. In some circles, it goes by names such as baking paper and wax paper.

Some are right while others are somewhat wrong. While parchment paper is baking paper it is not wax paper. The two are similar and can be used interchangeably for a number of functions but key differences are important for both utility and safety.

What is parchment paper?

Parchment paper, also called vegetable parchment is developed by running paper or paper pulp through a bath of sulfuric acid or zinc chloride. 

This process dissolves at least in part, some of the paper pulp with the end product being a gelatin-like sheet that acquires some of the properties that make parchment suitable for use in an oven.

Some parchment manufacturers simply coat ready-made parchment paper in food-grade silicone-based proprietary formulations to create parchment paper specifically for culinary use.

The sheets of parchment produced this way have the following properties:

  • High density
  • Moisture resistance
  • Oil and grease resistance 
  • High stability
  • Heat resistance
  • A smooth surface
  • Low surface energy which is a fancy way of referring to non-stick properties

All the above properties make parchment paper the ideal baking substitute for oiled pans as well as eliminating the need to sprinkle flour in baking tins to achieve an enviably finished lemon cake.

What is wax paper?

Just like parchment paper, wax paper also called paraffin paper is paper pulp and sometimes just ordinary parchment, coated in a layer of wax all through. The wax does not bond or dissolve the paper like is the case with parchment paper it only coats it.

Natural wax or beeswax was originally used for this process but was replaced when paraffin could be purified to produce a food-safe product that achieves the same goal but with greater efficiency. Natural wax is also less available compared to paraffin.

The properties of wax paper include:

  • Moisture resistance
  • Oil and grease resistant but only to a degree
  • Non-stick quality
  • Resistance to electromagnetic radiation specifically microwaves

Parchment paper vs wax paper

As elaborated above, both parchment and wax paper share some characteristics but wax paper cannot be used in an oven. The coating of wax or paraffin is not resistant to heat and will melt and burn in an oven causing a fire.

The assumption that wax can be used for baking comes from the fact that it is microwave safe but temperatures in a regular microwave are significantly lower than those you will achieve in an oven.

A regular microwave oven can go as high as 212 degrees Fahrenheit while a simple baking process in an oven could be anywhere between 375 – 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

In an oven wax paper is not recommended and will likely burn before your cooking is finished.

Wax paper is excellent for wrapping and storing food, heating it in microwaves, and is an excellent spread to use when baking since the clean-up involves crumpling up the paper and discarding it leaving your kitchen counters with just a minor tidying up to be done. In commercial eateries, this function saves time, labor costs and guarantees utmost hygiene.

Baking enthusiasts will usually have wax paper, especially for this purpose. Some people use parchment paper to prevent much cleanup after cooking but this is essentially a waste of parchment paper considering it is costlier than wax paper and has greater utility as a baking sheet.

Some light baking of cookies and brownies in the oven under low temperatures or in the microwave can be done using wax paper but it must be carefully monitored.

How to use parchment paper in the oven

When baking and grilling, parchment paper comes in handy and its properties make the entire process quite enjoyable. Food preparation on parchment means that there is minimal waste if any. 

Any unused flour can be collected and stored away for later use since parchment paper is sterile and impermeable. 

By wrapping up flour or dough in parchment, you essentially have a water-tight and air-tight seal for your dough.

Most parchment paper manufacturers indicate their parchment paper for use in highs of between 400 – 450 degrees Fahrenheit which is well within the required temperature for baking and grilling. 

In many cases, parchment paper has been found to withstand 500-degree temperatures without incident.

Using parchment paper guarantees you a smooth finish since your cake will not stick to the pan or to the paper. 

The fact the paper can also be used more than once is an added bonus. Its high stability under such high temperatures provides for an even distribution of heat throughout the cake which will exemplify flavor and accentuate color beautifully.

Precautions when using parchment paper in the oven

  • Parchment paper is heat resistant, not heat-proof or flame retardant. It would be best to keep temperatures well within the manufacturers’ recommendations. There are brands made specifically for very high temperatures such as those found in restaurants so instead, buy those indicated for higher temperatures.
  • Keep the parchment paper away from the sides of the oven. Direct contact with the hot sides can overwhelm the paper and it will catch fire.
  • Ensure there are no hanging ends. If you need to, cut the paper to size so that it is flush with the ends of your baking tin. Hanging ends of ‘flags’ are a fire hazard.
  • If you have reused your parchment paper, examine it for any sign of brittleness or browning. When this happens it means your parchment paper needs to be discarded since it is losing its resistance to heat and its stability and density have deteriorated. At this point, it will likely burn if you keep using it. 
  • Finally, if you notice smoke when baking, the parchment paper is beginning to burn so turn off the oven immediately.