Parchment paper vs. Wax Paper: Everything you need to know

Sandy Bergquist of cutting out the gingerbread sides using parchment paper to store them.Mimon Mag Gingerbread 03
Sandy Bergquist of cutting out the gingerbread sides using parchment paper to store them.Mimon Mag Gingerbread 03 /

Let’s settle this debate about parchment paper vs. wax paper once and for all. For anyone who bakes and cooks a lot, both these papers are handy items to have in the kitchen. But they are not interchangeable. That’s where most people go wrong and end up using the wrong one in the wrong place. They are good for lining pans and baking sheets or even mess-free, hassle-free cooking meat, fish, and vegetables. Although both these papers have non-stick qualities which makes them highly user-friendly, there are a few key differences between parchment paper and wax paper  and is essential to understand each of these papers and their qualities first.

What is parchment paper vs. wax paper?

Knowing what these papers are and when to use them can help you use them better.

Parchment paper is made from cotton fibers and/or broken-down wood pulp, then coated with a very thin layer of silicone, which makes the sheet non-stick and highly resistant to moisture. Parchment paper is available in two variants – the bleached ones, which usually look white, and the unbleached ones which look light brown in color. Most people prefer the unbleached ones. It is also kind of useful to easily differentiate from wax paper, which is usually white in color.

Wax paper, on the other hand, as is obvious from its name, is made with food-grade quality wax. It is also non-stick and moisture-resistant like parchment, but it cannot withstand heat. Hence, you might have often noticed that wax paper sticks to your baked goods when you line the baking pans/trays with wax paper. Wax paper is not meant to be used under high heat since the wax can melt which is considered hazardous since melted wax can get into the food. Under high temperatures, like in a microwave, the paper can also catch smoke or fire and cause accidents. Because of the materials they are made with, parchment paper is not recyclable but wax paper is.

If you regularly bake or cook with paper then you might want to know where you can use each of these so you can avoid kitchen disasters.

Where can you use parchment paper?

Because parchment paper is coated with silicone, it can withstand heat, so it’s best for these kinds of scenarios –

  • Lining your baking sheets for cookies, or cake pans for cake loaves, sponges etc.
  • Blind baking tart/pie shells and crusts.
  • Wrapping fish or veggies for steaming inside a steamer, on a double boiler on the stovetop, or even in the microwave.
  • Covering the food when cooking on the stovetop to trap moisture.

Where can you use wax paper?

Parchment paper vs. wax paper
Dough for alfajores is cut into circles at Juli y Juan’s Kitchen in Campus West on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023. Alfajores, Argentinian cookies filled with dulce de leche, are one of this year’s trending food items. /

Since wax paper is also heat resistant and non-stick, you can also use them for –

  • Lining cake pans when there’s enough batter, so the weight on top can prevent any smoking.
  • Storing food in containers lined with wax paper to prevent moisture.
  • Wrapping/covering food when steaming or cooking on the stovetop.
  • Lining the countertop when rolling out dough to avoid sticking to the surface.

In short, despite all the differences in parchment paper vs. wax paper, both of these items are versatile and handy in the kitchen, but if you bake more, then keeping a roll of parchment paper might be more useful. In case you don’t have parchment paper on hand, you can always replace it with cooking spray or silicone mats to line your baking trays and pans.