Wax paper and parchment paper are kitchen staples. Odds are you have at least one of these in your kitchen at all times.
Maybe you pick up whichever is on offer. Perhaps you have a favorite that you always get.
But did you know, you really ought to have both?
You see wax paper and parchment paper do very different jobs. Using one in place of the other is going to give you and your food problems.
So what is the difference?
To put it simply, parchment paper is coated in silicone while wax paper is coated with, well, wax.
These different coatings give each type of paper different qualities and make them more suitable for different jobs.
Parchment paper is made from paper pulp bathed in sulphuric acid or zinc chloride. These chemicals strip the paper and make it slightly gelatinous. The application of the chemicals also creates a silicone layer on the surface.
The silicone coating on parchment paper makes it heat resistant and non-stick. Because of this, parchment paper is ideal for lining baking trays or oven pans.
Parchment paper is also used as a substitute for parchment in some legal documents! This is because it looks a lot like parchment and is really quite strong.
So the stuff you use to bake your chocolate chip cookies is also used to record laws and amendments. How bizarre is that?
In the kitchen, parchment paper is best used for lining things that need to be cooked. It can also be used on work surfaces when kneading dough to stop it from sticking.
Parchment paper is also used to cook food en papillote. This is a french term which means enveloped in paper.
Basically, food is lightly wrapped in parchment paper before being steamed, baked, or boiled. You can use foil instead, but foil tends to hold in heat making it more difficult to manage the temperature.
Parchment paper does a much better job than foil when used as a liner for trays and pans because your food won’t stick to it.
Foil, on the other hand, doesn’t have any non-stick properties which is why you’ll often find those annoying bits of foil stuck to your cookies and cakes.
Parchment paper is also better for your health according to some scientists. When used as a liner in ovens or hot cooking appliances, aluminum foil can increase the amount of aluminum in your food.
Essentially, when foil is heated small amounts of aluminum pass into your food. This won’t really affect you because the amount of transferred aluminum is so small.
If you are a bit concerned by the amount of aluminum in your diet, parchment paper is an ideal substitute!
As the name suggests, this kitchen paper is coated in wax. Usually, paraffin wax is used though some companies use soybean or beeswax.
The wax coating makes this paper non-stick but it also means that it is not suitable for cooking on. High temperatures make the wax melt and the paper burn.
Unless you are aiming for smoked cookies, you should stay away from wax paper as a baking tray liner!
Wax paper does have plenty of uses though.
First and foremost, it is an excellent non-stick coating to put on your countertops or tables when rolling, shaping, or kneading dough. If you have a layer of wax paper down, you won’t need to coat the surface in flour and risk drying out your dough.
Wax paper can also be used to line tins and pans that won’t be going in the oven. If you are making fudge or cheesecake, for example, you can line the tin with wax paper to stop the fudge from sticking as it hardens.
Another great thing about wax paper is that it can be used to store whatever you have made.
Wax paper fares well in cold storage so you can wrap food in it for freezing or you can place a bit of wax paper between items that you are going to freeze in a stack. This is super handy for freezing strips of bacon or portioning out pastry.
You can also wrap food in wax paper to stop oils or grease from leaking into your bag. The wax acts as a barrier that stops oily foods from staining containers.
Wax paper beats foil because you can microwave it. Unlike in the oven, the wax coating won’t melt off in a microwave so you can use the paper to cover bowls and dishes to prevent splatter.
While parchment paper and wax paper have many uses in the kitchen, once you’ve used them they’re done for life. You see, neither papers are recyclable.
Luckily, there are a number of modern, reusable alternatives that work in similar ways without waste.
To replace your parchment paper, look for silicone tray liners or reusable parchment paper. In both cases, you can simply wash off the residue with some warm soapy water.
These trays tend to be flat pieces that are difficult to use in cake tins but you can also get silicone cake tins and molds which don’t need to be greased as they are non-stick.
In terms of wax paper, you can switch it out for wax cloth wraps. These are fabric coated in beeswax and can be used for wrapping food to take to work or on a picnic. They can also be used to wrap food before chilling or freezing it.
Beeswax wraps can be wiped down with a cloth and reused until the wax wears off. Even when this happens you can simply recoat them with beeswax which comes in a bar. You just rub the wax over the cloth and you’re ready to go again!
Foil is always an option too as this can be recycled. Foil has its own limitations like the fact that it is not non-stick and it can’t be used in a microwave. But in some situations, particularly when you want to retain heat, foil is a great choice.
To wrap things up neatly, parchment paper should be used in hot situations like lining oven trays while wax paper should be used for cold situations like freezing.
Both can be used as a non-stick surface to save your tables or countertops.