Parchment paper is a master key, probably best known for its many uses in baking. It can be an effective barrier between sticky layers of cookies or an easy way to keep counters clean while baking, and it has a ton of other great uses too. But before we get to that, what exactly is parchment paper?
Parchment paper is a silicone coated food paper. This coating makes the parchment paper – available in brown and white (chemically bleached) versions – non-stick and grease resistant. It’s also heat resistant up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (232 degrees Celsius), making it safe and scorch resistant in most ovens and microwaves.
But don’t confuse parchment paper with wax paper. While parchment paper and wax paper can be used for everything from wrapping leftovers to preparing meals, only parchment paper can withstand high temperatures. Wax paper, which is coated on both sides with food-safe soy or paraffin wax, will begin to melt when exposed to heat and may even catch fire. Parchment paper, on the other hand, can be used in the same way as wax paper and it can go in the oven.
So what are the best ways to use parchment paper? Here are eight useful ideas for using it in the kitchen and beyond, including a few uses that may be a little surprising.
1. Gift wrapping
No matter what version of parchment paper you have in your kitchen, white or brown paper can be used as gift wrapping paper. It may take a few coats to prevent the recipient from seeing what is being wrapped, especially if it is white parchment paper, which has a somewhat transparent quality. Parchment paper is, on the whole, an inexpensive solution that, when used as gift wrap, can be wrapped with ribbon or decorated with stamped, drawn or painted designs.
2. Cook Foil
Another use for parchment paper? Baking en papillote, which, while it sounds fancy, actually involves placing ingredients — salmon and asparagus, for example — in a packet of parchment paper and baking them in the oven. This method works best with foods that cook quickly, such as fish or other seafood, and will benefit from the addition of fresh herbs or seasonings, such as a squeeze of lemon. To make a parchment paper packet, fold a sheet of parchment paper in half, add the food to one side, then fold the other half of the parchment paper over the food. To seal, roll the edges together, making sure to leave plenty of room for the magic to happen. As the packet heats, steam builds up throughout its interior, creating a lush, succulent meal that stays moist without added oils.
3. Piping bag to decorate
Next time you have some uninspired baked goods lying around, remember this: with just a little parchment paper and a little frosting, you can make a piping bag and add a decorative touch. Whether it’s “Happy Birthday” on a cake or a happy frosting ring on a sugar cookie, you can take an occasion from OK to great with a parchment trick. The process may be a bit like making a paper airplane, but in the end, you’ll have a tube that you can press frosting into like a pro. Simply fold a rectangular piece of parchment paper in half diagonally, then cut it into the fold. Take one half and roll it around your hand to form a cone, then roll the other half to form another cone around the first. Tuck the outer end in so it stands, stand it upright in an empty drinking glass with the narrow tip pointing down, and fill it with frosting.
4. Cheese storage
Although you’ll likely find cheese already wrapped in plastic when purchased, these moisture-proof seals are designed for short-term use. Plastic wrap can trap moisture, promote mold growth, and increase ammonia levels in cheeses, which can negatively affect taste. Instead, replace the plastic wrap with parchment paper, which allows the cheese to breathe, then place it in an oversized plastic bag. As early as the August 1889 edition of Kansas Farmer, people touted the virtues of parchment paper for storing dairy products. To preserve the flavor of churned butter freshly packaged for delivery to market, “the best material so far devised for this purpose is, we say without hesitation, parchment paper. When the butter is compactly packed in a such paper, you not only manage to retain much of the original flavor… but you also add to its keeping qualities – a great desire during the summer season – and make it attractive and inviting to buyers.” It turns out parchment paper and dairy have been a delicious pair for centuries.
5. Freezer storage
If you buy meat in bulk, but need to separate it into portions before freezing, parchment paper can control those cuts of meat. Use parchment paper between burger patties or chicken breasts when placing them in a freezer bag or freezer-safe container, and while the meat freezes, it will stay separate. That means when you scoop the frozen meat out, those beef patties or chicken breasts come off easily. No more mysterious bits of meat stuck together in the freezer.
6. Keep cabinet tops clean
How often do you clean the tops of your kitchen cabinets? What about the top of the fridge? And when you do, it’s a special kind of kitchen gunk, isn’t it? Greasy, dusty and almost impossible to remove. Enter: parchment paper. Cut out a generous portion (or use pre-cut squares) and line the tops of cupboards and refrigerator. Parchment paper is an inexpensive way to collect anything that comes your way. Next time you clean, simply lift and toss the parchment paper away, revealing a clean surface underneath, then replace the parchment paper to keep the vibes clean.
7. Disposable placemats or runners
Do you have dinner guests? Especially if your guest list includes young children, you may want to make affordable disposable placemats out of parchment paper. Bonus: add pencils to the table and it will keep them busy while they wait for dinner to be served. This fun idea could even be used with adults or adapted for a similar purpose. For a parchment table runner, for example, simply roll out a length of parchment as long as the table and add some decorations for an inexpensive, festive centerpiece that guests will love.
And to top it all:
8. Non-stick baking for cookies, cakes and brownies
Cakes, cookies and brownies. If it’s going in a pan and baking, chances are the parchment paper will come in handy. Take cookies, for example. Cut a square (or use a pre-cut square) of parchment paper and use it to line the pan before placing the dough on it. Once the cookies are baked and slightly cooled, the cookies can easily be removed from the parchment-lined pan. Gone are the days of snipping biscuits stuck to a skillet.
The parchment paper also makes it easier to remove the cakes from the pans. Start by laying a piece of parchment paper in the pan so that it crosses the bottom of the pan and both sides, then lay another piece of parchment paper in the opposite direction so that it crosses the bottom of the pan and go up the other two sides. Pour the cake or brownie batter and bake. Once the dough is cooked and cooled, lift the parchment paper on the two opposite sides; the entire cake or brownie can then be flattened and cut directly onto the parchment paper. No mess (and no pieces of cake left in the pan)!