How to Cook In Parchment
Little parchment paper bundles make cooking fish easy and mess-free.
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By Fraya Berg for Food Network Kitchen
Fraya is a chef and a contributing writer at Food Network.
What Is Cooking En Papillote?
In France they call it "en papillote". In Italy, it’s "al cartoccio". In America, we call it parchment cooking. What does it mean? Very simply, it's a cooking technique that involves wrapping food, typically fish, chicken and/or vegetables in parchment paper. Once wrapped like an envelope, the "packet" is baked in the oven until the entire meal is moist, tender and cooked to perfection.
The technique may sound fancy in other languages, but it's actually quite simple. Even better? It's probably the least messy cooking method because it doesn't involve any pots or pans. Nutritionally speaking, because all ingredients are assembled in a packet, very little (if any) fat is needed, making it a fantastic healthy cooking technique.
Why Cook en Papillote?
Visually impressive: When you make anything en papillote, put it on a plate and slit it open on the table, it’s more impressive than anything else you’re likely to make this month.
Extra flavor: Cooking in an enclosed environment (the paper bubble) keeps the flavors inside so they infuse into the food as it cooks.
Moisture: The food stays super moist because the steam is trapped inside. En papillote is a fantastic technique for delicate foods like fish and vegetables that you want to cook gently and end up with extra moist results.
Make-ahead: You can assemble all the ingredients inside of the parchment paper packet, refrigerate it for up to a day and then pop it in a hot oven right before dinner.
Minimal cleanup: The only thing you're getting dirty is the parchment paper packet, which you'll discard after dinner anyway. No pots or pans used at all.
Healthy: Oil typically isn't used en papillote cooking; rather, the food is steamed.
Dishes that Are Commonly Cooked En Papillote
Cooking in parchment in a hot (under 450 degrees F) oven is essentially steaming: an excellent way to cook delicate proteins like fish and shellfish. The packets are also good for cooking thin chicken cutlets and very thinly sliced or shaved vegetables.
If large chunks of vegetables are used, they should be pre-cooked: thick vegetables take much longer to cook than either fish or thinly sliced chicken, and you’ll want vegetables and protein to be cooked at the same time.
There are instances where roasts are cooked in parchment. A beef tenderloin can be roasted in parchment with wine and broth at a lower-than-normal temperature, and the parchment will keep the juices in and the meat wonderfully tender. The method will work for a pork tenderloin also.
Things You Should Not Cook In Parchment Paper
Parchment paper will scorch and turn black in the oven at a temperature above 450 degrees F, so using it in an oven over that temperature won’t work. Cooking in parchment is suited to steaming, so any dish that you’d like to be crispy shouldn’t be cooked in parchment.
How to Cook En Papillote
Step 1: Prepare the Parchment
First, the parchment. You can find it at any grocery store. Draw a heart on the parchment. Cut out the heart-shaped piece — you're making this with love, after all.
Step 2: Start Building
Start with veggies. Tip: Sliced peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms work well. Play with textures like chopped nuts or carrots, and add aromatics like garlic or shallots. Season and finish with extra flavors as needed. Add your protein. Tip: Ginger or citrus zest can add flavor and brightness. Drizzle some wine or citrus juice.
Step 3: Seal the Edges
Seal by crimping the edges. Starting from the bottom folded corner, begin folding the edges of the parchment together. Make small overlapping folds (like pleats) every 1 to 2 inches. Continue folding and pleating all the way around to create a half-moon-shaped packet. Refold the corners to make sure they are sealed. You'll want a nice, tight seal to keep all the flavor in. Illustrations above for reference so you can see the way the crimped edge looks.
Step 4: Place In the Oven
Pop it into a 400 degree F oven for about 8-10 minutes.
Step 5: Cut a Slit
Use your knife to cut a slit. Then, carefully open it up.
Step 6: Prepare for Your Next Dinner Party
For you next dinner party, try making some pouches ahead of time. Make sure to bring them to room temperature before baking. Your guests will be delighted as they open their own little presents at the dinner table. Watch our how-to video for more.
En Papillote Recipes
Fennel and potatoes are pre-cooked before being layered with salmon in these parchment packets so every ingredient is ready at the same time.
Chicken, chorizo, polenta and cheese are cooked together in this easy to put together packet that cooks in 30 minutes.
Every single one of the reviews on this recipe is a full 5 stars. It's easy and maybe the best cod recipe you’ll make this year; the flavors blend beautifully.
Lemongrass is available in the fresh produce aisle of Asian markets, but if you can’t find it, you can use a few strips of fresh lemon zest. You’ll probably be able to find everything else at your local market.
Surf and turf in a paper packet: Spanish chorizo is similar to pepperoni, that’s your turf, and the clams are the surf.
En papillote is the French term for in paper, but we’re really liking the Asian-inspired flavors you can use with this method. Frozen rice is the key to success here.