Is Wax Paper the Same as Parchment Paper?
The short answer is no: they’re completely different.
By Krissy Downey for Food Network Kitchen
Krissy is a Digital Culinary Production Fellow at Food Network.
The short answer here is, no, wax paper and parchment paper are not the same thing. They may look similar, but there are some key differentiators that make them useful in completely different ways. Read on to learn everything you need to know about wax paper and parchment paper.
What Is Wax Paper?
Wax paper is food-safe tissue paper coated with layers of paraffin wax, which also makes it non-stick. It comes in a roll when you buy it at the grocery store and can be used for countertop tasks like rolling out cookie or pie dough, wrapping up blocks of cheese to store in the refrigerator and pounding chicken breasts into chicken cutlets. Wax paper is incredibly useful, but it is not heat resistant.
What Is Parchment Paper?
Parchment paper is a food-safe paper, often treated with silicone. The silicone makes it nonstick, but it also keeps it heat resistant, which is the key difference between parchment paper and wax paper.
You might have noticed that parchment paper is sometimes brown-colored and sometimes-white colored. Both are equally heat resistant; white parchment paper is simply bleached, while brown parchment paper is unbleached – and has never been treated with chemicals like chlorine.
Parchment paper can be used to line sheet pans and cake pans for the oven or as a packet for cooking fish and veggies. You can use parchment paper in place of wax paper, but you can’t use wax paper in place of parchment paper. Since parchment paper has the added benefit of being heat resistant, it is arguably the more useful choice, so if you’re looking to just keep one on hand, go for the parchment paper.
Can I Put Wax Paper in the Oven?
Like we said before, wax paper is moisture-resistant and non-stick, but it is absolutely not heat resistant. At high temperatures, the wax will melt and the paper itself can catch fire, so you want to always, always, always avoid using wax paper in high-heat situations, like in the oven or toaster oven. There are some questions around whether or not wax paper is safe in the oven below 350 degrees F, but the answer is no, it is not. It’s still a fire hazard.
However, according to the USDA, wax paper should be safe to use in the microwave if you want to use it to create a steam packet for cooking veggies or to catch food drippings. Still, we recommend checking the packaging of your wax paper for any warnings against using it in the microwave.
Is Freezer Paper the Same as Parchment Paper?
While similar, freezer paper and parchment paper are not the same thing. Freezer paper is coated with a moisture-resistant wax or plastic lining on just one side of the paper. The wax or plastic side is typically the side that wraps against the food on the inside, protecting the contents from the harsh cold of the freezer. Freezer paper is a heavy-duty paper, so it is optimal for freezer storage, but it is certainly not a necessity in most home kitchens. Wrapping up food items with plastic wrap and placing them in a resealable bag before freezing does the trick just fine. Since it has that wax or plastic coating, freezer paper is not heat resistant and can’t be used in the oven.
What Can I Use If I Don't Have Parchment Paper?
You can always line your baking sheets with aluminum foil or omit the paper use altogether and spray your baking sheets with cooking spray in place of parchment paper.
For non-heat related uses, you can use wax paper or freezer paper as an alternative.
While it is wildly useful, parchment paper is not the most environmentally-friendly kitchen product. All that paper adds up quickly! A better alternative, at least for lining baking sheets, are silicone mats. They’re reusable, come in every standard baking sheet size, and make for super-easy cleanup. Plus, you’ll never have to worry about unexpectedly reaching the end of a roll of parchment paper in the middle of a cooking project again.