Is Wax Paper the Same as Parchment Paper?

The short answer is no: they’re completely different.

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August 08, 2023
Stock photo showing an elevated view of greaseproof paper lined baking oven tray containing freshly baked, homemade carrot, coconut and chocolate chip biscuits, home baking concept.

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Stock photo showing an elevated view of greaseproof paper lined baking oven tray containing freshly baked, homemade carrot, coconut and chocolate chip biscuits, home baking concept.

Photo by: mtreasure/Getty Images

mtreasure/Getty Images

By Krissy Downey and Emily Saladino for Food Network Kitchen

Krissy is a Digital Culinary Production Fellow at Food Network. Emily Saladino is a Culinary Editor at Food Network.

They may look similar on the shelf of your local grocery or kitchen supply store, but wax paper and parchment paper are not the same thing. What you use to wrap up your favorite cheeses to store in the fridge is not necessarily the same product you should crumple into a brownie pan or use to line a sheet pan before baking. Here, we explore the strengths and weakneses of these pantry staples and when to use wax paper vs parchment paper in your kitchen.

What Is Wax Paper?

Wax paper is food-safe tissue paper coated with layers of paraffin wax, which makes it nonstick. It's sold by the roll in supermarkets, drug stores, kitchen supply stores and beyond. Use wax paper 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.

Parmesan cheese on  parchment paper on wooden background

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Parmesan cheese on parchment paper on wooden background

Photo by: Alexandr Zhenzhirov/Getty Images

Alexandr Zhenzhirov/Getty Images

What Is Parchment Paper?

Parchment paper is a food-safe paper that is often treated with silicone and, unlike wax paper, is heat resistant. Parchment paper is sold in rolls and pre-cut sheets. It can be stark white or various shades of tan and brown. All colors 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.

Use parchment paper to line sheet pans or 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.

Cocktail Wieners Wrapped in Puff Pastry and Coated in Parmesan Cheese

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Cocktail Wieners Wrapped in Puff Pastry and Coated in Parmesan Cheese

Photo by: LauriPatterson/Getty Images

LauriPatterson/Getty Images

Wax Paper vs Parchment Paper

The primary difference between wax paper and parchment paper is that only parchment paper is heat resistant.

That means you can use parchment paper to bake or cook in the oven, whereas wax paper can only be used at room temperature or in the fridge or freezer. Parchment paper tends to be slightly more expensive than wax paper, too. Since parchment paper has the added benefit of being heat resistant, it is arguably the more useful choice. If space is limited and you’re looking to just keep one on hand, go for the parchment paper.

Can I Put Wax Paper in the Oven?

Wax paper is moisture-resistant and nonstick, but it cannot withstand heat and should never be used in the oven. When exposed to high temperatures, the wax will melt and paper itself can catch fire. That's why you should never use wax paper in the oven, toaster oven or other appliances, regardless of temperature.

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 about microwave usage.

chocolate chip coconut cookies dough, selective focus

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chocolate chip coconut cookies dough, selective focus

Photo by: ThitareeSarmkasat/Getty Images

ThitareeSarmkasat/Getty Images

Is Freezer Paper the Same as Parchment Paper?

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. Because it has a wax or plastic coating, freezer paper is not heat-resistant and cannot be used in the oven.

Although freezer paper is sturdy, it's not the only kitchen item you can use to wrap foods for freezing. For more on freezing, check out our guide, Exactly How to Freeze Everything.

Parchment Paper Substitutes

In many well-stocked kitchens, substitutes for parchment paper abound. If you're making cookies, line your baking sheets with aluminum foil or omit the paper altogether and coat with nonstick spray instead. If you're wrapping cheeses or sandwiches for the fridge, or want to layer baked goods into the freezer, use wax paper or freezer paper instead of parchment.

If you find yourself going through a lot of parchment paper and prefer a more environmentally friendly alternative, consider lining your baking sheets or pans with silicone mats. They're reusable, come in an array of sizes and make for 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 or baking project again.

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