Hardware & Software: Parchment Paper
It's far more versatile than waxed paper, aluminum foil or paper towels.
Many home cooks dismiss parchment paper as an exotic tool for baking. But it's not so. Take a closer look because we think once you start using it in regular cooking, you'll never want to be without it.
What is parchment paper and how is it different than wax paper? Parchment paper is silicone-coated (no, it's not Teflon), non-stick, and it resists burning to 450º F which makes it easy to use in the oven. In contrast, wax paper is, as its name suggests, an inexpensive paper that's coated on one side with wax. Where wax paper is hard to fold, fragile and flammable (not to mention the smells and food perils of melting wax), parchment paper is versatile and robust. It costs more than wax paper, but good quality parchment can be reused and repurposed, meaning you can use a sheet to roll out cookie dough, use the same piece of parchment to line your baking sheet, and then turn the sheet over and use it again to bake a second batch of cookies.
How To Use Parchment Paper
We put parchment paper on our short list of kitchen essentials because it is far more multi-purpose than either foil or wax paper or plastic wrap:
- It's non-stick and instantly turns any cookie sheet or sheet pan into a non-stick one.
- It resists grease and moisture.
- It works in a microwave oven and is preferable to plastic wrap which may melt or adhere to hot foods.
- A piece of parchment can be used as a spatter shield in the microwave (think about what it looks like after cooking bacon).
- Line a rimmed sheet pan with a large piece of parchment before slow-oven-roasting tomatoes or pears and you'll be glad for how easily the tomatoes or pears lift off the pan -- plus you won't have an impossibly sticky clean-up.
- It can become a pastry bag: fold a square into a triangle, then into a cone, using a paper clip to hold it in place. Snip the tip open as use as is or add your favorite pastry tip.
- A square of parchment paper can be folded into an envelope to cook food en papillote.
- Line cake and brownie pans to make it easy to get things out of the pan after baking.
- It's perfect to line a baking pan or sheet that's holding bread-crumb coated chicken or fish.
- Place strips of parchment under a cake before it's frosted and when you're done, just pull the strips out for a clean cake plate.
- Cut pieces of parchment to make a stencil for decorating cakes with powdered sugar.
- Pile up dry ingredients on a large sheet of paper to form a handy funnel.
- Pieces of parchment can be used in the freezer to separate foods, like hamburger patties or chicken breasts.
What can't you do with parchment? Don't use it under the broiler because it will brown and crumble, and possibly burst into flame.
Most supermarkets and kitchen supply stores sell parchment paper on a roll, boxed like plastic wrap with a metal edge for easy cutting. Pre-cut sheets the size of a sheet pan (about 16" x 24") can be a better value but they're sold at kitchen supply stores in large quantities so you'll need a place to store them.