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Is Parchment Paper the Same as Wax Paper?

It’s OK: We all make mistakes. But you know what’s less OK? Not learning from them. Welcome to Effed It Up, a semi-regular column where we do just that. Up this week: Is parchment paper the same as wax paper? Let’s get to it.

My job in the Bon Appétit test kitchen has a lot of perks, but my favorite just might be the near-unlimited access I have to that most indispensable of kitchen items: the incomparable parchment paper. I love parchment paper. (Don’t judge! I don’t make fun of you for things that you love, do I?) As a baker, I reach for it maybe a half dozen times a day. I know unquestionably that nothing sticks to it and it guarantees that my cakes, cookies, quick breads, and candies release cleanly and all in one piece—every single time. I also know that parchment paper ABSOLUTELY CANNOT be functionally substituted for its kitchen doppelganger, wax paper. Allow me to explain.

Parchment paper is the same as wax paper in some ways, but not all. Rolling out pie dough? Either one will work.

Parchment paper is a cellulose-based paper that is chemically treated to create a non-stick surface that is extremely durable, heat-resistant, and water-resistant. You can find it in the baking aisle of the grocery store in rolls or sometimes in pre-cut sheets.

Because parchment paper is heat-safe and nonstick, it’s used constantly in baking to line sheet trays and cake pans. It eliminates the need in many situations to grease the cooking vessel or surface with oil, butter, or another fat. And if you’re feeling really fancy and French, you can also use it for the cooking technique called “en papillote,” in which food is sealed in parchment paper with aromatics and a bit of liquid and steamed all together. Sounds tasty, non?

And then there’s wax paper. (Some people call it “waxed paper” not “wax paper,” but we are not those people.) Wax paper also comes in a roll and has a similar look and feel to parchment paper, but does not perform the same way. Wax paper, alternately, is a paper that has been coated in a thin layer of paraffin wax, making it nonstick and water-resistant but NOT heat resistant. It will melt when it comes in contact with even relatively low heat, and at a higher heat will catch on fire just like any other piece of paper would. You definitely know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever tried to bake cookies on a wax paper-lined baking sheet and opened the oven to find billowing smoke and acrid-smelling cookies. (No shame—we’ve all been there.)

Which isn’t to say that wax paper is no good—it’s extremely useful, just in completely different ways. Even though it is not heat-safe, wax paper is still useful in tons of countertop and fridge applications. It’s more malleable than parchment paper and holds its shape better, which makes it ideal for wrapping and storing foods like cheeses and sandwiches. I especially like the unbleached kind, which has a natural brown color that can make for a nice presentation lining a platter or tray. Because it’s less expensive than parchment paper, wax paper can often be more useful for lining surfaces and keeping them clean (like, say in the case of rolling out pie dough on a countertop).

I may be partial to parchment because of its usefulness in baking, but I always keep wax paper around because it has an entirely separate list of convenient applications. Just don’t confuse the two. Remember: only parchment paper can withstand heat. In cooking as in life, forewarned is forearmed.

If you're standing in your kitchen right now wondering if you can substitute one for the other, you need to sit down and read this.

Cut-Rite Wax Paper

NO MORE SPLATTERED MICROWAVE!

Cover foods with wax paper when microwaving to prevent splatters.

MAKE BAKING PREPARATION EASIER

Roll dough between two sheets of wax paper to prevent it sticking to the counter or the rolling pin.

FAST AND EASY CLEAN-UP

Line countertops with wax paper to catch frosting drips and stray sprinkles.

Featured: Sweet Treats

Product Details

Reynolds ® Cut-Rite ® Wax Paper is ideal for making candy or dipping strawberries, cookies or pretzels in chocolate. Foods lift right off the surface without leaving a mess behind on your bakeware or countertop. For gift giving or freezing, layer candies or baked cookies between wax paper sheets.

Reynolds ® Cut-Rite ® Wax Paper makes food preparation easier by minimizing cleanup. Shred cheese, peel vegetables or grate lemon peel on wax paper to pick up every shred. Keep counter tops clean by covering them with wax paper when breading chicken or fish, or use it to catch sprinkles when decorating cookies and cupcakes. Cover foods in the microwave to prevent splatters and keep the microwave clean. See what else is possible with some wax paper tips.

Product Faqs

Can I use Reynolds® Cut-Rite® Wax Paper in the oven?

Wax paper should not be directly exposed to the heat of an oven. However, Reynolds® Cut-Rite® Wax Paper may be used as a pan liner when baking cakes, bread, muffins or any baked food in which the dough or batter completely covers the wax paper lining.

What is the difference between Parchment Paper and Wax Paper?

Wax paper is made by applying a coating of wax to a thin paper sheet, which makes it easy to remove foods from the paper with ease. Parchment paper has a natural non-stick coating produced through a special “parchmentizing” process. The way they’re made means that both are microwave safe, but only parchment paper is oven safe (up to 425F).

What is each made of?

Parchment paper is made from paper and through the unique “parchmentizing” process, producing a very dense, non-stick paper that won’t fall apart when wet.Wax paper is a light-weight paper that has been coated with food grade wax.

Why should I line my cake pan with wax paper?

When you line cake pans with Reynolds® Cut-Rite® Wax Paper, you can skip the process of greasing or flouring your pans. Place your cake pan on wax paper, trace around the bottom, and cut it out so that you have a perfectly sized liner. After baking and cooling, loosen sides of cake with a knife.Invert cake onto a cooling rack. Remove pan and peel off wax paper for a smooth surface that’s ready to frost.

Can I use Reynolds® Cut-Rite® Wax Paper in the microwave?

Yes. Microwaves have little to no effect on wax paper, this means that Reynolds® Cut-Rite® Wax Paper can be used as an inexpensive, spatter-free cover for microwave heating.

Reynolds® Cut-Rite® Wax Paper is ideal for making candy or dipping strawberries, cookies or pretzels in chocolate. Foods lift right off the surface without leaving a mess behind on your bakeware or countertop. For gift giving or freezing, layer candies or baked cookies between wax paper sheets.