While it may not be a baking ingredient, parchment paper is almost as commonly used in baking as eggs, flour, and sugar. It is widely available in most grocery stores and has been used by home cooks and professional chefs for years.
While parchment paper is a useful tool with a wide variety of uses, it does have its disadvantages. Parchment paper is not very sustainable. Since it can only be used once or a few times, it can also become costly. Is parchment paper the only option?
Before we discuss substitutes for parchment paper, let’s take a look at parchment paper and its many uses.
What is Parchment Paper?
Used for its non-stick surface, parchment paper is a moisture and grease resistant paper. Parchment paper is coated with silicone. This makes it heat resistant and nonstick.
Parchment paper is available in both brown and white options. White parchment is treated with acid to make it more stable at high temperatures. Brown parchment is unbleached so that it retains its natural color.
Parchment paper is most commonly sold in rolls, similar to aluminum foil and plastic wrap. When you need a sheet of parchment paper, simply pull out the desired amount and tear it along the perforation.
It can also be found in pre-cut sheets of different sizes that fit a variety of baking sheets, cake pans, and muffin tins. Some even have circles imprinted on them to help space out cookies. There are also perforated parchment circles available that line air fryers.
How is Parchment Paper Used?
Parchment paper is a useful kitchen tool. It is most commonly used to keep baked goods from sticking to the pan, but it actually has a wide variety of uses.
Parchment paper can be used in the oven and the microwave oven. It is generally safe for use in temperatures up to 420-450 degrees Fahrenheit, but check the manufacturer’s instructions since each brand is different. Since it can turn brittle and brown when used under a broiler, parchment paper is best used in a regular or convection oven.
There is no need to grease the cookie sheet or baking pan when using the parchment as a baking paper. Baked goods are easily removed without sticking when it is used. In fact, cookies will often slide right off the parchment without even needing a spatula.
Parchment paper makes cleanup easier. If you leave an inch overhang of parchment in square or rectangular pans, you can remove the bread or bars by lifting the hanging edges.
At times, greasing bread pans and cake pans is recommended before adding parchment. The butter or oil help the parchment stick to the pan. This prevents the batter from getting under the parchment while baking. It also usually eliminates the need for washing pans that are lined with it.
Parchment can also be reused several times, especially when used to line cookie sheets.
Create a Layer Between Baked Goods
When transporting or storing candy or frosted cookies and bars, it can be challenging to keep the layers from sticking together in your container. This can be avoided by putting a sheet of parchment in between each layer. In order to reduce waste, you can even reuse the parchment you used to line the pan when baking.
Create a Funnel
Parchment paper can be used to create a simple funnel to transfer ingredients. This can be helpful when sifting dry ingredients, refilling salt and pepper shakers, or a great trick for adding sprinkles on top of cookies or cakes. Using parchment to pour these small pieces eliminates spillage and makes for an easy cleanup.
Create Parchment Paper Bags
Parchment paper bags can be used for cooking or storing food. These can be purchased or made at home. These bags can be used for cooking food in the oven or on the grill, or as treat bags when giving homemade baked goods as gifts.
“En papillote” is a French method of cooking in parchment paper. In this technique, the parchment creates a pocket of steam when food and seasonings are cooked in a pouch. Using parchment food wrappers like this is a great way to cook fish and other delicate meats.
Create a Piping Bag
Piping bags, also known as piping cornets, are used to garnish pastries, personalize cakes, and create chocolate decorations. While piping bags can be used, an impromptu piping cornet can be made with parchment paper. The parchment creates a piping bag that is stiff and prevents leaking.
Protect Food in the Freezer
Parchment paper can be used in the freezer. It prevents food such as hamburgers or filets of fish from sticking together. It also protects food items from freezer burn when wrapped tightly.
Line Work Surfaces
When rolling out pastry or cookie dough, kneading bread dough, or forming meatballs, surfaces can get messy. Tape a sheet of parchment on the table or counter in order to make cleanup a breeze. After your work, just remove the tape, carefully roll up the parchment paper to keep the mess inside, and toss it out.
Best Parchment Paper Substitutes
Now that you know all the ways parchment paper can be used, let’s discuss the multiple alternatives that can be used in place of parchment paper.
Silicone Baking Mats and Molds
One may argue that the best substitute for parchment is silicone baking mats. Also called Silpat, they are the most sustainable parchment paper replacement because they are reusable. They are made out of silicone and fiberglass. These mats are nonstick, flexible, and can withstand high heat.
Food-grade silicone baking mats have a variety of uses. With a fiberglass grid that doesn’t retain heat like metal pans, baked goods cook evenly on the top and bottom.
These mats are most commonly used to bake cookies, but they can also be used to roast vegetables, and bake pizza or crusty bread. Vegetables like potatoes don’t need to be stirred during baking because the bottoms will brown evenly.
Since these mats are safe in the freezer, they are perfect for making decorative chocolate designs or whipped cream shapes to top baked goods. Simply create your designs directly on the silicone mat and place them in the fridge or freezer to set. Peel the shapes off the silicone when hard.
Silicone mats are an excellent substitute when dipping candy or fruit. Once hardened, chocolate covered strawberries and pretzels are easily removed from the mats with minimal mess.
These specialty baking mats and molds cost more than disposable parchment paper, but can be washed and reused over and over for years. If you enjoy baking frequently, a silicone baking mat is worth the investment.
Wax paper can be used in place of parchment paper in room temperature cooking and baking. Keep in mind that wax paper is less heat-resistant. It is coated with paraffin wax, which burns or melts when heated, so it should never be used in the oven.
When looking for a replacement in food prep, wax paper works just as well as parchment. It can be used as a layer between desserts or to prevent messes by covering work surfaces.
Instead of continuously dusting flour on your work surface when rolling out dough, slip a sheet of wax paper between the dough and your rolling pin. The wax coating will help prevent sticking. Too much flour in your dough changes the texture and flavor of the final outcome, but using wax paper prevents this.
Wax paper can be used in place of parchment paper to make a funnel. This is especially helpful when transferring liquids since the wax prevents leakage.
Although both are easily found at the grocery store, parchment paper usually costs twice as much as wax paper, making wax paper a less expensive option.
Aluminum foil, or tin foil, has long been used to wrap up food and cover containers of leftovers, but it has many other uses in the kitchen.
It is a great substitute for parchment paper when cooking savory foods. Line a baking sheet with foil when roasting or baking vegetables and meat. Carefully remove the foil, and there will be no need to clean the pan afterwards.
Prevent your pie crust from burning by covering it with strips of foil. This helps your pie to brown while keeping the edges from getting over-baked. Foil can be molded to fit the pie much better than parchment paper.
You can use aluminum foil to create a drip pan for the grill. Simply shape a couple of layers of foil into a pan that will keep drippings off of your grill and coals. You can then crumple up the foil to scrub burnt food off the grill rack before your next barbecue.
Just like parchment paper, tin foil can be used to create a funnel. The advantage of a funnel made out of foil is that you can bend it to get to those hard to reach places or awkward angles.
If you don’t have any of the above parchment paper substitutes, you can simply grease the pan you are using with butter, olive oil, vegetable oil, or cooking spray. This is the method that many recipes call for. For cakes and breads, greasing and flouring the pan may be the best choice, but follow the recipe’s instructions.
Grease your pan only a few minutes before adding the batter. If you grease the pan too early, the fat may melt and drip down into the pan and pool at the bottom. You can put the greased pan in the fridge before adding the batter if needed.
Use cooking spray, baking spray, shortening, or coconut oil to prevent your cake from sticking to the pan. Butter adds a delicious golden-brown crust to the edges of cake, but is not as useful in preventing cake from sticking.
Plastic wrap, or Saran Wrap, can be used in place of parchment paper for storage, sealing, and refrigeration.
Like parchment paper, you can cover work surfaces with plastic wrap when working with dough. To help the plastic wrap stick to the table better, wet the table with water first. This is one of the best options for dough that needs to be refrigerated since you can just cover the dough with the plastic wrap.
Unfortunately, plastic wrap cannot be used in place of parchment paper for cooking or baking.
Butcher paper is used to package sandwiches and wrap meat and fish. Pink butcher paper is used to wrap meat while it cooks or smokes. Wrapping meat helps lock in its flavor and juiciness.
Butcher paper is a great alternative that is one of the best solutions for keeping meat fresh and retaining its color. Since butcher paper has been specially treated, it does not tear as easily as parchment paper.
Freezer paper has a layer of polycoating on one side that seals in juices and protects food from freezer burn. Because it is flexible, it will wrap tightly around food to form an airtight seal.
Freezer paper offers a more protective covering for food stored in the freezer than parchment paper. Food wrapped in freezer paper lasts longer without drying out than food wrapped in parchment paper alone.
The main difference between parchment paper and freezer paper is that freezer paper has one use. This alternative is only used for freezer storage.
Parchment paper is a helpful kitchen tool to have on hand, but there are many other great substitutes that can be used instead. Like parchment paper, these alternatives have a variety of uses.
You can find options for cooking, baking, and food storage, as well as decorating baked goods and making kitchen cleanup easier. Whether looking for a more sustainable or a more affordable option, there is a parchment paper alternative that will suit your needs.
Do you have any other tried and true substitution recommendations? Please let me know in the comments!