While wax paper and parchment paper are similar, there are a few key distinctions that you should know before using them. Lining your sheet pans with the wrong paper could turn your baked goods into an unappetizing mess and may even start a fire. Keep reading to see which mistakes can cause hazards in your kitchen and to learn what each type of paper is designed to do.

The Difference Between Wax Paper and Parchment Paper

wax paper for serving food

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If you’re unsure of the difference between wax paper and parchment paper, refer to the information below for their definitions and available forms. 

Wax Paper 

Wax paper is paper that has been coated with a soybean-based or paraffin wax in order to become non-stick and resistant to changes in moisture. It helps to keep water in or out, so juicy foods stay moist and crunchy foods don’t get soggy. As a result, wax paper is excellent for both storing and presenting food.

Parchment Paper 

Parchment paper is paper coated in silicone or Quilon to create a non-stick and heat-resistant surface. It generally comes in two styles: bleached parchment paper, which is a translucent white color, or unbleached parchment paper, which is translucent tan.

Parchment paper comes in rolls, rectangular sheets, and circular sheets.

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Wax Paper vs. Parchment Paper for Baking

Wax paper is not safe to put in the oven. The wax coating on the paper can melt or even ignite, so it is not a suitable non-stick barrier when using heat from any source. However, parchment paper is safe to use while baking and cooking because its silicone coating is heat resistant. For this reason, parchment paper is excellent for lining baking sheets and cake pans. In fact, you can even bake foods en papillote, or enclosed in a packet of parchment paper, to retain moisture in the oven. Similarly, cooking foods a cartouche uses parchment paper to cover food while simmering or poaching on the stove.

Parchment Paper

Wax Paper vs. Parchment Paper for Freezing

Both wax paper and parchment paper can be used for freezing. For example, fold the paper to wrap fruits and vegetables, or use precut sheets as barriers between stacked cuts of meat. You can also write on either type of paper with permanent marker to label your foods and keep track of what you are chilling. 

While cool temperatures do not affect either of these papers’ coatings, some professionals prefer to use wax paper in the freezer because it is more economical than parchment paper, and they choose to reserve parchment paper for heating only.

Wax Paper vs. Parchment Paper for Food Preparation

Wax Paper

Wax paper and parchment are also useful in various food preparation processes. You can put either type of paper down on your work surfaces and discard it when you are done, so cleanup is fast and easy. This is especially useful if you are working with sticky foods like ground meat, dough, or pasta. If you are making a recipe with sifted dry ingredients, simply place a sheet of wax or parchment paper on your surface and sift the ingredient over the paper. Then, carefully pick up the paper and funnel the ingredient into your mixture.

 

Wax paper and parchment paper can be used for a variety of kitchen tasks, but it is important to remember that wax paper is not heat safe. These versatile papers come in several forms and can help you save on cleanup time, keep your foods fresh, and even simplify your preparation processes.