Waxed Paper vs. Parchment Paper: What You Need to Know

We'll explain the difference between waxed paper and parchment paper, and whether it's safe to substitute one for the other.

sheet pan with cookies and pie crust on wax paper

BHG/Andrea Araiza

For anyone who does a lot of baking and cooking, both parchment paper and waxed paper can be real lifesavers. Parchment paper's nonstick abilities allow you to line baking pans for easy removal of your favorite cookie, brownie, and cake recipes. It's even a great tool for mess-free veggies or a delicious fish dinner. Waxed paper's nonstick functions are just as helpful for rolling out pie dough, wrapping sandwiches for lunch, or lining your cookie decorating surface for easy cleanup. But what happens if you go to your drawer looking for parchment paper only to discover all you have left is waxed paper? Sure, they seem somewhat alike, but they're not always interchangeable. In fact, it's potentially hazardous to bake your cookies on waxed paper rather than parchment. Here's what you need to know about properly using each of these papers to avoid kitchen mishaps.

parchment paper and wax paper

BHG/Andrea Araiza

The Difference Between Waxed Paper and Parchment Paper

Both items are used for nonstick purposes, but the key difference between waxed paper and parchment paper (and the reason they're not interchangeable) is the coating. Parchment paper (Target) is made from cotton fiber and/or pure chemical wood pulps, and is treated with an ultra-thin layer of silicone, so that it's nonstick and heat and moisture resistant. And if the name hasn't already given it away, wax paper (Target) is tissue paper coated in food-safe wax. It's also nonstick and moisture resistant, but is not as heat resistant. Although waxed paper is safe to use in a microwave (to prevent splatters or to line a dish) exposing it to the heat of an oven will cause it to melt, smoke, and possibly catch fire. The only time you can safely use wax paper in the oven is when you're lining the bottom of a cake pan that will be completely covered in batter, which will keep it from smoking. So, basically, you can use waxed paper and parchment paper for most of the same things, apart from baking with wax paper when it's directly exposed to heat.

Substitutes for Parchment Paper and Waxed Paper

Parchment paper can get a bit pricey, so it may not always be something you have stocked. (Parchment paper is usually almost twice the cost of wax paper.) And because of its coating, parchment paper is not recyclable (unless you buy a natural, unbleached brand that is compostable). If your recipe calls for lining your pan with parchment, you can substitute nonstick cooking spray. Or, if you're always baking, it might be a good time to invest in a reusable silicone baking mat (Bed Bath & Beyond) that will give you the same nonstick results. As for a good substitute for wax paper for wrapping purposes, try making your own reusable food wraps out of beeswax.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles