To the baking novice, there’s no real difference between wax paper and parchment paper. They’re both papers, they’re both found in the kitchen pantry, and they’re both seemingly non-stick. But they are not, we repeat, they are not interchangeable for all cooking purposes.
If you try to bake a sheet of cookies on wax paper instead of parchment paper, it can start to blacken and smoke, and in some cases catch on fire. The wax on the paper is not heat-resistant and it melts off in the oven, which can leave the paper at risk of igniting.
This can ruin the cookies, too. That’s why it’s time you learned the difference between the two.
So, what exactly is parchment paper?
Parchment paper is paper that has undergone a parchmentizing process. That means the paper has been passed through sulphuric acid, which makes it dense and greaseproof. The process makes it strong enough to withstand wet and hot conditions, such as an oven, and it can withstand heat of up to 420 degrees Fahrenheit. Many manufacturers also apply a silicone coating to make it non-stick.
Parchment paper is ideal for baking cookies instead of greasing a sheet pan. It’s useful for lining a cake pan to ensure there’s no sticking. It’s also used for cooking en papillote, a method of cooking that steams food in a paper pocket in the oven.
So, what is wax paper?
Wax paper is tissue paper that’s been coated with paraffin on both sides. This coating makes wax paper nonstick, greaseproof, waterproof and an all-around very useful tool in the kitchen.
It is a great option for wrapping and storing food. It’s also a good non-stick surface for making candy or chocolates. It can be used to cover bowls or plates of food in the microwave to prevent splattering. And according to Reynold’s Kitchen, you can also use wax paper to line cake pans, because the cake batter essentially protects the paper from the direct heat of the oven.
But, whatever you do, don’t use wax paper in the oven when it’s exposed to the air, because it’s not made to withstand the high heat. It will melt, smoke and possibly light on fire, as we mentioned above.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.