What to use and when.  

By Corey Williams
Updated: April 25, 2019
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Parchment paper, aluminum foil, and wax paper are all pantry staples that can improve your cooking life tremendously—when they’re used appropriately. Not sure which to use for your next recipe? Here’s how to decide:

Parchment paper

What is it?

Love baking but hate cleaning dirty pans? Parchment paper is your best friend. It’s grease- and moisture-resistant and designed for use in the oven.

When should you use it?

Line your baking pans and sheets with parchment to make cleanup a breeze. It’s perfect for:

When shouldn’t you use it?

Parchment paper is safe up to 420 degrees. If you’re cooking something at a temperature higher than that, reach for a roll of aluminum foil. Never use parchment on a hot grill—this is a fire waiting to happen.  

WATCH: Parchment or Wax Paper?

Aluminum foil

What is it?

Aluminum foil is extremely pliable and comes in regular and heavy-duty varieties. It can withstand high heat, and it conducts and distributes heat without becoming hot to the touch.

When should you use it?

Use aluminum foil when you’re roasting anything in the oven at a temperature higher than 420 degrees, or line the grill with foil to catch debris that falls through the cracks. You can also use it to wrap firm vegetables before cooking—this will keep them tender. It’s perfect for:

  • Wrapping chicken or turkey when roasting.
  • Grilling delicate meats or vegetables.
  • Wrapping firm vegetables (like potatoes) before grilling.
  • Wrapping leftovers to keep in the fridge.

When shouldn’t you use it?

Avoid using foil when baking cakes—or when you’re working with anything where shape is important, for that matter. It’s difficult to line a round cake pan with aluminum foil, and using parchment paper will result in more even baking.

Wax paper

What is it?

Wax paper has a thin coating of moisture-resistant wax on each side, which prevents food from sticking to it. It is not heat resistant.

When should you use it?

Wax paper is perfect for lining the counters before you roll dough or decorate cookies. It also makes great wrapping for sticky candies. Basically, it can do anything parchment paper can do—except go in the oven.  

When shouldn’t you use it?

Never use wax paper in the oven or on the grill. Any use that doesn’t involve heat, though, is fair game.

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