What’s the Difference Between Wax Paper and Parchment?

Oh there’s quite a lot of difference, reader Melanie. Wax paper is basically tissue paper with a wax coating applied to the outside. It’s nowhere near as tough and useful as parchment. Parchment is a thick (or at any rate thick-er) paper that’s been passed through an acid bath to increase its rigidity and give it a hard, smooth, glossy surface that resists just about everything. Most of the time parchment is also coated with silicone to give it extra stick-resistance.

The result is an all-purpose kitchen paper that stays strong, even when it’s wet or covered with grease, and that won’t melt or catch fire, even in a 550-degree oven. In short it does everything wax paper can do, only better. While you can buy it at most any grocery store in rolls, I prefer to buy it from King Arthur Flour in pre-cut flat sheets which I store on top of my refrigerator. Whenever I need one I just grab one, and because the sheets aren’t curled I don’t have to wrestle them to keep them flat. I also have a stack of 9″ parchment cake circles which, in addition to lining cake pans make handy parchment saucepan lids. Oh there’s no end to the utility of this stuff…

11 thoughts on “What’s the Difference Between Wax Paper and Parchment?”

  1. I have to disagree with you that parchment doesn’t catch fire, at least in the oven. I’ve lit plenty of parchment on fire (mostly accidentally) while using a torch

    1. That’s fair. If you actually light it on fire, it will catch fire. It’s more accurate to say that it won’t combust in a hot oven up to about 550 degrees Fahrenheit.

      Thanks for the clarification!

      – Joe

  2. Then can I use parchment paper in place of wax paper, since it’s so useful? Ex. I’ve heard that I should store cheese wrapped in wax paper, but can I use parchment paper instead? Thanks!

    1. Hey Ellen!

      I don’t see why not, though it is much more rigid than wax paper, so you might have a hard time wrapping it around a cheese. Of course you can always cut the pieces to fit…

      Let me know!

      – Joe

  3. We use the generic term “parchment” although our paper is actually the sulphurized (spelling?) stuff. It’s greaseproof and won’t burn to 450F (although it will blacken quite a bit). Not as good as true parchment, but quite a bit cheaper. Sheets are also available in 3/4 and 1/2 sheet sizes, but note that the half sheet is nearly the same price as the full sheet. It would be more worthwhile to buy the full size and cut it.

    I buy it in 1000 sheet boxes in full-pan size. Comes out to about a nickel each and beats the heck out of buying a couple of hundred silpats at $45 ea.

    Note on cheese wrapping: While our stuff will take a good crease, tape won’t stick to it. Neither will marker ink if you want to label it.

    We also use it to make cones that we write on cakes with… sort of like a mini piping bag

    Cheers

  4. Costco has huge rolls of it at a great price. When it tear it off the roll, I flip it over as I lay it on my sheet so it doesn’t curl. I always fold one long edge up about an inch so I have something to grab when I retrieve a loaf I slid onto the stone in my oven.

  5. I use parchment sheets to line the kitchen cupboards of my rented apartment. It’s a bit difficult to wrestle them in (the curling and the lack of tape sticking), but I found it worth it when it comes to cleaning the kitchen prior to departure – just roll it all up (spills and all!) and into the trash can! No need to wash the cupboards! One just needs to be gentle when moving things about (canned goods, pots, pans, etc.).

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