Cooking Tips

What’s the Difference Between Wax and Parchment Paper?

Learn from my mistakes—don’t mix up these two very different products.

Published Dec. 23, 2022.

Few stories about cookies are sad. But today, I’m going to tell you a very sad cookie story.

It all started when I moved from my home country of Australia to the U.S. Wanting to break in my new kitchen and give the apartment that homey, I-just-baked-cookies aroma, I set out to stock my pantry. 

Flour, check. Sugar, check. Eggs, check. Baking paper? Well, it turns out you Americans don’t have a product called “baking paper” as we do in Australia.

Rifling through the baking section of my local supermarket, I stumbled across a roll of wax paper. “Perfect!” I thought to myself.

Sadly, reader, all was not perfect. 

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Using the wax paper to bake my cookies, I took them out of the oven and attempted to transfer them to a wire rack, only to discover that they had completely adhered to the paper. They were not going to budge, and I ended up with paper-bottomed chocolate chip cookies.

See? A very sad cookie story indeed.

That’s why I’m here to tell you the differences between wax paper and—what I should have used—parchment paper. Read on to learn from my mistakes.

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What Is Wax Paper?

Wax paper is coated with a thin layer of either soybean or paraffin wax (which makes it less than desirable for baking, as the wax will melt at high temperatures). 

Something to keep in mind is that wax paper cannot be recycled or composted because of the chemicals in its waxy coating.

When Should I Use Wax Paper?

We now know that wax paper cannot go in the oven. So what’s it good for? You can use wax paper for wrapping up sandwiches, separating layers of cookies when storing them, or wrapping homemade ice cream sandwiches before stashing in the freezer. 

You can also lay it on top of plates or benches in your kitchen for a mess-free surface.

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What Is Parchment Paper?

Parchment paper, on the other hand, may feel like it has no coating at all, but it’s actually coated with silicone to give it a nonstick, heat-resistant surface—meaning that it’s perfect for baking. 

Parchment paper can’t be recycled if it has any food debris on it, but can still go in the compost bin. (Plus, you can reuse parchment paper!)

When Should I Use Parchment Paper?

You can use parchment paper for anything that goes into the oven. Most types of parchment paper can withstand temperatures up to 420 degrees Fahrenheit, making it the perfect option for baking cookies. (Use the crumple-it-up trick if youre having trouble getting it to lie flat.)

You can also use parchment paper for baking or roasting savory foods, like veggies or sheet pan dinners.

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