Parchment paper is the home baker’s best friend. Heat resistant, (usually up to 420°F), grease resistant, humidity resistant and non-stick, this simple, versatile tool can be put to all sorts of uses, and it’s often reusable, too.
You’ve probably used parchment paper to line baking sheets or cake pans to stop your cookies or cakes from sticking to the bottom, but there are lots of other ways you can use it, too. If you need to store some freshly-baked, gooey cookies, or even cookies with frosting, simply stack them with squares of parchment paper in between to stop them sticking together - you can even reuse the parchment you baked them on.
Parchment paper can also be used to make a coronet for piping melted chocolate and icing - it won’t leak, and it’s stiff enough to form a small aperture for detailed decoration. It can be laid on the kitchen counter to make a clean surface for rolling dough or kneading bread, or made into an envelope for steaming chicken or fish en papillote.
Despite its many uses, however, there are still ways to manage if you find you’ve run out just as you were about to do some baking. If you want to know what to use as a replacement for parchment paper, take a look at our guide to what works and what doesn’t.
Aluminium foil is probably your best option for replacing parchment paper. Most people already have some to hand, and it can do many of the same jobs parchment paper does. You can prevent drips and spills by lining your baking sheet with foil, but it does lack the non-stick properties of parchment paper, so you’ll need to add a little oil as well. Because foil is reflective, it will cook things a little quicker, too, so check your bakes a few minutes before you normally would to see if they’re done.
Aluminium foil is also great for cooking en papillote, and in many ways it’s actually simpler than using paper. You can create an easy seal around the food without having to learn a complicated folding technique, and because foil doesn’t burn, you can place your papillote pouch on the barbecue or in the coals of a campfire.
If you need to create a non-stick surface for cookies or cakes, try preparing the old-fashioned way, by greasing and flouring the pan. You can use unsalted butter, which will add a slight richness to the batter along with a golden brown colour, or for something more neutral, try shortening instead.
For best results, wash your hands thoroughly and grease the pan with your fingers, spreading a thin layer over the entire pan. Next, sprinkle a layer of flour over the top. Use the same flour as you used in the bake to avoid altering the flavour, or if your bake contains chocolate, you can use cocoa powder. Turn the pan upside down and tap the bottom to remove any excess. You should now have a protective layer between your bake and the pan.
You can also stop things from sticking by using a cooking spray. This handy oil-in-a-can can be used to cover cookware with a fine mist of oil - just enough to stop things from sticking, but not so much that it significantly adds to the fat content of your bake. This is great news for people who are watching the calories, and also because adding too much extra fat can alter the consistency of the finished bake. You don’t need to add flour for this method either - just a quick spray and you’re ready to go.
Silicone baking pad/mat
Silicone baking pads are another great alternative to parchment paper. Made of high-quality, food-grade silicone and fibreglass, they have many of the same qualities as parchment paper, with a non-stick surface, and a cooking temperature limit of up to 428°F.
They can be used to line baking sheets and pans, or laid out on the counter for rolling and kneading dough. They also come in a range of shapes and sizes, suitable for different sheets and pans, and because they can be washed, they can be reused many more times than parchment paper.
If you decide to invest in a couple of silicone baking pads, make sure you buy from a reputable company, as non-food grade silicone can give off toxins when heated or cooled.
Now we’ve covered what does work, there are a couple of things you should avoid at all costs.
Paper grocery bags should never be used to line cookware. They may seem to be made of similar material, but they are not heat resistant, and will catch fire if you put them in the oven, even at low temperatures.
Wax paper may look similar to parchment, and can be used to create a clean surface on your counter, but it should never be used inside the oven, as the wax will melt onto the food, and may even catch fire. However, wax paper is micro-wave safe.
Non-stick sheet pans
A non-stick sheet pan can be a worthwhile investment. True non-stick pans are easy to clean but if you aren’t calorie counting and want to be doubly sure that whatever you’re making won’t stick, you could always spray them with oil for a little extra coating. If you look after your sheet pan well, it should last you a good couple of years.
In a pinch, there are several things you can use in place of parchment paper, but there is no one substitute that can perform all of its different functions. The most important thing is to remember that not all papers are made equal, and avoid putting flammable materials in your oven!
And if you need any more reasons to stock up on parchment paper, it can also be made into a breathable lid, called a cartouche, to stop your saucepan running dry and help prevent skin on sauces.