8 Fabulous Uses for Parchment Paper (Including Baking!)

By: Laurie L. Dove  | 
Parchment Paper
Sure, you already use parchment paper for easy, no-stick baking, but there are a lot of other things you can also use this paper for around the house. GHI/Education Images/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Parchment paper is a jill-of-all-trades, probably best known for its many uses in baking. It can be an efficient barrier between sticky layers of cookies or an easy way to keep countertops clean while baking, and it has a ton of other cool uses as well. But before we get to those, what, exactly, is parchment paper?

Parchment paper is a food-safe paper coated with silicone. This coating makes parchment paper — which comes in brown and white (chemically bleached) versions — nonstick and grease-proof. It's also heat resistant up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (232 degrees Celsius) which makes it safe and burn-proof in most ovens and microwaves.


But don't confuse parchment paper with wax paper. While both parchment paper and wax paper can be used for everything from wrapping leftovers to prepping meals, only parchment paper can withstand high temperatures. Wax paper, which is coated on both sides with food-safe soybean or paraffin wax, will begin to melt when exposed to heat and may even catch fire. Parchment paper, on the other hand, can be used in all the same ways as wax paper and it can go in the oven.

So what are the best ways to use parchment paper? Here are eight helpful ideas for using it in the kitchen and elsewhere, including a couple of uses that may be a bit of a surprise.


1. Gift Wrap

It doesn't matter which version of parchment paper you have in your kitchen, either the white or brown paper can serve as wrapping paper for a gift. It may take a couple of layers to prevent the recipient from being able to see what is wrapped in it, especially if it is white parchment paper, which has a bit of a see-through quality. Parchment paper is, on the whole, an inexpensive solution that, when used as gift wrap, can be dressed up with ribbon or decorated with stamped, drawn or painted designs.


2. Cooking en Papillote

Another use for parchment paper? Cooking en papillote, which, although it sounds fancy, is actually just placing ingredients — salmon and asparagus, for example — in a packet of parchment paper and baking it in the oven. This method works best with foods that cook quickly, such as fish or other seafood, and will benefit from the addition of fresh herbs or seasonings, such as a squeeze of lemon. To make a parchment packet, fold a sheet of parchment paper in half, add the food to one side, then fold the other half of the parchment paper over the food. To seal, roll the edges together, making sure to leave plenty of room for the magic to happen. As the packet heats, steam will gather throughout its interior, creating a lush and succulent meal that stays moist without the addition of oils.


3. Piping Bag for Decorating

Next time you have uninspired baked goods lying around, remember this: With just a bit of parchment paper and some icing, you could make a piping bag and add some decorative flair. Whether it's "Happy Birthday" on a cake or a cheerful ring of frosting on a sugar cookie, you could take an occasion from OK to excellent with a turn of the parchment. The process may feel a bit like making a paper airplane, but in the end you'll have a tube you can squeeze frosting through like a pro. Simply fold a rectangular piece of parchment paper in half diagonally, then cut it down the crease. Take one half and roll it around your hand to form a cone and then wrap the other half to form another cone around the first. Tuck in the exterior end so that it holds together, place it upright in an empty drinking glass with the narrow tip pointing down and fill it with icing.


4. Cheese Storage

Although you're likely to find cheese already wrapped in plastic when making a purchase, these moisture-tight seals are designed for short-term use. Plastic wrap can trap moisture, encourage mold growth and increase the levels of ammonia in cheeses, which can negatively alter the taste. Instead, replace plastic wrap with parchment paper, which allows the cheese to breath, and then place it in an oversized plastic bag. As far back as the August 1889 edition of Kansas Farmer, people have been extolling the virtues of parchment paper for dairy storage. To preserve the flavor of fresh-churned butter packaged for delivery to market, "the best material so far devised for that purpose is, we unhesitatingly say, parchment paper. When butter is compactly wrapped in such paper, you not only manage to retain a good deal of the original flavor ... but you also add to its keeping qualities — a great desideratum during the summer season — and make it look attractive and inviting to the buyers." Turns out parchment paper and dairy have been a delicious match for centuries.


5. Freezer Storage

If you buy meat in bulk, but need to separate it into portion sizes before freezing, parchment paper can keep those cuts of meat in check. Use parchment paper between hamburger patties or chicken breasts when you place them into a freezer bag or freezer-safe container, and as the meat freezes, it will remain separated. This means that when you retrieve the frozen meat, those beef patties or chicken breasts will easily come apart. No more mystery lumps of meat stuck together in the freezer.


6. Keeping Cabinet Tops Clean

How often do you clean the tops of the cabinets in your kitchen? How about the top of the refrigerator? And when you do, it's a special kind of kitchen grime, isn't it? Greasy, dusty and nearly impossible to remove. Enter: parchment paper. Tear off a generous portion (or use pre-cut squares) and line the tops of cabinets and the refrigerator. The parchment paper is an inexpensive way to collect anything that comes its way. The next time you clean, simply lift off and throw away the parchment paper, revealing a clean surface below, then replace the parchment paper to keep the clean vibes going.


7. Disposable Placemats or Table Runners

Having guests over for dinner? Especially if your guest list includes young children, you may want to make affordable, disposable placemats out of parchment paper. Bonus: Add crayons to the table and it will keep them busy while they wait for dinner to be served. This fun idea could even be used with adults or adapted for a similar use. For a table runner made of parchment, for example, simply unroll a length of parchment as long as the table and add a few decorations for a festive — and inexpensive — centerpiece guests will love.

And last, but not least:


8. Non-stick Baking for Cookies, Cakes and Brownies

Cakes, cookies and brownies. If it goes in a pan and bakes in the oven, chances are that parchment paper could come in handy. Take cookies, for example. Cut a square (or use a pre-cut square) of parchment paper and use it to line the pan before placing the dough on top. After the cookies are baked and slightly cooled, the cookies can easily be lifted from the parchment-lined pan. Gone will be the days of chiseling cookies stuck to a pan.

Parchment paper makes it easier to remove cakes from pans too. Start by laying one piece of parchment paper in the pan so that it goes across bottom of the pan and up two sides, then lay another piece of parchment paper the opposite direction so that it goes across the bottom of the pan and up the remaining two sides. Pour in the cake or brownie batter and bake. After the batter has baked and cooled, lift the parchment paper on two opposite sides; the whole cake or brownie can then be plated and cut right on the parchment paper. No mess (and no bits of cake left behind in the pan)!