Growing up, I always thought of parchment paper as something people wrote letters on. It involved a fountain pen and a blotter. It was all very romantic but had nothing to do with chocolate chip cookies and poached salmon.
Times changed. Parchment crept into professional kitchens and elbowed its way into gourmet magazines. Confused, I asked my mother about it. She dismissed culinary parchment as an unnessessary money grab. Aluminum foil, waxed paper and plastic wrap were inexpensive and easy to get. Why on earth would she need parchment? Having survived the Great Depression, my mother is extremely pragmatic. She calls BS on products that dazzle fanciful people like me. She is seldom wrong. But when it comes to parchment, I think she’s living in the Dark Ages. Sorry, Mom. I hate to say it, but you’re wrong.
Coated with a thin film of silicone, culinary parchment is a non-stick, oven-safe, moisture-resistant culinary workhorse. It’s replaced my waxed paper completely. Even my eager plastic wrap is feeling neglected. And the aluminum foil? It can’t wait for the hot weather. Nowadays it’s called upon only for the grill.
I’ve been using PaperChef for a couple of years now. They recently sent me some samples to try out. I obliged. While it’s not ideal for letter-writing, parchment is indispensable in my kitchen. It’s right up there with my microplane and beloved French rolling pin. Here are 10 reasons I believe parchment products deserves a spot in your cramped pantry.
- It’s user-friendly: Ignore the watermark. It’s branding, not an indication of which side to use. Unlike aluminum foil, either side is the right side. As far as handling goes, if you can tear off a sheet of aluminum foil or waxed paper, you can deal with parchment. PaperChef makes pre-cut sheets. If these appeal, be sure to check your pan size first. The sheets don’t fit my pans, but are still very handy for counter work.
- It’s compostable and 100% recyclable: Our municipality earmarks waxed paper for landfill. Parchment paper, however, can be disposed of with the compostables. I feel no guilt tossing used parchment. Plastic wrap on the other hand? I apologize to future generations.
- It’s reusable: As long as the item you’re cooking isn’t too wet, you can get a second or even third use out of a sheet of parchment. Think kale chips, cookies and granola. Fish? Not so much.
- It works in heat: Because parchment can take indirect heat up to 425°F, you can bake cakes or roast meat and vegetables without fear. But it is paper, so keep it away from the broiler or stovetop elements.
- It works in cold: Moisture-resistant parchment withstands temperature fluctuations better than waxed paper. Use it to roll chilled items like icebox cookies or herb butter. Place a piece of parchment between hamburger patties, waffles, or squares before they go into the freezer. The food will divide easily and the parchment divider won’t tear.
- It saves clean-up time: While parchment doesn’t actually wash the dishes, it might save you the effort. No more chiselling cookies off baking sheets or leaving portions of cake in the bottom of the pan. And lasagna? Say good-bye to overnight soaks. Just line and lift. It also reduces prep mess. You won’t need cooking sprays and will never have to grease and flour straight-edged cake tins again. Convoluted bundt pans are another story.
- It prevents spills: Parchment won’t defy gravity, but it can help you lift items from the pan more easily. Let the parchment overhang the edges to form a makeshift handle. Then simply lift the baked goods out. Bonus: When baking granola, fold the parchment lining into a funnel for easy pouring.
- It saves your pans: Think of parchment as a protective layer. Since I’ve started using parchment my pans have stopped aging dramatically. Maybe PaperChef should branch into skin care.
- You can write on it: Grab a Sharpie. The ink won’t soak through or smudge once dried. Label what you’ve wrapped. Trace your pan to cut a perfectly shaped lining. Or draw rounds for uniform meringues. (Just flip the parchment over before you pipe. You can see the outline but the food won’t touch the ink.) Wrap a sandwich and write a love note to embarrass your kids — or delight your husband. No fountain pen or blotter needed.
- It takes many shapes: PaperChef sells parchment rolls, muffin cups, pre-cut sheets, and en papillote bags. If you have limited pantry space, keep a roll on hand. You can bend parchment to your will — or at least fold it into useful shapes. You can cut it to fit any shape or size of pan (see #9), form your own muffin cups (picture below), fold it into serving cones for snacks like popcorn, or make a disposable piping bag.
There. Ten reasons to use parchment. I’m not sure if I’ve convinced my mom. She’s a tough sell. Have I convinced you? If you’re already a convert, how do you use parchment?