What’s the Difference Between Wax Paper and Parchment Paper?

Here's a closer look at when to use wax paper vs. parchment paper, plus an easy rule to remember.

Ever found yourself standing in the kitchen debating whether wax paper and parchment paper are interchangeable? You aren’t the only one. Although they look similar, wax paper and parchment paper are NOT the same. Using the wrong one could lead to dangerous consequences.

Wax Paper vs. Parchment Paper

Both wax paper and parchment paper are coated papers. They’re great for wrapping leftovers and food prep, but that’s where the similarities end. Here’s the best rule of thumb: Wax paper is great for all things cold while parchment paper can be used with heat.

What Is Wax Paper Used For?

Wax paper is coated in soybean or paraffin wax, and it should never be used in the oven. It melts at low heat, ruining your food and making a mess, and it could even ignite at higher heats!

Wax paper is typically coated on both sides. It’s nonstick and moisture-resistant, making it great for food prep. Placing a piece of wax paper on your counter before measuring messy ingredients, like flour and sugar, can make clean-up easy. Similarly, sifting your ingredients or grating cheese directly onto the paper before funneling them into the bowl simplifies the clean-up process. You can also use it for rolling out dough, icing cookies or pounding chicken cutlets into equal sizes.

It’s also great for wrapping sandwiches, butter, cheese and other foods. Layer a sheet of wax paper between foods you’re freezing to keep them from sticking together. Wax paper is also a great liner for no-bake treats, like one of these favorite no-bake dessert bars.

Find more genius ways to use wax paper.

What Is Parchment Paper Used For?

Like wax paper, parchment paper is nonstick, but its coating also makes it heat-resistant. This paper goes through a parchmentizing process, making it greaseproof, durable and heat- and moisture-resistant. Parchment paper can withstand temps up to 450°. It may darken, but it won’t burn.

Parchment paper is available in bleached (white) or unbleached (brown). It doesn’t matter which one you use, though unbleached has recently become popular as a pretty way to package food gifts.

Use parchment paper to line cake pans and pie pans to make clean-up easy. For a perfect fit, trace your pan on the paper before cutting. You may even find pre-cut rounds to fit your pans at the grocery store. Pro tip: Butter the pans before lining to help the parchment paper stick.

Parchment paper is also great for meatloaf, fish and vegetables. Lining the pans will prevent you from having to scrub crusted remnants. Or use parchment paper for baking cookies, which will make prep so much easier.

Check out additional ways to use parchment paper.

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Alexa Hackfort
Alexa is a writer who believes there’s always room for ice cream. Based in Milwaukee, she enjoys exploring the city, tackling new recipes and planning her next trip.