Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Parchment Paper, Tin Foil, Waxed Paper or Plastic Wrap

In writing my cookbook Every Kitchen Tells Its Stories - Recipes to Warm the Heart, I've been fortunate to have people from all around the world do some recipe testing for me. And they've come back with some interesting questions that I thought I would share here.

The first question was about using parchment paper and what to substitute if you don't have any. So to answer that I thought I'd share some insights on the various forms of wrappings/coverings out there and what they are best used for.

Parchment Paper = treated paper that can be used in the oven.
  • It will not burn (although it did take me a long time to get up the courage to try it out. After all, intuitively we know that paper burns);
  • It's great to line cookie sheets and cake tins so food doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan;
    It makes cleanup a breeze;
  • You can make them into pouches and steam bake dishes. Fish fillets do exceptionally well this way. Just add some herbs and spices, seal the pouch and bake. You can even add rice to it to create an all-in-one meal. The French call it en papillotte. In the comments, someone asked where they can find unbleached parchment paper. So for the environmentally friendly folks, you can buy it at Whole Foods or on line at Amazon - click here - unbleached parchment
  • Substitutions - tin foil/aluminum foil
    Do not use waxed paper or plastic wrap – they will melt! Although waxed paper can be used to line cake tins as long as all the waxed paper is covered. In other words, fine for cake batter, not fine for cookies.
Tin foil = also called aluminum foil or foil wrap.
  • It’s a great substitute for parchment paper as a liner for cookie sheets (I wouldn’t use it to line cake pans though); this makes it so easy to quickly swap pans for large amounts of cookie making.
  • Works quite well to wrap things like meat loaf, lasagna leftovers…solid foods like ribs, chicken, etc. It will even do well in the freezer, although I favor zip lock baggies myself.
Plastic wrap = sheer clingy wrap, primarily used to store food in the fridge.
  • I love this particularly for keeping homemade pesto fresh and green and ice cream free from frost for long periods of time. All you have to do is make sure the wrap is touching the surface of the food. It seals out all excess moisture that’s usually trapped in the air between the food and the lid.
  • I also have used this to create a form for David’s favorite meat loaf, for example, that has three layers. You line the loaf pan with plastic wrap, because it’s so flexible and molds to the shape so easily. Pour in half the meat loaf filling, then a layer of cooked spinach and top with another layer of meat loaf. Then flip the whole thing over onto a tin foil lined cookie sheet with a lipped edge. Once you carefully unmold the the meatloaf onto the cookie sheet you gently remove the plastic wrap BEFORE baking. Coat the meatloaf with your favorite steak sauce or mustard and bake. The meat loaf will keep its shape and get brown and crispy all over.
Waxed paper = wax coated paper
  • I personally only use this to cover vegetables that I want to steam in the microwave. It’s amazing. Just put your veggies in a dish, add about 1 tbsp water, loosely cover with waxed paper and heat on high for a few minutes. You’ll have perfectly steamed vegetables every time.
Please email me any of your questions, and if I don't have the answer, I'll certainly try find it for you.

Related links:


Elizabeth said...

Please excuse my verbosity.

Parchment Paper - I love parchment paper and can't think what I did without it! Two of the things I really love about it is:

1.) It can be reused several times

2.) When it is too full of holes to be used yet again, it can be put into the green bin or composter. (At least, that is what I've been given to understand.)

Aluminum Foil - I do not understand the widespread use of this in North America. Sure, it has its uses, nicely outlined by you. But it cannot be recycled and is yet another thing being added in copious quantities to our overburdened landfill. Every time I hear that someone is "barbecuing" by placing something in foil, I shriek.

Waxed Paper - Cannot be put into the green bin. But it's great for wrapping cheese. It keeps enough air out to stop the cheese from drying but doesn't seal it completely so that the cheese is killed.

I do use waxed paper to line the bottom of the caketins when I bake a layered shortcake at Christmas. As long as the waxed paper is covered by the cake, it doesn't burn. Nor does it impart any weird taste to the cake.

Silpat or silicone sheets I just got a silpat. It really doesn't stick. But unfortunately, if one puts high fat items on it, the silpat takes on the smell of whatever has been baked. I baked cinnamon buns on the silpat and a few days later I baked cheese cookies that smelled of cinnamon....

However, if whatever is baked has little fat, this stuff is fabulous.


Ruth Daniels said...

Elizabeth, thanks for the details. I think that aluminum foil goes back the longest. I only use it when there aren't any other options.

As to the silpat - it's very expensive alternative to parchment paper, but thanks for all the good insights.

Elizabeth said...

Silicone baking sheets I agree that silpat is pricey. And I gather that it can only be used a certain number of times before it stops being nonstick (don't know the exact number - something like 5 years of normal household use - whatever that is). Because it is made of silicone coated fibreglass, it also cannot be used if it becomes damaged. And it is supposed to be stored flat - a bit of a drag. (The only reason I have one is because it was given to me for Christmas.)

But apparently, there are several other flexible silicone mats available now that have lifetime warrantees AND are not constructed from coated fibreglass the way that silpat is. I have a silicone bread baking "tin" for which I paid around $12 at that really good kitchenware store in St.Lawrence Market. Granted, $12 seems steep but it means that I do not have to use parchment paper or grease the pan. It's completely washable and safe to 600F. (One has to look carefully at the label of these silicone baking products. Some of them are only safe to 500F - which can be iffy for bread baking.) I use it as a liner inside one of my crummy metal baking tins. One can supposedly use it on its own but the sides are too flexible so the rising bread dough pushes out the sides.

So yes, the silicone flexible bakeware is on the expensive side but for those who bake a lot, it may well be worth it. I must say I do like the idea of fewer things to be throwing in the garbage. Who knows how long we're going to get away with shipping our garbage out of Toronto? (Not to mention what some of this stuff is doing to our ground water)

Parchment Paper Do you happen to know where one can buy unbleached parchment paper in Toronto? I have been buying no-name parchment paper rolls but have seen cautionary notes in various cookbooks about the need to use unbleached. Any thoughts on that?


Ruth Daniels said...

Elizabeth, thanks for the info on silicone baking sheets.

I still think I'll stick to parchment, but thanks for the info for my readers.

I'm not sure where to fine unbleached parchment, but I'll hunt around and let you know what I find.

Ruth Daniels said...

ejm - I did some hunting and found unbleached parchment paper at Whole Foods. I've also added a link in the body of the post to buy some on-line.

Elizabeth said...

Many thanks for that, Ruth. I keep hearing about Wholefoods but still haven't been. (The Hazelton Lanes address has put me off a bit - fear of high high prices.)


P.S. I have to say that I'm pretty much a parchment paper fan myself. But I keep hoping to find a reasonable alternative that won't need to be thrown away.

Ruth Daniels said...

Elizabeth, Whole Foods IS more expensive, but it does have excellent organic products that are hard to find elsewhere.

The parchment paper was around $7.

Anonymous said...

Most people use foil in the US because they either don't know about parchment paper, think it's out of date or think it will burn or like me can't FIND it in any store I've been to. I'm not ordering the stuff from the internet and paying shipping when foil is right here. Besides, foil folds, seals and shapes anyway you want it to. Parchment paper is , uh... flat.

Dan said...

Thanks Ruth!

I just wanted to clarify your meatloaf suggestion - do you mean to say that you cook the meatloaf with the plastic wrap still on? I would be too afraid of leaching chemicals, or even simply melting.

Do excuse me if I simply misread the comment, but I would be interested to know if plastic wrap were oven-safe!


Ruth Daniels said...

Dan, so glad you caught that! The plastic wrap is only used as a mold to make the layers in the loaf pan. Once you carefully unmold the the meatloaf onto the cookie sheet you gently remove the plastic wrap BEFORE baking.