6 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Using Parchment Paper

Are you someone who can't take the heat of the kitchen? Perhaps you've dealt with too many sticky messes, too many burned creations, and altogether have found that cooking incites an impassioned desire to hurl your baking sheet out the window. If you've felt a similar frustration, you are not alone. Thankfully, parchment paper is here to save the day! (Or, at least the meal.)

Parchment paper is a useful kitchen "must-have" that has helped chefs and bakers since the 1800s when the first non-animal variety was introduced. Parchmentpaper.com provides the history of this useful cooking tool and tells us that originally, it was created with sulfuric acid, water, and ammonia. While those ingredients are not particularly appetizing, it has thankfully come a long way since then. Now, most varieties you find are made with cellulose (wood fibers) and coated in silicone. The benefit of its current composition is that silicone is heat resistant, grease resistant, and perfect for neat and tidy preparation! This is much more appealing than having 1800s ammonia leaching into your food!

A key to making the most of parchment paper is knowing how and when to use it! With proper techniques, it can make your cooking and baking ventures a tidy breeze. Just be careful to avoid these common mistakes.

1. Using it at the wrong temperature

Parchment paper is an excellent tool for baking and can be used for anything from cookies to cakes, and entrees. It is oven-safe, but not all temperatures are created equal. This likely doesn't come as too much of a surprise, considering parchment paper is, well, paper. According to the label on Reynold's brand parchment paper, it is oven safe and well-equipped to withstand temperatures up to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. The risk of cooking at higher temps comes fraught with the likelihood of starting a fire. (And not the trendy, "wow, your cooking is fire!" kind).

If you want to avoid the risk of destruction and drama in the kitchen, play it safe and keep your parchment paper creations to temperatures under 425 degrees Fahrenheit. If your recipe demands a higher temperature, opt for an alternative liner like aluminum foil, or just cook straight onto the baking sheet or dish. This isn't quite as easy to clean, but it won't burst into flames and ruin your evening, so that's worth something.

2. Not cutting it down to size

Another common mistake people make with parchment paper is forgetting to cut it down to size. By cutting your parchment to fit your pan or dish, you make sure the lining will be even, and also help to reduce waste.

Some recipes benefit from the lining method more than others. For example, when you line a cake pan with a large piece of parchment, it is best to trim it so that it just fits on the bottom. If you use a full piece of paper without trimming it down, you may end up with extra paper hanging out of the sides of your pan. This can result in burnt edges on your paper, and potentially creases in your cake if the paper fits awkwardly into the bottom of the pan. To achieve a smooth finish on all sides, make sure you cut it down to just fit in the pan, like Blue Flame Kitchen demonstrates.

For a round dish, for example, you'd cut out a disc shape that lies flat on the pan's base. This helps to avoid a "soggy bottom," as the "Great British Baking Show" judges would say, and this method ensures that you won't lose any of your beautiful cake's surface to the pan. Additionally, it helps keep any grease or runoff on the paper, versus having it seep into the actual pan. This will give you an easy clean because you can simply remove the paper and not even need to wash the pan.

3. Forgetting to fold the edges

In addition to lining your dish for easy cleanup, sometimes it is also handy to fold your meal into a parchment paper packet! (Try saying that five times fast). According to Food Network, this technique is known as "En Papillote," which means "in paper" in French. You can also refer to it as "Al Cartoccio" which is the Italian translation.

Certain dishes may do best in this sort of pouch, where you bundle up the ingredients into the parchment paper, and then seal the edges to keep all of the goodness inside. This works especially well for entrees involving meat and vegetables. When you want all of the flavors to integrate and cook together with minimal mess, a parchment paper packet might be just the ticket! 

To accomplish this, you would lay the parchment paper flat, and place your ingredients and seasonings into the center. Then, you would fold up the edges, create a tent at the top, and fold or crimp the edges all around. Make sure that you fold them a couple of times to avoid any leakage, and voila! You will gain the result of a clean pan, and yummy, integrated flavors.

Finally, top it all off with a fancy announcement that you have prepared your meal "En Papillote!" If you're cooking for a date who doesn't speak French, then in addition to delicious food, you get to serve up a dish of cultured mystery and intrigue. Magnifique!

4. Leaving the wrong side facing up

Just like you want your culinary prowess to shine, the parchment paper should as well! Make sure to keep the shiny side facing upward when you cook with parchment paper. This is the silicone/nonstick side, and therefore the side that the food should have contact with. The US Department of Agriculture explains that parchment paper (as we mentioned earlier), is mostly made of cellulose. Parchment paper has no smell or taste, and is usually made from plant fibers like cotton or wood. Most parchment paper today is made from chemical wood pulp. The waxy or slick coating is often made from silicone, although some brands use other ingredients to cater to specific needs.

By keeping the slippery side facing upward, the food should easily come off when it's time to serve up your meal. If you forget and flip the paper the wrong way, remain calm. Your meal will likely still turn out okay, but won't necessarily be as clean to remove.

5. Using it only once

Waste not, want not! Many people make the mistake of using their parchment paper once and then tossing it. As King Arthur Baking Company tells us, you can easily and safely use a sheet of parchment paper more than once. Considering it is often used for low-mess foods, more times than not, you can simply brush it off or wipe it off, and use it again.

This tactic works especially well with cookies and similar baked goods. They usually don't leave much of a mess behind after cooking, and may just leave you with a few crumbs. This is a perfect instance where you should reuse, and recycle! Even if your parchment paper's edges got slightly burnt or singed, it should still be safe to reuse. While parchment paper is not outrageously expensive, it is still valuable to save where we can, by reusing it when it's appropriate.

To know when it's time to finally say farewell to a piece of parchment, King Arthur Baking Company recommends that you pay attention to when it starts to crack or become brittle. Once it starts to fall apart on you, it is best to throw it out. Until then, reduce, reuse, and recycle. You can save some money, and maybe even save the world by going green with this tiny habit!

6. Thinking there is only one kind

Did you know that there are different kinds of parchment paper? While you may only see a few brands during a general shopping trip, there are actually several unique options to choose from when you want to get a fresh roll of parchment paper.

Most people are aware of traditional brands like Reynolds, Glad, and store-specific brands, but there are several other, lesser-known brands as well. Buyifyoucare is a great organization that caters to all of the eco-conscious individuals out there. The brand offers parchment paper like this one, which is bleach-free, chlorine-free, and does not involve any animal testing. It also places a strong emphasis on maintaining ethical production practices and making sure that their manufacturing locations do not contribute to the pollution of lakes, rivers, or streams. 

Another lesser-known parchment paper is the compostable kind! Kana sells several parchment paper options that you can add to your garden's compost bin once you're done using it. Additionally, it makse its parchment from 50% recycled materials. If you're the type of person who has reused your parchment sheet until it fell apart, and still feels bad about its remains going to a landfill, just know that compostable and sustainably-created parchment paper is out there for you!

In addition to the specifically-marketed compostable paper, Help Me Compost explains along with some useful tips, you can also (usually) compost parchment paper as long as it is unbleached, unwaxed brown paper, and fairly clean.