The 8 Differences Between Parchment Paper And Aluminum Foil
Parchment paper and aluminum foil are two kitchen staples that most home cooks use daily. They are useful for everything from baking to grilling and roasting.
But, do you know how these two differ?
The difference between Parchment Paper And Aluminum Foil looks obvious, but things are not always that straightforward. If you do not understand what each is all about, it is easy to mess up your cooking.
It is vital to understand their differences and the best uses for each. This helps prevent disastrous consequences when you swap one for the other. And this is what this post is all about.
Keep reading to find out everything you need about parchment paper and foil.
Summary Table(quick glance)
|Parchment paper||Aluminum foil|
|Thickness||35 to 40 gsm||0.016 to 0.024 mm|
|Structure||Easy to cut and shape||Easy to cut |
|Health||No safety concerns||Safe unless you use it with acidic foods|
|Heat resistance||Up to 420℉||Up to 1,200°F|
|Nonstick properties||Yes |
(mostly only one side
has a nonstick coating)
|Baking||Yes||Not very suitable|
What is parchment paper?
Parchment or baking paper is versatile and heat-resistant paper found in most kitchens. It is a cellulose-based paper with a silicone layer that gives it non-stick properties.
You can get baking paper in bleached (white) and unbleached (brown) options. Also, it can come as a roll, in individual sheets, or in small pre-cut circles to fit different baking tin sizes.
- Non-stick surface – The non-stick silicone surface ensures food will come off easily and makes cleaning the bakeware a breeze.
- East to cut to size – Baking paper is easy to cut to size, and you can also cut it into any shape you want.
- Multifunctional – Most home cooks use parchment paper to line baking sheets and pans. But, it is still useful for various other things in the kitchen. They include covering countertops to prevent mess.
- Relatively expensive – Parchment paper is widely available and does not seem to cost much. Nonetheless, it is still more expensive than wax paper and aluminum foil.
- Single-use – Parchment paper is a single-use baking paper. This makes it even more expensive and bad for the environment as you dispose of a lot of it.
When to use parchment paper
1. Line baking sheets
Parchment paper is the best thing you can use to line a baking pan when making cakes, cookies, and pastries. Also, you can use it for any other food type you do not want to stick.
2. Bake on parchment paper
You can cut parchment paper to create pouches for baking foods for “en papillote” cooking. The most common dishes you can cook in these pouches are fish and pre-cut vegetable types.
3. Create simple DIY cupcake/muffin liners
You can still make your muffins and cupcakes even when you do not have trays or molds. Simply cut and shape the parchment paper to create cupcake liners. A simple online search should give you the necessary directions.
4. Separating sticky foods
Parchment paper can be highly useful when you want to cook anything sticky such as cookies or candy. It makes it easy to separate the food to ensure it cooks well without sticking to each other.
Pro Tip: Always apply nonstick spray on your baking sheets and pans before placing the parchment paper to ensure it does not roll up.
When not to use parchment paper
1. High heat cooking
Baking paper is heat resistant but not designed for high-heat cooking. And so, if you plan to cook anything at over 400°F, you should use aluminum foil.
2. When grilling
You should never use parchment and most other paper types when grilling. They cannot withstand exposure to direct heat and flames for extended periods. Using parchment paper on your grill is just a fire waiting to happen.
Can you put parchment in an air fryer?
Yes, it is okay to put baking paper in your air fryer. It can still be very useful for lining your cookware to ensure food comes out easily and to make cleanup a breeze. Also, parchment paper is useful for trapping food drippings when air frying.
But while it is okay to use parchment paper in an air fryer, many experts will not recommend doing it often. Parchment paper can block the airflow in an air fryer and affect how food cooks, and also create a fire hazard.
Here are some tips for using parchment paper in an air fryer safely:
- Always add the parchment paper at the same time you are adding food, so it does not stick out
- Ensure the parchment paper is not very close to the heating element
- Use the food to hold down the parchment paper
Can parchment paper go in the oven?
It is safe to put parchment paper in the oven. Most home cooks use it in the oven to line up their baking sheets. Others use it to prevent cookies and other pastries from sticking to each other when cooking.
That said, you need to know how to use parchment paper in the oven safely. For starters, the paper cannot handle extreme heat despite being heat resistant. If you plan to cook anything in the oven at over 400°F, parchment paper will not work for you.
Also, you should not put parchment paper in the oven when cooking anything that takes a long time. This increases the likelihood of the paper catching fire.
Best parchment paper substitutes
If you do not have wax paper or it does not seem to work well for your cooking, you can use several other alternatives. Depending on the specific use, you can use wax paper, aluminum foil, silicone mats, or even plastic wrap. Aluminum foil is the most common alternative; we will look at it in more detail in the next section.
Wax paper is like parchment paper, but unlike the latter, which has a silicone coating, it is coated with wax. The wax can be paraffin or soybean wax, making the paper non-stick. The best uses for wax paper are lining countertops when kneading and rolling out dough. But you can also use it to wrap foods for cold storage. You should not use it for high heat cooking, as any temperature above 200°F causes the wax to melt.
Silicone mats are high-quality baking mats made from fiberglass mesh and silicone (food-grade). They are non-stick, moisture resistant, and can withstand high heat (most can withstand upwards of 500°F). You can get these mats in different sizes and shapes to suit all your baking needs. Although they cost way more than parchment paper, they are reusable, meaning you can use one for years.
What is aluminum foil?
Aluminum foil is a versatile sheet of aluminum used for baking, roasting, and grilling. The thin and pliable sheets are also what many refer to as gold or tin foil.
Many home cooks use foil because it can withstand high heat and does not change food flavor. And besides cooking, it is also quite versatile as you can use it to store food and keep it fresh.
- High heat tolerance – Aluminum foil is the best for high heat cooking, whether baking or grilling. It can withstand up to 1,200°F before melting.
- Ensures even and better cooking – Foil traps heat and moisture. This ensures even cooking, and that food retains all its juices for better outcomes.
- Excellent barrier properties – Aluminum foil is one of the best barrier films you can get anywhere. It is impervious to moisture, gases, light, odor, and much more. This property ensures maximum protection for your food from these external elements.
- Multifunctional – Aluminum foil is similar to parchment paper in versatility. You can use it for everything from lining your baking pan and grills to wrapping and storing food.
- Easily torn – Despite being made from metal, it is easier to tear and poke holes in foil than parchment paper.
- Poor acid resistance – Foil will not hold up well to acids. It is not very useful for cooking or wrapping acidic foods like tomato soup as it can break down easily.
When to use aluminum foil
Aluminum foil is highly useful for grilling as it helps shield food from direct heat and smoke. This ensures more even cooking and prevent moisture loss. You can also form foil pockets for grilling delicate foods like precut veggies.
2. Keep food warm
Wrapping food in aluminum foil minimizes heat loss. And so foil ensures your food remains warm and juicy before serving.
3. Lining baking sheets
You can also use foil to line baking pans and sheets. It creates a non-stick surface that ensures food comes out easily. Foil is a better liner than parchment paper for high-temperature cooking methods such as broiling.
4. Catch dripping when cooking
Besides helping with the cooking, aluminum foil can also make cleaning your grill easier. Lining the bottom of your grill with aluminum foil allows it to catch the drippings for simpler cleanup afterward.
When not to use aluminum foil
1. When using a microwave
Like any other metal type, you should never put foil in the microwave. Using aluminum foil in the microwave can be hazardous.
2. Covering a casserole dish
Avoid covering casserole dishes with foil as it can affect the taste.
3. Cooking acidic dishes
Acidic dishes like tomato sauce can react with aluminum foil. You will likely end up with a lot of aluminum in the food.
Can you put aluminum foil in an air fryer?
It is safe to put aluminum foil in an air fryer. Foil can withstand more heat than the highest cooking temperature of any air fryer.
Nonetheless, like parchment paper, it is important to adhere to certain safety protocols. Here are a few key ones to keep in mind:
- Only put the aluminum foil in the basket where it will not be blown around
- Always make sure the foil is weighed down by the food
- Avoid pre-heating an air fryer when the basket is lined with aluminum foil
- Never use foil when air frying acidic foods
Can aluminum foil go in the oven?
Aluminum foil is what many cooks use when making baked goods in the oven as it can handle high temperatures. And so, it is safe to use aluminum foil in the oven regardless of the cooking temperature.
You can use foil to line a baking pan before placing it in the oven. Also, you can wrap your chicken and other meat roasts with foil for faster cooking, or cover food as it cooks in a bowl.
Best substitutes for aluminum foil
The best foil substitute for you depends on how you intend to use it. The obvious alternative is parchment paper, but it will not be ideal when cooking at high temperatures. Wax paper is also a good alternative for wrapping food when storing it in the freezer or lining surfaces when preparing food.
If you want something that can withstand high temperatures, go for silicone baking mats or cedar wraps. Silicone mats can withstand at least 500°F, which is good enough for grilling and most other forms of cooking.
Cedar wraps are perfect if you want an environment-friendly alternative. But they can also withstand high cooking temperatures and give foods a nice smoky flavor.
The cost largely depends on the quality of parchment paper/aluminum foil, size, thickness, and brand. And so it is not always easy to tell which costs more.
Aluminum foil vs parchment paper: health concerns
Both aluminum foil and parchment paper are perfectly safe for use when cooking. If you get something high-quality from a reputable brand, there is nothing to worry about.
But while the aluminum foil is safe, it can still leach small amounts of aluminum onto your food. Also, it can break down when cooking acidic food leading to higher doses of aluminum in your food. If you have concerns about your food containing too much aluminum, it is better to avoid using it.
How to choose between parchment paper and aluminum foil
If you cook a lot, it is better to have both aluminum foil and parchment and use what best suits what you are cooking. However, if you are unsure what to use, here are a few factors to consider:
1. Cooking temperature
Your cooking temperature should be the biggest consideration when choosing between these two. If you are cooking at low to medium heat at a temperature of under 400℉, you can use either with no issues. However, foil is best if you cook at a temperature higher than this, such as when broiling or grilling. Foil can withstand more heat.
2. What you are cooking
What you are cooking also determines what to use. If you are roasting or grilling something that you want to end up with a slight char, aluminum foil is perfect. Parchment paper is better if you are baking cookies or other pastries. It ensures they end up with a nice brown color without burning.
3. Nonstick properties
Parchment paper is the better choice if nonstick properties are your main concern. There are also nonstick aluminum foils. And you can also spray the regular types with a little oil to ensure the food does not stick. But they will still not work well as parchment paper.
4. Structure flexibility
Aluminum foil and parchment paper are flexible materials that you can fold, cut, and shape. Still, aluminum foil is easier to fashion. You can manipulate it into any shape or force it into the tightest corners of your oven.
5. Appliances you will be using
The appliance you will be using also matters a lot. If most of your cooking will involve a microwave oven, aluminum foil is not a good choice. But, if you use an oven and grill a lot, aluminum foil is better than parchment. Foil can tolerate higher temperatures for extended periods.
6. Personal preferences
Lastly, you should also consider your personal preferences. If you have used aluminum foil and baking paper at some point, chances are you have a preference. For example, many home cooks prefer aluminum foil when roasting foods for extra browning. Others prefer parchment paper for softer and more delicate preparations.
Parchment paper vs aluminum foil when cooking different foods
The specific food you want to cook is one of the main determinants of what you use. Here is a quick overview of some common foods and what you should use:
- Chicken – Chicken takes longer to cook, and the temperature is also higher. Aluminum foil will hence be the better option.
- Brisket – You can use either foil or parchment paper when cooking brisket, as each has its merits. For example, foil speeds up cooking, but paper allows smoke to pass for a more intense flavor.
- Bacon – Parchment paper is the preferred option for cooking bacon in the oven. And this is thanks to its nonstick properties. But, you can still use nonstick aluminum foil with no problem.
Is parchment paper better than foil for baking?
When baking, the choice between these two depends on the temperature and what you want to bake. If baking at high temperatures, aluminum foil is the better option. Parchment paper is a good option for baking sticky foods and separating pastries as they bake.
Is wax paper the same as parchment paper?
No, the two are not the same. Although most people confuse and sometimes use them interchangeably, they differ in the coating type. Wax paper has a wax coating, while parchment paper has a silicone coating.
What is baking paper?
Baking paper is another name for parchment paper. Nonetheless, you should not confuse it with other cooking paper types like butter paper or bakery paper (wax paper).
Does aluminum foil help improve heat distribution when cooking?
Aluminum is very effective at enhancing heat distribution for even cooking. The material has reflective properties that act as a barrier to oxygen and light. The property ensures it reflects thermal energy back to the food from all angles. This ensures heat distributes evenly across all food surfaces covered by the foil.
Will aluminum foil get toxic when cooking at high temperatures?
Aluminum will not leak toxins into your food even when cooking at high temperatures. The only thing that can cause the aluminum to degrade and break down is cooking acidic foods.
How long can parchment paper and aluminum foil stay in an air fryer oven?
It depends on the cooking temperature. If you are cooking at a temperature of over 400℉, you can only use parchment paper for a few minutes before it burns. But, tin foil can hold up for an unlimited amount of time as it can withstand up to 1200℉
All you need to know about aluminum foil and parchment paper. The difference between these two should now be clear. And so you should not have any difficulties deciding what to use.
What do you prefer to use between these two? Let me know in the comments section. And keep sharing the article to inform other home cooks!
My love for food was influenced by my brother, a chef at a 2-star Michelin restaurant, and we often exchange food knowledge together. It’s been 12 years since I first stepped into the kitchen, and with my vast experience and expertise, I will share many ideas on how to make dishes more delicious!