Why Parchment Paper Is a Must-Have for Cooks

Often it’s the little things that make a big difference in cooking, and whether you’re roasting vegetables or baking cookies, steaming fish or sifting dry baking ingredients, nothing makes life easier than parchment paper.

Treated with a food-safe coating that makes the paper non-stick and heat resistant, most parchment paper can be used safely in the oven up to 400 to 450°F, although you always should check manufacturer instructions. It is ideal for roasting vegetables, cooking delicate cuts of meat, fish and poultry, and lining cookie sheets or cake pans (cut the paper yourself or purchase pre-cut parchment rounds to fit standard cake pans).

Lay a piece of parchment on your counter, and you have a nonstick surface perfect for rolling pizza dough (plus a convenient way to transport the pizza in and out of the oven). And when a cake or pastry recipe calls for ingredients to be sifted, instead of working over a bowl with less-than-ample surface area, sift ingredients onto a flat piece of parchment paper, then fold and pour into the bowl.

When freezing foods, pieces of parchment paper can help separate portions, such as hamburger or vegetable patties. That way the food can be easily separated, allowing the cook to prepare only the amount needed. An added bonus; no annoying pieces of paper will stick to the food.

Parchment can also be used as a pastry bag. Cut the paper into a circle and then roll it into a cone. Scoop in the filling, cut the cone point to make a tip and it’s ready to go!

How to Cook “En Papillote”

Step 1
Cut parchment paper into sheets, approximately 12×16 inches, then fold each piece in half lengthwise. Trace a half of a heart onto each piece, using the fold as the center of the heart.

Step 2
Cut along the traced edge. (You did it correctly if you open the folded paper and see a full heart.

Step 3
On one-half of each parchment heart place the contents of your pouch

Step 4
To seal the packets, begin by folding over the heart.

Step 5
Beging making small folds up the open sides of the parchment.

Step 6
Before fully sealing, fill each packet with 2 tablespoons of white wine. Fold to close.

Eco-Friendly Options

For environmentally conscious cooks, parchment paper’s resiliency makes it possible to use more than once—especially in baking applications. In addition, you can find parchment paper that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, is made of recycled materials, is unbleached and uses a silicone-based coating instead of Quilon, which contains the heavy metal chromium (safe for food but toxic when incinerated). Another option is baking mats, which come in a variety of sizes and require little maintenance. While they don’t do the trick for lining deep dishes or making roasting pouches, a baking mat can make cookie baking a little less messy.

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Sara Haas
Sara Haas, RDN, LDN, is a Chicago-based dietitian and co-author of the Fertility Foods Cookbook. Read her blog, The Cooking RD, and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.