Just as you can bake biscuits without baking powder, you can also bake cookies without the need to use parchment paper. The main reason why people use parchment paper is to ensure an easier cleanup.
Therefore, if this is your main concern, you should use heavy foil instead of parchment to reduce cleanup time. If you want to bake the way that some professionals do, you may want to grease the pan instead.
The following information gives you alternatives based on your baking preferences and needs.
1 – Using a Silicone Pan
Instead of using an aluminum pan, you might consider using a silicone pan. While many people think that silicone is a non-stick material, they are wrong in their assumption.
You still have to grease the pan in most instances. While silicone is stick-resistant, many recipes call for adding oil or grease.
Nevertheless, these pans should be used alongside aluminum pans in the kitchen as they are must-have cooking accessories. Not only are they heat-resistant but they clean up easily and can be used in the microwave, freezer, refrigerator, and dishwasher.
If you don’t grease a silicone pan, your cookies may stick. Therefore, it is best to grease the pan lightly. Also, it is helpful to note what tends to stick or does not stick to bakeware. If your cookies are lighter weight and lower in fat, they will stick more easily to silicone.
However, if they contain more butter and volume, they won’t stick as easily. Moreover, cookies stick less than baked goods such as muffins or cakes.
If your silicone pans feature grooves or ridges, your baked goods are more likely to stick. Bits and pieces are more likely to get caught inside the grooves.
Think of it this way — if your baked product crumbles easily, it will stick more easily when it is baked.
Grease a silicone pan with a vegetable oil such as canola oil or use a nonstick cooking spray. Don’t use butter as it is hard to apply. Plus, if you over-grease a pan, it is difficult to remove the stuck-on residue when washing it.
Use a pastry brush when greasing the pan with oil as it will distribute oil inside the corners. You can also use a paper towel if no brush is available.
When using a brush, use a gentle approach. You don’t want to end up with a bristle or two in your recipe.
2 – Using Heavy-Duty Foil
As suggested, foil can also be used instead of parchment if you want a similar substitute. You should grease the foil or use an oil or spray to make sure that you can remove your cookies easily. When applying the foil, neatly smooth it into the inner corners of your pan.
Because baking sheets are usually made of aluminum, aluminum foil achieves about the same results as baking on the pan. However, cleanup becomes much easier. All you have to do is lift off the foil after baking.
Therefore, you don’t have to wash the baking sheet. Make sure that the foil is heavy-duty so it won’t rip while you are removing the cookies. You can also use foil that is non-stick, which works almost as well as parchment.
On a related note, see how baking sheets differ from cookie sheets.
3 – Greasing an Aluminum Baking Pan
If you aren’t as worried about quick cleanup and want to follow more professional baking methods, you may want to grease an aluminum baking pan. This old-school approach is often used when you have a batter that tends to stick more easily.
If you are making cookies that stubbornly stick to baking sheets, you may want to use a solid fat such as butter or shortening.
While butter lends more flavor to a recipe, shortening will keep the pan from burning. Therefore, you may want to use shortening if your recipe calls for a higher temperature.
Some bakers do not like using hydrogenated fats. If you are vegan or don’t like to use shortening or butter, you can always use coconut oil, which serves as an excellent substitute.
If you want to add extra protection against sticking, you might do as some professional bakers do and add some flour.
Apply the flour with a large spoon, sprinkling it on top of the grease. Get rid of the excess and add the cookie mix. Using flour also helps you see if you missed any spots when greasing your pan.
4 – Mix up Your Own Anti-Stick Spread
You can expedite baking by creating your own anti-stick spread if you run out of parchment paper. Measure equal parts of oil, shortening, and flour and mix the concoction manually or with a stand mixer.
You can keep the mix in your fridge so you have it available if your parchment is running low. Again, you can spread this mix with either a paper towel or a pastry brush.
5 – Using Silicone Mats
You can also use silicone mats (I’ve personally had good luck with this basic set) instead of pans and place them on your aluminum baking pans. Just as with the silicone pans, you should oil or grease the mat if the recipe calls for it.
Your cookies will not form crusts when using the mats or pans as they do with parchment. However, you won’t have to worry too much about cleanup if you use the mats.
6 – Not Using Anything
For some recipes, you won’t need to use parchment paper so a replacement is not needed. For example, some cookie recipes direct you not to grease the baking sheet.
Besides cookies, this also holds true for baked goods such as sponge cake and angel food cake. These cakes need to adhere to a pan’s sides during baking. Greasing the pan will prevent them from rising up on each side.
Therefore, carefully review your recipes before baking to note the requirements for greasing a pan. In most instances, it is important to prevent sticking. However, as you can see, there are exceptions to the rule.
While parchment paper is used in a large number of cookie recipes, you can still make do with certain substitutes. The best way to ensure that you have what you need is to take an inventory regularly.
Also check to see what you have on hand before you bake. If you notice that your baking paper is running low, you may want to use another recipe or see what else you have on hand.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.