Something that many people realize as they begin baking is that there are many, many different parts that are needed to create the perfect outcome.
Not only are you going to want to make sure you have all of the different ingredients needed for your recipe, but there’s a good chance you are going to need a fair amount of baking equipment as well.
Baking equipment can range from tens of different measuring cups and spoons to measure out the exact amount of ingredients that you need, to simply having a high-end mixer to help you bring everything together into the perfect batter.
Baking equipment can also include materials to help things be a little bit easier, such as when you are removing baked goods from the oven. For example, rather than trying to scrape off a cookie that has baked onto your baking sheet, you are generally going to want to use parchment paper.
Parchment paper is the most common thing that people use to make it easier on themselves to remove whatever they are baking from the baking sheet. More often than not, the baked goods don’t stick to the parchment paper and the parchment paper doesn’t stick to the baking sheet.
This not only saves you a fair amount of time trying to scrape your baked goods off the baking sheet, but it can also preserve the shape and design of your baked goods, as you won’t have to fight with them to get them off the sheet.
Parchment paper is also sometimes used for separating portions of dough out. One common example is when you want to separate cookie dough in the fridge so you have perfect cookie-sized portions of dough.
People will generally use parchment paper as a nonstick way of separating pieces of dough that would otherwise want to stick together.
With that being said, there may come a time when you realize you need to bake something and you don’t have any parchment paper to use. It could be that you simply misjudged how much parchment paper you had left, or it could be that you are trying to find a reusable alternative so you aren’t producing as much waste with the paper.
No matter what your reason is, you can rest assured knowing there are quite a few different alternatives to consider depending on what you are using the parchment paper for. Some alternatives may be more expensive for the item itself, but may be reusable so it effectively pays itself off.
Other alternatives may not be as effective, but may be suitable in a pinch when you have to have baked goods by a deadline and cannot spare the time to pick up more parchment paper.
What About Wax Paper?
A lot of people see wax paper as a substitute for parchment paper, and to some degree, this is true.
Wax paper has a lot of the same nonstick properties as parchment paper and it is also somewhat less expensive. For lining countertops and areas where you are using messy ingredients, such as flour, wax paper can be a wonderful alternative.
However, wax paper should never, ever be used in a situation where there is going to be heat. Wax paper has no heat resistance, meaning that when it begins to heat up, the wax coating on the paper is going to begin to melt.
This can result in anything from your food becoming waxy to a fire in the oven.
For all situations that don’t involve any degree of heat, wax paper can work well as an alternative. As soon as you get to the part of baking where you need to put the paper into the oven, wax paper becomes one of the worst alternatives that you can use and it should not be considered interchangeable with parchment paper.
Parchment Paper Alternatives in a Pinch
There may come a time when you realize you have forgotten to pick up more parchment paper and you need to have your baked goods done by a particular time.
This may leave you feeling flustered, as you don’t have enough parchment paper for your baked goods, but you also don’t have enough time to get some at the store. Here are a few alternatives that will work in a tight situation such as this one.
Consider using aluminum foil. It functions quite well with lining baking sheets, pots, and pans in the same way that parchment paper does, meaning that you won’t need to worry about cleaning up and scrubbing down your dishes as much.
When using aluminum foil, you will need to be aware that because aluminum is a metal that is good at conducting heat (unlike parchment paper), the parts of your baked goods that are touching the sheet will begin to bake faster.
You may be left with overly brown or crispy food when using this sheet, and unfortunately, you can’t really cut down on the time as the top and inside of the goods will need to cook thoroughly as well.
You will also need to remember to grease the cookies so they do not stick to the sheet, otherwise you will be left with the same problem as using no parchment paper at all and the cookies will stick to the foil, making a mess for you to clean up.
When all is said and done, aluminum foil isn’t the best substitute, but in a pinch, it will get the job done. Remember to use a slightly lower temperature and slightly shorter cooking time so you do not overcook your baked goods.
If you have tin foil, this works fundamentally the same as aluminum foil, so it can also be used in this situation as well.
Parchment Paper Alternatives for Long-Term Use
If you do not want to waste paper by always having to get rid of used parchment paper, you might find yourself in the market for a long-term solution to parchment paper in baking. The best solution for you in this situation is going to be a silicone baking mat.
Keep in mind that, upfront, these are going to be much more expensive than a sheet of parchment paper; however, a single baking mat can easily last for years if it is properly taken care of.
As the name suggests, a silicone baking mat is a mat that is made from silicone. This leaves it flexible and heat resistant, as well as a nonstick surface.
You can use it as a liner to prevent messes on a countertop and you can also use it to make sure that your baked goods do not stick to a baking sheet once you put them in the oven.
The only downsides to a silicone baking mat is that they cannot be used for steaming baked goods, and if you have multiple different sized baking sheets that you use, you are going to have to buy additional silicone mats to fit them, as you cannot really resize the baking mat without it losing functionality.
While this may get expensive over time, it will be worth it as each silicone baking mat can last quite a while if you take good care of it.
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.