Can wax paper actually go in the oven?

Read this before your next bake

Published January 18, 2022 11:00AM (EST)

 (Julia Gartland / Food52)
(Julia Gartland / Food52)

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We've all done it, just admit it. You've put wax paper in the oven when you should have used parchment paper. Maybe you made a genuine mistake, or maybe you ran out of parchment paper in the kitchen and needed to find a swap fast. You thought to yourself, "Can wax paper go in the oven?" and then probably shrugged your shoulders and said, "Eh, it'll be fine." Except the you in this case is actually me. This is my memoir.

What is wax paper? 

First things first: What even is wax paper? It's paper that has been coated in a thin layer of paraffin wax, which makes it nonstick and moisture resistant, but not heat resistant. If the paraffin wax makes you feel concerned, don't worry — it's totally food-safe. And if it makes you feel better, the paper used to be dipped in earwax. Yes, literal earwax. So paraffin wax is a substantial improvement.

Can wax paper go in the oven? 

Wax paper and parchment paper seem like basically the same thing. They look the same, they're sold in the same section of the store, they're more or less the same price. So what's the difference? Parchment paper can go in the oven, but wax paper cannot go in the oven.

OK, I lie. Wax paper can go in the oven at a very, very low temperature for a very, very short period of time, but frankly nothing fits that criteria. If you put wax paper in a hot oven, it'll start to melt, just like wax, thus ruining your cake pans, baked goods, and likely your oven, too. The USDA says that wax paper can go in the microwave, but honestly, I wouldn't risk it.

TL;DR: No, wax paper cannot go in the oven. Wax paper is not designed to withstand high temperatures for a prolonged period of time. Plus it'll make your food all waxy!

What can you use instead? 

If you're looking for a nonstick surface for baked goods, stick to parchment paper or silicone baking mats, which prevent food from sticking and are totally oven-safe.

Is wax paper good for anything? 

Yes, I promise it is! You can use wax paper for anything that you're cooking or baking and leaving in the refrigerator or at room temperature (think homemade marshmallowschocolate bark, or even pre-rolled meatballs). Cut a piece of wax paper to fit the size of your pan and line baking sheets with an instant smooth, nonstick surface — parchment paper could never! (OK, it could, but wax is better!)

The other thing that wax paper is especially good for is rolling out dough. Place cookie or pie dough in between two sheets of wax paper to help create a smooth, even dough, sans any sticking to a rolling pin. Same goes for pounding meat like chicken or veal for homemade parmigiana. It's way less likely to crinkle, shrink, or just absolutely fall apart the way that plastic wrap does when you're pounding the meat.

You can also sift dry ingredients like all-purpose flour or confectioners' sugar directly onto wax paper, then fold it and pour it directly into a mixing bowl, forming a makeshift funnel.

Or use wax paper as deli wrap to wrap food such as sandwiches or meats to store in the refrigerator. This is where the nonstick, moisture-wicking coating comes in handy.

By Kelly Vaughan

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