Why Parchment Paper is Our Kitchen MVP

This simple kitchen tool is the key to better baking, poaching, and even air-frying.

Parchment paper
Parchment paper. Photo:

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One of the most beloved tools in restaurant kitchens is the simple stack of parchment paper positioned near the oven. It helps ensure baking sheets stay clean, prevents baked goods from over-browning and sticking to the pan, keeps poaching liquids from evaporating, and can be used as a sling around bread dough or cheesecake to help release them from the pan. You can even use it to line the basket of your air fryer. Here’s what you need to know about this kitchen workhorse.

How to Buy Parchment Paper

Parchment paper is a non-stick paper that is moisture and grease-resistant, and made to withstand temperatures up to 450°F. You can find it sold in rolls or flat sheets. Flat sheets are easier to use, since they don’t curl up (pro tip: store the stack of parchment paper sheets on top of your refrigerator). Keep in mind that parchment is not the same as wax paper. Wax paper is not made to withstand heat and should not be used in baking.  

How to Use Parchment Paper While Baking

Parchment paper is invaluable when you need to use and reuse baking sheets, or are working with a baked good that is sticky. Place a sheet of parchment paper over your baking sheet; associate food editor Kelsey Youngman keeps her parchment paper in place by using dabs of batter on each corner of the baking sheet. You can also use all-metal binder clips to hold the parchment in place. Or, take a cue from our culinary director at large Justin Chapple, and cut slits in the corners of your parchment paper to hold it in place. Chapple has a different trick for lining round cake pans with parchment, one straight from bakery kitchens. 

You can reuse parchment paper for multiple batches of cookies or bread as long as it is clean. You’ll know when your parchment paper is done; it will turn dark and brittle.

Use Parchment for a Better Poach

Parchment paper also helps prevent liquids from evaporating when you are simmering or poaching something on the stove. Use Chapple’s trick for cutting a circle of parchment to the exact size you need to make a cartouche, or “false lid” of parchment, and place directly on top of the food. The parchment paper lid keeps the surface of what you are cooking from developing a skin, while it ensures even poaching, steaming or braising. 

Line Your Air Fryer to Make Cleanup Easier

You can line the basket of your air fryer to minimize clean-up after. Cut the piece of parchment to make it slightly smaller than the basket, so it does not prevent the flow of air when you cook. Use parchment paper designed specifically for the air fryer with perforated holes, or use a hole punch to add holes to a sheet of regular parchment. Be sure to let the air fryer preheat first, and add parchment just before you place food in the basket. Be sure to check your air fryer manufacturer’s instructions to check the temperature limits and other guidelines.

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