You’ll notice that most baking recipes these days call for lining a pan with parchment paper. It is widely available, but can you substitute it with similar looking wax paper if you don’t already keep it in your kitchen? The short answer here is that wax paper may look similar to parchment paper, but it is quite different, and it is not ideal for baking.
Wax paper is coated with a thin layer of wax to make it water resistant. It is often used in the kitchen for food storage purposes, since something wrapped in wax paper will stay much fresher than something wrapped in a non-waterproof material. While it is not nonstick in the same way that silicone-treated parchment paper is nonstick, the wax makes it nonstick, so it is a good choice for rolling out pie or cookie dough.
But as useful as it is, it is not a good choice for baking. At high temperatures, the wax on the paper can melt and will transfer to whatever you are baking. The food grade wax is not toxic, but it’s a good idea to keep it out of your baked goods. The wax will transfer to your baking sheet and may require additional cleaning. The wax also has a fairly low smoke point, which means that any exposed wax paper will smoke while it is in the oven and there is a possibility that, if you are cooking something that requires a very long baking time or very high temperature, the paper could actually catch fire. If you use wax paper to line the bottom of a cake pan, it will not smoke but you will still have wax transfer.
Stick to parchment paper – which is reusable, completely nonstick and is generally heat resistant to around 450F – for your baking needs, or simply fall back onto an even older technique to prevent sticking: lightly greasing a pan with oil. I also like to line the pan with aluminum foil and lightly grease that to minimize the amount of cleanup you need to do after baking.
Wendy (The Local Cook)March 3, 2010
I never thought about that before, but waxed paper does kind of skeeve me out. I use stoneware for baking that I’ve had so long it’s definitely nonstick!
The Cooking NinjaMarch 3, 2010
Interesting post. I never realized it before but then again, I never used waxed paper. 🙂 I do use aluminum foil for baking fish.
JoyMarch 3, 2010
I always thought wax paper was ok to use. Though I have had smoke coming out of my oven due to the residue. I thought I was doing something wrong. Thank you for the information.
Green BakerMarch 3, 2010
While lining your pan with aluminum foil and then lightly spraying it with oil does create an easy-clean-up, it is not environmentally friendly! Aluminum foil is usually not acceptable by recycling facilitors/collectors.
Just spraying your pan directly, or using a non-stick silcone baking mat, and then washing the pan or mat for re-use is a more environmentally friend method – and both options, the sprayed pan or the oil-free silicone baking mat, work very well!
lonaMarch 3, 2010
Grandmother lined her cake pans with wax paper for easy removal. Her fruit cake pans were lined with oiled, brown paper sacks. She was an amazing baker and never had trouble with waxpaper or brown paper…long before the introduction of parchment paper or silicon sprays.
BrianneJanuary 13, 2013
Thanks for the post. I was thinking about how to get the look of tulip paper liners for cupcake types of things & was curious if hamburger patty papers would work. They’re the perfect size. Anyway… thanks for posting this a while back so I could confirm the bad idea to bake with wax paper thought. Well… it was ALMOST a good idea! 😉
PeteJanuary 29, 2013
Man, my meatballs were smoking and I suspected it was the wax paper. Thanks for posting this! You cleared up my confusion.
JohnDecember 23, 2013
I would not suggest using wax paper, the real alternative for baking is “Parchment Paper” i currently use genuine vegetable parchment from palisades paper, they are the best and most proven parchment paper
EmilyJune 26, 2014
OmpaDecember 8, 2015
I’ve used wax paper to prevent certain cookies from sticking on my cookie pans for 50+ years and never had a problem of smoking or wax transfer. And don’t plan to change now with parchment paper selling for 5 to 6 times the price of wax paper. It doesn’t look that much more on the shelf price but look at product sq.ft. Amounts and you will see a difference. By the way have you noticed packages of chocolate chips and kisses have gone from 16oz years ago to this year 11 oz and the price is still the same? Sure screws up family heirloom cookie recipes causing buying to bags to get adequate amounts and then a handful left over.
RebekahJanuary 22, 2016
Used waxed paper last night for cookies. The house started smelling like some chemical. I will not use wax paper again for baking.
Marsha Kelly RhodesDecember 10, 2017
Thank you for all of the information! Now I know Not to use wax paper in place of parchment paper! I’ll try using aluminum foil, slightly coated with oil.