7 Ways Parchment Paper Makes Holiday Cooking Easier and Less Messy

A staple product in professional bakeries, parchment paper can help ease your cooking and cleaning challenges throughout the busy holiday season.

flounder en papillote with tapenade
Photo: Meredith

The arrival of the holiday season comes with plenty of excitement and anticipation for festive meals, cookie swaps, and party snacks. However, this time of year also requires many home cooks to ramp up their usual kitchen cleaning routines, which can get really tedious really quickly. That's why it's important to seek out shortcuts that can simplify both the process of getting tasty seasonal food on the table and the process of tidying up after your holiday feast. One such shortcut comes in a conveniently slim box that's easy to tuck into a kitchen cabinet or drawer: Parchment paper. A popular tool for baking, parchment paper is a type of paper that's coated with silicone, which gives it a non-stick quality. We asked a group of professional chefs and recipe developers to share their favorite ways to use parchment paper for mess-free holiday cooking and entertaining, and here's what they had to tell us.

How To Use Parchment Paper For Easy (And Mess-Free) Holiday Cooking

1. Use it to cook whole fish en papillote.

If you're looking for an elegant entrée that comes together easily but offers an impressive presentation (and a ton of flavor), look no further than whole fish en papillote. Chef/partner Tyler Akin of Le Cavalier at the Hotel Du Pont in Wilmington, Delaware, tells us that "one of the most dramatic and memorable ways to serve a shared entrée is cooking a whole fish en papillote. You use the parchment paper to create a steaming pouch for the fish so it cooks gently and comes out perfect." He also points out "​​the drama of using your best shears to cut open the dish table-side. You can take it in a warm and wintery direction with rosemary, thyme, and garlic."

2. Put it over a pot as a "cartouche" when braising meats.

Fall and winter are prime seasons for slow-braised meat dishes, and chef Jeff Osaka of Sushi-Rama and Osaka Ramen in Denver, Colorado, says that, when he's making "a slow-braised pot roast or short ribs, I make a 'cartouche' as a tool for cooking using parchment paper. A cartouche is basically a lid made from parchment paper with a hole in the center. It keeps the ingredients in the pot covered, but the hole lets steam release, letting the liquid reduce to make a more intense broth or sauce to accompany the dish you're cooking."

3. Line baking sheets with it.

Arguably the most well-known way to use parchment paper involves using it to line baking sheets before putting cookie dough (or other baking doughs) on the surface. "Parchment paper is a baking sheet's best friend! I never put anything in the oven without lining my bakeware with a piece of parchment," explains chef and culinary director Rob Burlington of Guilty Pleasures Bakeshop and Catering in Ontario, Canada. Burlington goes on to say that "when everything is all said and done, clean-up is as easy as tossing the parchment and rinsing the pans with a touch of dish soap and warm water!"

Overhead view of melon slices in baking sheet on table

4. Use it to line cake pans and muffin tins.

For holiday bakers, the non-stick usefulness of parchment paper isn't limited to cookies. Chef/owner Sian Rose of Sian's Caribbean Kitchen in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, tells us, "I have used parchment to make muffin cups and have cut sheets to fit the bottoms of cake pans more than a few times. Personally, I like to use parchment paper because whatever you bake on it gets a smooth, picture-perfect finish. It's almost guaranteed."

5. Lay it down on your cutting board to avoid cross-contamination.

Loads of dishes can feel truly overwhelming when you're hosting a holiday get-together, so anything that can help you use fewer cutting boards to prep your meal is worth trying out., according to chef and cookbook author Alicia Shevetone of Dink Cuisine,

6. Use it as a "drop cloth" for cake and cookie decorating.

The holiday season can inspire even the least artistic home baker to try their hand at festive icing decorations for their cakes and cookies. Before you whip out the frosting, chef/owner Lori Bogedin of Twigs Cafe in Pennsylvania recommends placing a sheet of parchment paper under your cake stand or cookie rack, using it as a "landing page for drips and drizzles. You can toss the paper away when you're done with decorating your baked goods."

7. Turn it into a funnel for your stand mixer.

Stand mixers tend to get a real workout during the holidays, and having a supply of parchment paper handy can help keep your mixing process as efficient and effective as possible. "A trick I love is using parchment paper as a funnel. To avoid making a mess with flour when using my stand mixer, I like to take a sheet, circle it up and then use my measuring cup to pour at the wider end through the parchment and watch as the ingredients slip through with total ease. This works great for both wet and dry ingredients," says chef and founder Christiann Koepke of NORR Kitchen in Portland, Oregon.

Helpful Parchment Paper Tips

When making batches of baked goods, switch the sheets out on a regular basis.

The silicone coating on parchment paper won't wear down after a single pass through the oven, so it's definitely possible to reuse the piece that you use to cover your baking sheet, especially if you're making a baked good without chocolate chips or other drippy ingredients. However, founder Kela Hunte (aka "Chef Keii") of Keii Desserts in Pflugerville, Texas, does point out that "you should not use it more than 2 or 3 times when baking things like cookies. Try to use a new sheet following the first or second batch."

Feel free to use it even when cooking at very high temperatures.

Many shoppers assume that parchment paper and wax paper are the same product, but these two items have very distinct differences. The most notable? The fact that wax paper is, as its name suggests, coated with wax, which will melt when exposed to heat and could even catch fire in the oven. However, "because of its silicone infusion, parchment will easily withstand heat levels up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, sometimes higher," explains Rob Burlington. In fact, Burlington says that "my personal favorite use for parchment paper is applying it directly to a grill when I'm barbecuing fish or pizza at under 500 degrees. The edges will darken and maybe even flake away, but rest assured that the parchment and your delicious food are perfectly fine!"

Keep an eye out for pre-cut parchment paper.

Parchment paper is usually sold in one of two forms: either on a roll (which allows buyers to cut pieces of whichever size they want) or in pre-cut sheets. Jeff Osaka appreciates the convenience of pre-cut parchment paper, saying that "in my commercial kitchens, I purchase full-size sheets in bulk that will accomodate our large baking sheets (18"x 26"), but most home ovens can only fit a 1/2-size baking pan (13"x 18"). Online, you can buy 1/2-sheet parchment in bulk. I always keep a box on hand; no need to cut down to size, and perfect for your smaller tasks around the kitchen."


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