Cooking with Paper

The French call it, en papillote – a technique of baking food encased in parchment paper. Unlike parchment paper used for writing (which is not actually made from paper), parchment paper sold for kitchen use is treated with sulfuric acid. The process creates a surface that is sleek, smooth and impervious to oil and moisture. It is also resistant to heat up to 425°F, according to, a manufacturer of parchment products. In the final process, a silicone coating is added that creates a further non-stick surface.

With parchment cooking, food retains moisture. The steam collects inside the wrapper creating a closed steam bath. Food will cook faster and still can brown if the temperature is high enough, usually 400°F. My Salmon in a Pouch come out perfectly moist and delicious because the pouch keeps all the flavors and steam inside.

This technique is not new by any means. Cultures around the world have been wrapping foods in a number of ways using things like cornhusks, banana leaves, grape leaves and seaweed.

Ways to use parchment paper:

  1. As an encasement to create steamed, moist foods in the oven.
  2. For lining cookie sheets and cake pans (precut round parchment paper sheets are available)
  3. Counter top surface control for rolling out pie or pizza dough.
  4. In the freezer for separating foods such as pre-shaped burgers.
  5. Creating funnel cones to add flour, spices or multiple ingredients into a recipe.
  6. Wrapping foods for microwaving, thus avoiding plastics.
  7. As a wrap for food presentation, such as French fries or hamburgers.

Slick ideas on using parchment paper:

  • When using parchment paper on a cookie sheet, it has a tendency to roll up. Spray cooking oil on the cookie sheet first and then lay down the parchment paper. It will lay flat.
  • For the BBQ, vegetables will be perfectly cooked by wrapping in parchment paper with fresh herbs and spices. Add a touch of olive oil and seal tight. Wrap the entire parchment encased vegetables in heavy duty aluminum foil and place on the grill. Turn twice. You’ll have fabulously grilled vegetables in twenty minutes.
  • No need to make a heart shaped en papillote and take the time of folding the edges. Instead, cut a square sheet of parchment paper, wrap the ingredients into a pouch by bringing the edges up and tying with cooking twine.
  • To close a parchment cooking bag, fold the bag twice and use a wooden skewer threaded along the edge.
  • Did you know that culinary parchment paper can be used on the stovetop? Tired of eggs sticking on the bottom of your “non-stick” sauté pan. Place a sheet of parchment paper cut to fit the size of the pan adding a touch of cooking oil. Scramble the eggs normally. Be sure that the paper is entirely inside the pan without the edges contacting the burners.

Varieties of paper

Years ago, people were using paper bags to steam peppers after roasting and paper bags were even used to oven-bake turkeys. Today, using non-culinary paper is not recommended as these products are often made from recycled materials. Use only food grade paper in your kitchen.

There are a variety of parchment cooking papers available from sheets to bags and muffin cup liners. A Martha Stewart© brand has aluminum foil bonded to the parchment paper creating a stronger, malleable paper.

Wax paper (which was invented by Thomas Edison) is not heat proof. While resistant to grease and moisture, the paraffin coating will melt if exposed to heat.

Other products of interest include cedar papers. While not truly paper, these cedar wraps are perfect to cook vegetables and seafood on the stovetop or grill. The red cedar is cut very thin to allow the “paper” to wrap around the food item. For information, check out Fire & Flavor.

Below are some other great websites you should visit for more information on cooking with paper: