What’s the Difference Between Wax Paper and Parchment Paper?

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

Along with plastic wrap and aluminum foil, wax and parchment paper are two handy kitchen papers we keep within arm’s reach for cooking, baking, and storing food. While they share similarities in the way they’re used, there’s one distinct quality that sets these two kitchen papers apart, and once you know what it is, you’ll know exactly which one to reach for.

The Difference Between Wax Paper and Parchment Paper

Wax paper and parchment paper are both types of kitchen paper that make certain kitchen tasks easier and less messy. They can sometimes be used interchangeably, but because of one important difference that sets them apart, not always. The papers are processed differently, although the main distinction between them is the way they’re coated: Wax paper has a thin coating of soybean or paraffin wax on each side, while parchment paper has a silicone coating.

More About Wax Paper

Wax paper is a widely available, inexpensive type of kitchen paper with a very thin coating of wax on each side that makes it nonstick and moisture-resistant. Because of its coating, wax paper is not heat-resistant and should not be used in the oven, because the paper could melt, smoke, or even ignite.

Wax paper is commonly used to line baking sheets or plates when freezing produce, wrapping foods to be stored in the fridge, funneling ingredients, or lining the counter to make messy projects easier to clean up.

What not to do: Kitchen Bloopers: Wax Paper Is Not Parchment

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

More About Parchment Paper

Like wax paper, parchment paper is also treated, but has an ultra-thin silicone coating, so in addition to being grease- and moisture-resistant, it’s also heat-resistant. It has a wide variety of uses, many of which include cooking and baking. Parchment paper is commonly used to line baking sheets for roasting and baking, lining cake pans, cooking en papillote, funneling ingredients, and wrapping foods for storage.

While you can use it for anything you’d use wax paper for, that comes at a price — parchment paper is the pricier option of the two.