Baking paper – also known as greaseproof bakery paper or parchment paper, is grease proof paper that is used in baking and cooking. It provides a heat-resistant, non-stick surface to bake on. It used to be made by beating the paper fibres. Now it may have a plastic or chemical coating.
It can be used for cooking as a liner to prevent food from sticking to the pan.
It is also used to pack greasy foods like butter.
In the US it is more often called parchment paper.
Not to be confused with waxed paper. They may look the same but are different products. Waxed paper actually has wax on it. This too creates a non stick surface but it cannot be used at high temperatures so cannot be used for baking.
Waxed paper was often used for wrapping food. In many cases it has been replaced with plastic laminated paper. It looks like waxed paper but isn’t.
Greaseproof paper was first developed as a replacement for parchment by the engineer Otto Munthe Tobiesen in 1894
During the paper making process, the paper pulp is beaten hard so the fibres bond more firmly. This results in a paper of high density with a small number of pores. It is now less absorbant making it reisistant to grease, fat and oil.
Natural greaseproof paper does not have any chemical treatments or coatings. It can be recycled, composted or burnt.
The New “Greaseproof” Paper
Since those innocent days various different types of greaseproof paper have emerged. These no longer rely on the way the paper has been made but rather are treated, coated or laminated papers. They do not get their grease resistance from denser fibers but from various additives. However they look just like the original greaseproof paper.
They fall into into two types; greaseproof paper for packaging and greaseproof paper for cooking.
The treatments for “greaseproof” paper include
Greaseproof Paper For Packaging
Greaseproof paper and waxed paper were often used for packaging. Though waxed paper was the more often used product. However the two are often confused and the names used interchangeably. When talking about packaging the information applies to both greaseproof and waxed paper or card.
They are used in the food industry for many things including wrapping food such as butter and making nonstick containers for microwave food.
Two common forms of treatment are
Where the function of the product is merely to stop grease leaking through the product like for instance a butter wrap the paper may be coated with a thin layer of plastic. This is often the case with food packaging where a product wants to maintain an old time look. Don’t be fooled by those charming greaseproof paper bags and butchers wraps on the deli counter. Check them very carefully.
Obviously this kind of greaseproof paper cannot be used for cooking as the plastic will melt and burn.
Read more about laminated paper here
Perfluorochemicals (PFCs) are a family of man-made chemicals? They are used
as a surface coating for paper and cardboard they make them water and grease resistant and so suitable for packaging processed foods.
They do not break down easily and can last in the enironment for years.
They have been found in both soil and water.
When they enter the food chain they are retained in animal tissue leading to a process called biomagnification, meaning that they are passed on up the foodchain from animal to animal and because they are stored in the body for years the amount increases exponentially as they travel up the food chain.
You can read more about them here
Greaseproof Paper For Cooking
This type can be used for both cooking and packaging. But is usually used for cooking. It is also called parchment paper.
To give parchment paper a really non stick quality some companies are coating it with silicone. Silicone is a kind of synthetic rubber. You can read more about that here .
Sierra say of its silicone coated paper “The baking paper’s silicone coating prevents food products from sticking to the paper or cooking pan. Silicone is an ideal release agent due to its pliability, natural lack of toxins, high insulationability, and heat resistant capability.”
If You Care supply genuine greaseproof paper products. But while the paper may be green and unbleached, the non stick quality comes from a coating of silicone. They claim their paper is compostable but silicone certainly isn’t biodegradable.
“Experts from the University of Maryland Extension Home and Garden Information Center said, “We would not recommend composting the parchment paper,” but acknowledged that they could not cite specific studies on the topic”
This is (I think) a Teflon product also used to give parchment papers a non stick quality. I know very little about it other than that some are claiming it is toxic. I am currently researching it. All input welcomed.
Are they even available? If You Care never used to talk about the silicone coating on their greaseproof paper which makes me wonder was it always there or is it new? And if it is new, is it to replace the toxic Quilon coating (that I never knew about either). If the former, are all parchment papers coated with something and we just never realised?
More to think about
Reasearch is ongoing and any input is greatly welcomed.
Beyond gourmet and Regency wraps have been mentioned as being only parchment paper but have not as yet answered my emails. Neither have If You Care.
As yet I have been unable to find an uncoated paper for cooking so I won’t use any.
I buy butter that comes wrapped in paper which I just have to hope is genuine parchment paper. I have my doubts but it is the best I can do.
Why buy unbleached parchment paper?
Until the 1990s, chlorine was mostly used for bleaching paper because it does the job very efficiently. The downside is that the process results in dioxins. Paper mills a major sources of dioxins in the environment.
Dioxins are known carcinogens that bioaccumulate in the food chain. You can read more here. They are very nasty and we do not want them lurking in the water or our body fat. Thankfully safer alternatives are being developed. Please consider choosing one when you buy any paper product.
Unbleached – BEST
No process is used to brighten the fibre and the resulting paper is the natural brown colour of untreated wood pulp.
When buying bleached paper heres what to avoid and what to buy
Elemental Chlorine. NO.
This is the old school method. A chemical gas is used to brighten paper fibers but results in the most dioxins.
Elemental Chlorine Free. IF YOU HAVE TO
“Uses a chlorine compound, most often chlorine dioxide, that significantly reduces dioxins but does not eliminate them. Paper companies using ECF often say that dioxin is “nondetectable” in their wastewater. This refers only to the sensitivity of prescribed tests, and does not necessarily mean there are no dioxins. State-of-the-art tests are often able to detect dioxins when prescribed tests find them nondetectable.”
Totally Chlorine Free YES
Non chlorine alternative bleaching processes, including
ozone bleaching systems
None of the above result in dioxins or chlorinated toxic pollutants.
Processed Chlorine Free YES
When recycled fibres are used in the finished paper this tells you that the recycled content was originally bleached without chlorine or chlorine compounds as well as new the virgin fibres.
The Worldwatch Institute (Paper Cuts, 1999) reports that a mill using standard chlorine bleaching will release about 35 tons of organochlorines (dioxins and chlorinated toxic pollutants) a day. An ECF mill will release 7-10 tons per day. A PCF/TCF mill will release none.