Test Kitchen tips: Parchment paper
Sturdy, strong and wonderfully non-stick, parchment paper is an invaluable tool in the kitchen, used in a variety of cooking and kitchen tasks.
Kitchen parchment is paper that has been treated with sulfuric acid to strengthen it, making the paper grease- and moisture-proof. It's also highly heat resistant. A silicone coating makes the paper non-stick. (Wax paper, by comparison, is coated with a thin layer of wax on both sides, and is not as strong or nearly as heat-resistant as parchment.)
Among its many uses, parchment paper is frequently called for to line baking sheets and pans, helping to prevent cakes and cookies from sticking as they're baked in the oven. In savory cooking, it's used when foods are cooked en papillote and makes a perfect cartouche (a layer of paper covering the surface of food in a pot, preventing or minimizing evaporation, and helping to keep the contents submerged).
The paper is also used to make cornets for piping chocolate and frosting, and provides a great surface when measuring flour and other dry ingredients on a scale. Parchment makes a perfect covering for a roll of cookie dough, and (depending on your artistic skills) it can even make a great stencil when sprinkling cocoa, spices or powdered sugar over a finished cake.
Parchment paper is available by the roll in most grocery stores. It's also available in cooking and baking supply stores either as a roll or as large sheets that can be cut or folded to size (sheets are sometimes available pre-cut to fit specific pan sizes).
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-- Noelle Carter
Photo credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times