If you love to cook or bake, you probably have both parchment paper and wax paper stashed away in your cupboard. They both can be really useful for stopping food from sticking to your wares, not to mention minimizing cleanup. But do you really know when to use each one — and when you shouldn't?
First off, it's important to understand that there's a huge difference between parchment and wax paper. According to Martha Stewart, parchment paper is a grease-resistant and moisture-resistant paper that has been specially treated for oven use. So if you want to bake a fresh batch of chewy chocolate chip cookies without greasing your sheet tray or bake a savory chicken casserole without dirtying up your bakeware, parchment paper is the way to go. Wax paper, on the other hand, has a thin coating of wax on each side which makes it nonstick and moisture-resistant but not oven-safe. Since wax paper isn't heat-resistant like parchment paper, it could melt or even ignite if you put it in the oven. Yikes, you don't have to tell us twice!
But just because wax paper can't be used in the oven doesn't mean it's totally useless. Considering wax paper's nonstick quality, it can be used for a wide variety of kitchen tasks at room temperature or cooler, according to Bon Appetit. These hacks include (but are not limited to): wrapping sandwiches, storing cheeses, and lining kitchen countertops during meal prep to keep the surface clean.
Another difference between wax paper and parchment paper is the price. As you might imagine, parchment paper tends to be a little pricier since it's more versatile. And since wax paper skews less expensive, it's also much easier to find in grocery stores.
While it might make sense to save your parchment paper strictly for baking purposes, it also serves as a remarkably handy "funnel" for transferring dry ingredients to pots, jars, or bowls for any recipe, according to Martha Stewart. Due to parchment paper's superior durability, all you have to do to sift dry ingredients onto a piece of the parchment, fold the paper to form a funnel shape, and then easily pour away.
When it comes to more general kitchen prep outside of the oven like blending ingredients and measuring mixtures, either parchment paper or wax paper will work to get the job done to keep your kitchen clean and tidy. The most important thing to remember is that only parchment paper can take the heat. So you can keep both of them in the kitchen, but keep the wax paper out of that oven!