Can You Safely Fry Foods In Parchment Paper?

Parchment paper is a kitchen necessity. This versatile paper, which is made from cotton fiber or pure chemical wood pulp, has a protective wax coating that ensures its resistance to grease, per the USDA. It is primarily used for baking, as it provides a barrier between pans and baked goods such as cookies and brownies, ensuring that these treats do not become stuck to the pan. According to Southern Living, parchment paper is also heat resistant — as long as the oven temperature is below 400 degrees Fahrenheit, that is — which helps give baked goods a lovely texture.

While it's widely used for baking, parchment paper is also useful for cooking. A popular cooking method that involves the use of parchment paper is the French phrase en papillote, which means "in paper" in English. According to MasterClass, en papillote is a French cooking method that involves placing food within folded parchment paper and allowing built-up steam to cook it. (Fish in parchment paper is one of the most popular proteins to cook by way of en papillote, and it's one of the more classically French dishes out of many associated with the method.) Due to parchment paper's versatility, it also leads to further questioning — for example, can you fry food in it?

Frying foods in parchment paper is not recommended

As Today explains it, parchment paper and frying became a TikTok trend — but not for cooking food, per se. Instead, a particular TikTok which went viral in September 2022 highlighted a hack for an easy clean-up method after cooking. The method itself involved lining frying pans with parchment paper to protect pan surfaces from oil and grease, and purportedly protected against food sticking to the pan while frying, per Today.

While the hack took off, the reality is that it's not recommended to fry foods on top of parchment paper. Why? Well, as the paper and packaging company Reynolds explains it, parchment paper is oven-safe but not flame-retardant — so while it can resist high temperatures to a certain degree, it can still catch fire quite easily.

According to Today, the chances of parchment paper catching fire are magnified when it is placed on a gas stove. Gas stoves use flames, meaning that a flame could catch the parchment paper while it's in the pot or pan and set it on fire. It's possible to fry foods on parchment paper if you have an electric stove, as these stoves do not use flames to produce heat. However, even then, using parchment paper in this way isn't necessarily the greatest idea. Because the material can rip at a slight movement, oil and grease may end up covering your pot anyway. 

The difference between parchment paper and wax paper

If you do decide to try out the hack, be wary of mixing up parchment paper with a similar product, like wax paper. Indeed, parchment paper and wax paper look similar, which makes it easy for people to confuse them. But despite their similar appearances, these two types of paper are very different. The primary distinction between the two is their protective coatings. According to the Food Network, parchment paper is coated with silicone, which makes it nonstick and resistant to heat. Wax paper, on the other hand, is coated with paraffin wax, which makes it nonstick but not resistant to heat.

Wax paper's lack of heat resistance means that you should not use it for cooking with heat. You can, however, use it for wrapping foods like cheese, covering your countertop when decorating baked goods, or rolling dough, per Southern Living. If you need to bake something, use parchment paper, as it is heat resistant. Even so, keep in mind that parchment paper is not the best option for frying foods, and use caution if you decide to use it for frying in addition to baking.