Cooking Tips · Techniques

Silcone or Parchment?

I was recently teaching a cooking class on making party appetizers. In that class, I used both a silicone baking mat as well as parchment paper. Some questions about those items arose and I thought it would make a good Cooking Tip for all of us.

If you are like me, you have parchment paper, wax paper as well as some silicone baking mats. When should you use one over the other?

Wax Paper

Wax paper is made by applying a coating of wax to paper. Historically, beeswax would be used. Today there are two major types of wax used. Most commonly is food-safe paraffin. A few companies market a soybean wax paper. The first company to make paraffin wax rolls was Reynolds. Their Cut-Rite product is still offered in almost every market today. In fact, Reynolds states each year they sell enough of this product to circle the globe more than 15 times.

Wax paper is mostly used due to its non-stick properties. It is great for goodies such as chocolate-dipped items. It is also often used to wrap food for storage, to pack them for gift giving or to place between items in the freezer. It should not be used in baking if it will be directly exposed to the heat of an oven as it can actually ignite. Reynolds does say it may be used as a pan liner if the dough or batter completely covers the wax paper.

Parchment Paper

This is paper that has been coated with silicone rather than wax. This makes parchment not only nonstick but also heat and water resistant. It come in rolls or individual sheets and in different shapes and sizes. Stores generally carry bleached parchment although you can also find unbleached if you look for it.

Although parchment is heat resistant, not all brands are equal in this characteristic. My favorite brand, King Arthur, is rated to tolerate heat up to 450°F although their unbleached variety’s maximum temperature is 425°F. Reynolds recommends a maximum temperature of 425°F. Walmart’s Great Value is only 420°F. Be sure to check for the rating on the one you buy.

You may ask if those temperatures are absolute or if it is safe to use parchment above the recommended maximum. Cooks Illustrated contacted a couple companies to ask this question. The companies responded that using parchment at a higher temperature than recommended does not release any noxious chemicals. Nor will it burn. You will see, though, that the paper will turn very brown and become brittle, even crumbling.

Although I have no experience with this next product, there is something called Super Parchment. Supposedly it is thin like parchment but reusable like a silicone mat. It may also be cut to size. Have you used it? Let me know what you thought.

Silicone Baking Mats

Most of these mats have a sturdy, woven fiberglass core that is surrounded by a silicone covering. Some brands are made without the fiberglass core but this means they are less sturdy. Maximum temperatures may vary anywhere from 400°F to 480°F.

These mats are nonstick and heat resistant. They were invented by Guy Demarle, a French baker, in 1965. That invention is still being sold today and the original is known as Silpat. Today you are able to find numerous different brands and, as with parchment, they come in different sizes and shapes. Since the brand “Silpat” will probably be the most expensive, some reviewers looked at whether or not they were superior to other brands. Although Silpat consistently rated at the top of the list, other highly rates brands were Kitzini, Mrs. Anderson’s, Amazon Basics and Artisan.

Another discussion point is whether there is a difference in using parchment versus a silicone mat. Here are some considerations.

  • Reusability – silicone mats will last you practically forever whereas you can only reuse a parchment sheet a few times.
  • Temperature toleration – most silicone mats are rated to withstand higher temperatures than parchment.
  • Baking time – since silicone mats add a layer of insulation, your baking times may be a minute or so longer.
  • Size – silicone mats come in different sizes but you are not supposed to cut them due to the fiberglass core. You will, therefore, need to purchase different mats for different sized pans. Parchment on the other hand can be cut to any size you wish.
  • Cookies – Cookies baked on silicone mats tend to spread more than those baked on parchment. There is a bit of disagreement on the browning aspect of the cookies. Some feel that the cookies brown more with parchment and others think that is true for the silicone mats. Cookies baked on mats also tend towards greasy. If using a silicone mat, try to remove the baked cookies to a rack as soon as you can. As silicone doesn’t breathe, cookies left on a mat to cool may sweat, affecting the texture.
  • Nonstick characteristics – although both parchment and silicone mats are nonstick, the latter is more effective in this aspect. This makes a silicone mat a superior product for dealing with very sticky items such as sticky candy, brittle, toffee, etc.

Are you like me and have all of these products? Or, do you just have one or two?

What do you prefer to use? Let me know.