Can You Use Aluminum Foil Instead of Parchment Paper in the Kitchen?
Next time you run out of parchment paper, keep these tips in mind—you may not need to run that extra errand.
No kitchen would be complete without aluminum foil and, more often than not, parchment paper. But what if you’ve run out of parchment and have a cake to bake or vegetables to roast? Can aluminum foil be used as a one-to-one substitute for parchment? Are there any instances in which you absolutely need parchment paper? Well, grab your notebook and take a seat, because we have all the answers for you right here.
Aluminum foil is—of course—made from aluminum. The kitchen mainstay is made of alloyed aluminum, prepared in thin metal leaves that result in a pliable, (mostly) non-stick product that can withstand heat up to 400°F. Aluminum foil is perfect for fridge and freezer storage, lining pans, wrapping baked potatoes, and more.
The composition of parchment paper, however, is a bit less obvious. This baker’s favorite is a paper product typically coated with food-safe silicone—the combination creates a non-stick, heat resistant (up to about 450°F) product that is also often grease-proof. It’s typically derived from either cotton fiber or wood pulp. The brown parchment paper you’ll find in stores is less processed and unbleached, while the white varieties are often chemically treated to remove the natural color.
Back to cooking and baking—are aluminum foil and parchment paper really interchangeable?
While both will get the job done when it comes to cooking en papillote, keeping a work surface clean, and lining pans, there are some times you probably shouldn’t mix and match.
Aluminum foil can create a nice seal for storage over almost any bowl or serving container—or even serve as a storage container in and of itself. However, foods sometimes stick to it, it can rip easily, and you can’t put it in the microwave.
Parchment, on the other hand, can withstand higher temperatures—though if you're not careful, it can catch on fire. This unique paper product can also serve as an impromptu piping bag or funnel, and food doesn’t tend to stick to it.
While aluminum foil can replace parchment in many cooking and baking applications and is certainly more optimal for storage, there are a few things that only parchment can do—and you can’t beat its non-stickability. However, if you’re baking something that absolutely can’t stick, and you only have aluminum foil on hand, simply grease it up as you would an unlined baking dish, and be on your way.
Both aluminum foil and parchment paper are totally safe to use—though parchment is more environmentally friendly. When it comes to cooking and baking, aluminum can serve as an effective alternative to parchment in some cases, but not all—it really just depends on what you’re making.
You may have heard rumblings about the environmental safety of both aluminum foil and parchment paper—let’s discuss.
Aluminum is all around us, and can be found in soil, rocks, clay, air, water, medications, personal care products, and even food. That’s right—you’ll find naturally occurring aluminum in many fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, fish, and dairy products. The amount of aluminum varies depending on the plant's growing environment. You’ll also come across aluminum in processed foods, thanks to additives.
On the environmental front, aluminum foil does have a footprint that shouldn’t necessarily be overlooked. Aluminum must be mined to produce this kitchen staple, and there are notable emissions associated with manufacturing. And when it’s time to clean up after dinner, though this foil makes cleanup quick and easy—and though it can technically be reused and recycled—many municipalities won’t accept aluminum foil in recycling bins. This lands a significant amount of this kitchen convenience in the landfill, and it isn’t biodegradable.
With parchment paper, it’s easy to seek out unbleached varieties, which are often compostable and biodegradable—score! A great brand to look for that is both safe and environmentally-friendly is If You Care, which you can find in many grocery stores.
Galic, Bojana. "What Foods Contain Aluminum, and Should You Be Worried About It?" Livestrong.
"Aluminum." Virginia Department of Energy.
Villazon, Luis "What's the most environmentally friendly way to take sandwiches to work?" BBC Science Focus Magazine.