can i use aluminum foil instead of parchment paper

The worst moment to run out of parchment paper is right in the middle of cooking. You might be wondering; can I use aluminum foil instead of parchment paper to avoid making a run to my local convenience store?

Isn’t it frustrating when you’ve pre-heated your oven and pulled out the cookie dough only to find that you don’t have parchment paper?

The thing is, parchment paper has a ton of applications in cooking and is often integral to many baking recipes, which is why it can be quite frustrating to have to look for substitutes when you’ve run out. In this blog, we’ll answer whether aluminum foil can be used in its stead and discuss potential alternatives.

What Is Parchment Paper?

Parchment paper refers to paper that has been coated in silicone and comes in bleached and unbleached varieties. The silicone drastically improves the paper’s heat-resistance, water resistance, and non-stickiness, making it great as a tray lining for baking, cooking, and re-heating.

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Parchment paper is incredibly versatile. You can use parchment paper to create layers in desserts, cover your workspace and catch spillage, and use them as a non-stick surface to roll dough. The applications are manifold.

For professional chefs, parchment paper is an essential culinary tool and has been for ages.

If you love to cook at home, chances are you too have already been introduced to parchment paper. But for all its virtues, it’s not the only tool that can do all of the things we described.

Parchment paper is costly and sometimes hard to find in the pre-cut sizes you need, so if you’re going to be using it regularly, it would also be wise to consider alternatives.

Can I Use Aluminum Foil Instead of Parchment Paper?

aluminum foil instead of parchment paper

The short answer is yes, but with exceptions. Food items that are inappropriate for cooking or baking in foil make up the exceptions. This is due to the physical differences between the tin foil and parchment paper. One is metal, while the other is paper. We can’t always use them interchangeably.

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Whether you’re lining your oven, pan, or simply using foil as a base, here are the foods you can substitute parchment paper with aluminum foil for:

1. Roasting Veggies

Vegetables are a big yes. You can roast, bake, or heat vegetables in the oven between 450-500 degrees Fahrenheit. On the other hand, parchment paper can only handle up to 420 degrees Fahrenheit before the silicone starts to melt. Aluminum foil is also more useful than parchment paper for recipes that require rapping the veggies or anything for that matter, before placing it in the oven.

Just a pro-tip for baking vegetables, make sure you purchase non-stick paper and drizzle a light amount of olive oil over the vegetables to enhance natural flavors.

2. Cooking Fish

Parchment paper is often used for steaming a fillet of fish by wrapping it in with vegetables and seasoning or placing it in a paper packet. It’s great at retaining moisture and flavor, but again, unsuitable for high temperatures.

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If you’re cooking for long periods and at high temperatures, then aluminum foil is a better alternative. It can retain and conduct heat, which speeds along the process, not to mention there’s less clean-up.

Always remember to use heavy-duty aluminum foil for baking meats, though. Don’t use thin sheets typically made for just keeping food warm or packaging.

3. Brownies

The fact that foil is malleable and can be folded to hold things together makes it quite useful for baking desserts. There is one small drawback to using foil here, though. Unlike parchment paper, a foil isn’t always non-stick. So, if you’re in a pinch and use foil as a substitute, be prepared to have some food stick to the foil.

This is an important thing to keep in mind when substituting aluminum foil instead of parchment paper. They’re often non-stick, so make sure you aren’t baking foods that tend to melt and stick to surfaces. 

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What Should I Not Use Aluminum Foil For?

As we said earlier, and many recipes can attest to this, parchment paper is irreplaceable when cooking certain foods.

For instance, many chefs recommend sticking with parchment paper if you’re baking cookies or cakes. This is because parchment paper helps the cookies hold their shape throughout the process. Cookies baked in foil lose shape and tend to become a little darker and crispier. You also get a different taste based on which of the two you use.

With cakes, parchment paper comes in handy because it’s challenging to line a round cake with foil without accidentally making dents that affect the cake’s shape. Parchment paper gives you a more evenly baked cake. You can also roll up the parchment paper and use it to funnel icing onto a cake.

why not to use aluminum foil

What Should I Not Use Parchment Paper For?

Parchment paper is useful for many cooking processes, but there are some cases in which it’s best to avoid parchment paper.

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For instance, it’s not suitable for lining hot grills. That would burn the paper and spoil the food. This is where the aluminum foil is a more sensible choice.

You can’t use parchment paper for cooking red meats or poultry (chicken, duck, turkey, etc.) either. These dishes typically require high-temperature cooking, and when it comes to heat resistance, although parchment paper is no joke, aluminum foil still wins this contest by a landslide. Fish and seafood, however, are an exception to this.

Other Alternatives

You can never learn too many hacks in the kitchen. The more you have, the better! The truth is, even without foil or parchment paper, cooking is still possible. Here are some alternative fixes that you can try.

Option #1 Wax Paper

It is similar in properties to parchment paper, as it is thin and has a non-stick coating. You can substitute it for parchment paper if you’re storing ice cream, as a mat to keep your work surface clean, for rolling dough, and more.

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You cannot, however, use it in the oven for baking or cooking. Wax and heat are not a good combination for obvious reasons.

Option #2 Silpat Paper

If you are looking for a paper substitute that works well with heat, why not try Silpat paper? It’s also a non-stick baking sheet, but it is made from food-safe silicone and fiberglass mesh.

It may surpass parchment paper in price, but it also beats the same in durability. They’re reusable and have a much higher temperature range. Thanks to its non-stick surface, you don’t have to bother with greasing it before you place food on top.

 Silpat paper is typically available in large sheets, or mats as they’re called. Given their reusability, in the long-term, you will save more on your cooking projects. Plus, it’s eco-friendly. So that’s good karma for you.

Option #3 Oil, Butter, and Flour

This takes us back to the basics of cooking. If neither of the options mentioned so far is available to you, you can accomplish similar results without them too.

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You could grease your pan with oil, butter, or cooking spray for simple vegetables and meats. Just make sure you spread it out well.

You can use flour to prevent dough and a few other foods from sticking to surfaces. It works well enough for some items, but not all. If you’re baking a cake, we still recommend parchment paper. Like we said earlier, in some situations, it’s irreplaceable.

Final Thoughts

Are there any cooking projects you have planned for which you’re still wondering can I use aluminum foil instead of parchment paper?

If so, we highly recommend you either check the recipe online or in a cookbook (it’s typically mentioned there if you can or cannot use foil). Alternatively, consider the ingredients and check if they’re compatible with parchment paper or foil.

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