If you peruse the food storage products aisle at your local supermarket, you’ll notice that there are a lot of options when it comes to food wraps! Aside from the standard plastic wrap and aluminum foil, there’s also parchment paper, wax paper, freezer paper, and so on. I’ll admit that up until recently, I didn’t actually know what the differences were between these materials, and which type of wrap I should use for different kinds of jobs. I finally got fed up with being mystified in the food storage aisle, so I decided it was high time to learn a thing or two about each of the different kinds of wraps.
Hopefully those of you who have been wondering the same things will learn something new too from today’s post. And if you have a use for one of these materials that is or isn’t listed here, I’d love to hear about it in the comments section! :-)
Parchment paper is the wrap of choice for baking, since it can withstand temperatures up to 420 degrees. It’s also nonstick, which makes it a helpful kitchen tool.
For instance, you can roll out a piece of dough between two sheets of parchment paper, and the paper will easily peel away when you’re ready to use it.
Parchment paper is also useful because it’s great at retaining moisture. Many people use parchment paper to create individual pouches for cooking fish or chicken and veggies together. The parchment paper keeps the moisture inside the pouch, steaming the food and keeping it from drying out. The paper may get saturated with moisture during this process, but it stays strong and makes cleanup easy!
Wax paper is a lightweight paper coated in a thin layer of food-grade wax. It is similar to parchment paper in that its’ non-stick surface makes is a useful kitchen tool, but unlike parchment paper, it CANNOT withstand high temperatures. In fact, it could catch fire in an oven!
One advantage of wax paper is that it is often the more affordable option. Since it’s cheap, you can use it to line your counters when working with messy foods like chocolate, sprinkles, and breadcrumbs.
Wax paper is breathable, which makes it a great choice for wrapping and storing cheeses and sandwiches. Moisture can pass through the paper, which keeps cheeses and breads from getting slimy or soggy.
Unlike wax paper, aluminum foil is NOT breathable.
Its impermeability makes it great in the freezer, because it protects food from drying out while preventing potential odors from permeating into your frozen foods.
But the most useful part about aluminum foil is its ability to withstand extreme temperatures. Use it to cover roasts in the oven, or to wrap up racks of ribs. Or you can just make your life a little easier by lining pans with it, making clean up a breeze.
Plastic wrap is great for covering up bowls or containers that are going into the fridge to help keep food fresh.
Some brands make a “microwave-safe” plastic wrap that you can use to control splattering when reheating things in your microwave.
Another useful application for plastic wrap is to use it for “sous-vide” cooking. Wrap a piece of chicken or fish tightly in several layers of plastic wrap, ensuring that the plastic wrap forms a well-sealed pouch. Submerge the pouch in water that is just barely simmering, and leave it in until your chicken or fish is cooked through. Moist and delicious!
Freezer paper is coated with a thin layer of food grade wax, but only on one side. So think of freezer paper as wax paper on one side, parchment paper on the other.
It was designed for freezing meat, with the waxed side against the meat itself. The wax prevents moisture loss and protects the surface of the meat, while the unwaxed exterior can be written on to label and date the item.
Freezer paper makes a great crafting material, too! The “shiny” (waxy) side of can serve as a temporary adhesive when heated with an iron. Quilters often use freezer paper for appliqués, cutting a shape out of freezer paper and then ironing the shape, wax-side down, to their chosen fabric. They can then cut around the paper, and even peel it off and reuse it several times.
Another crafty application for freezer paper is to use it as a stencil. Cut away a design from a piece of freezer paper, iron it wax-side down to a t-shirt, pillowcase, or tote bag. Then you can spread a layer of fabric paint onto your item, and when the freezer paper is removed, your shape will be perfectly painted on your item.