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Parchment That Won't Get Parched

By Cook's Illustrated Published March 2011

Is it okay to heat parchment paper higher than the temperature range listed on the packaging? Recipes sometimes call for this.

Most parchment paper is rated for use at temperatures no higher than 420 to 450 degrees. But it’s true—we occasionally recommend using this liner for bread and pizza baked as high as 500 degrees. Phone calls to several manufacturers, including Regency and Reynolds, put any safety worries to rest: Using parchment at higher-than-recommended temperatures does not release noxious chemicals, and the paper will not burn. But there’s no question that it can darken and turn brittle. For pizza and other flatbreads that bake in 20 minutes or less, the parchment doesn’t turn brittle quickly enough for it to be an issue. For dishes that are in the oven at high temperatures for more than 30 minutes, such as our Almost No-Knead Bread, parchment can break down enough to fall apart—a particular issue in this recipe, in which we use the parchment as “handles” to remove the bread from the hot pan. In this case, we’d recommend seeking out paper rated for use at the highest temperature available (Regency brand, rated for up to 450 degrees, is the one we recommend for prolonged high-heat applications) and placing a strip of folded aluminum foil (4 or 5 inches wide) beneath the parchment when baking. The foil had no detrimental effect on the color or texture of the bread we baked, and it made for easy removal of the loaves, even after the parchment itself had become brittle.