Can wax paper go in the oven?

Can wax paper go in the oven
Photo Credit: 402packaging.com

On the recipe page it says; pre-heat oven to 350°F and line the surface of a cookie sheet with parchment paper, but in your kitchen drawer, it's all pre-cut sheets of waxed paper. Can you use the waxed paper instead?

Well, let's find out.

Can wax paper go in the oven? Yes, wax paper can go in the oven provided no part of it is directly exposed to the heat. In application, this means that wax paper can be used as a pan liner when cooking, roasting or baking goods in which the food or batter completely covers the wax paper lining. Such goods include cakes, bread, muffins, brownies etc. In all cases, the food or batter serves as a protective barrier and shields the paper from excessive heat in the oven. 

If wax paper is used as a pan liner for cookies, crackers or roasting vegetables; goods in which the food or batter does not completely cover the wax paper lining, the wax coating will melt and transfer to whatever is being baked; giving it an unpleasant taste.

Another thing is that the non-stick purpose for which the lining was made in the first place would be nonexistent. So food can stick to the surface of the paper and be annoying to separate.

Why does the wax coating melt?

The reason why the melting occurs is simple. The temperature required to cook most recipes in the oven is much higher than the melting point of wax; which is the material used to impregnate, coat or laminate wax paper.

Macro and micro crystalline wax, paraffin wax and soybean wax-- the waxes used for the coating process, all have melting points lower than 200°F; even with polymer additives added to improve their properties.

As a result, when wax paper is directly exposed in the oven, the wax coating gets heated past its melting point and turns into liquid. This liquid when heated to a higher degree, vaporizes and combines with air in the oven to cause fire. Conversely, the paper substrate can spontaneously combust at higher temperatures and supply the heat necessary for the liquid wax to vaporize and ignite.

For this reason, wax paper should never be used interchangeably with baking papers in the oven. It should only be used to line the bottom of goods in which the food or batter completely covers the wax paper lining. It will heat up under the batter but not to a point of disintegration; except if the cooking is at a higher temperature and for a longer period.

The above condition should also apply to toaster ovens. Their mode of heating is similar to that in a conventional oven and so are the risks. Care should also be taken when using other papers such as parchment papers and aluminum foils in these ovens; because of their smaller interior. Any contact with the inner walls or heating elements of the oven can cause instant smoking and ignition of the papers.

Contrary to that, wax paper can be used safely in the microwave to warp food or cover the top of dishes without running the risk of melting or ignition. This is possible because the mode of heating in a microwave is entirely different from that in a conventional oven.

When gas is burnt or an element is heated in a conventional oven, heat is generated and transferred to the surrounding air. The air becomes hotter and transfers it's energy to anything it comes in contact with; food, wax paper, surrounding air and the inner walls of the oven.

In the case of food, it’s surface molecules absorb the heat from the surrounding air and distributes it to the inner molecules for heating. The process is referred to as baking.

In the case of wax paper, the wax coating on its surface; being the weaker material, absorbs the heat from the surrounding air and begins to melt when the temperature surpasses it’s melting point. Same thing happens with the inner walls of the oven, but because they are made with tougher materials, their melting point is a lot higher than the temperature of the surrounding air, so they only get warmer.

Recap: In an oven, the temperature of the surrounding air is raised to a required level for cooking. alert-information
Microwave on the other hand, generates high energy microwave radiations that are easily absorbed by water molecules in food and converted to heat for cooking. This direct energy transfer from source to food makes the air inside of a microwave considerably colder than that in an oven.

Furthermore, microwave radiations pass unimpeded through materials with low water content such as ceramics and papers. So when these materials are used to hold or cover food for microwaving, the radiation passes through them unimpeded and only target the water molecules in the food.

As a result, when wax paper is used to wrap food or cover the top of dishes in a microwave, only the food gets heated from the radiation, and is capable of heating the wax coating above it’s melting point.

But because the surrounding air in a microwave is cold and the food wets the surface of the wax paper as it condenses, the temperature on the surface of the food is reduced dramatically to a point where it actually doesn’t affect the wax coating on the paper.

However, at higher power setting, longer cooking period or with fat and sugar based foods, the surface of the food can get very hot to a point where it can melt the wax coating on the paper and even ignite it.

Recap: Cooking in a microwave is done by direct transfer of energy from source to food. As a result, the temperature inside the microwave is cold and wax paper doesn’t melt when exposed in it. alert-information
With all these in mind, the wax paper used to line the bottom of batters or cover the top of dishes in a microwave should always be the unbleached variant. It’s the greener alternative and wont leach any trace amounts of dioxins into food.

Related Questions


Why are wax papers produced?

Wax papers are primarily produced for packaging purposes. The wax coating serves as a moisture repellent and vapor proof surface, which is ideal for preserving the freshness and taste of foods such as; fruits, cheese, butter etc.

What are the common uses of wax paper in the kitchen?

Wax paper aside being moisture repellent and vapor proof, is also non-stick. These characteristics all together make wax paper an indispensable utensil for everyday gourmet.

Wax paper is commonly used for pre-baking and post baking applications.

Here are some of these applications:
  1. To cover countertops and work surfaces during messy situations such as; sifting ingredients, compounding butter, cutting fudges, forming meat balls and glazing chocolates. This makes clean up easy and remnants can easily be transferred back to the canister.
  2. Wax paper is used as a surface to collect sifted or chopped ingredients, then as a funnel to effortlessly and efficiently transfer them into a mixing bowl.
  3. Wax paper is used to create layers between sticky baked goods, hamburgers or meat prior to placing them in a freezer bag to prevent smearing and ensure easy release.
  4. Wax paper is used as a breathable wrap to store sandwich, cheese, butter, vegetables and meat. 
  5. Wax paper is used to line fridge drawers and shelves to help keep them moisture free and clean.
  6. Wax paper is used for wrapping baked goods for gift purposes or for non-stick short term storage.
  7. Wax paper is used to cut down on microwave messes. The paper is inserted over a bowl of dish in a microwave to prevent splatter.
  8. Wax paper is used to protect the surface of wooden cutting boards from scratch, stains and meat blood. It also helps prevent blunting of knives.
  9. Wax paper is used to make piping cornet for decorating cakes and muffins.
  10. Wax paper is used to roll out pastry and cookie dough. The dough is inserted between two sheets of parchment paper to prevent it from sticking to the countertop or the rolling pin.
  11. Wax paper is often re-used a number of times for all the cooking purposes mentioned above.
  12. Wax paper is used as a surface to rest spoons and ladles used for turning batters.
  13. Wax paper is used as a pan liner for no-bake recipes and those that require refrigeration i.e fudges or desserts.
  14. Wax paper is used in the oven as a pan liner for foods in which the batter completely covers the wax paper lining.
  15. Wax paper is used to protect cookbooks from splatters or oils.

What are the substitutes for wax paper in the oven?

  1. Parchment paper: Parchment paper is an oven paper that is specifically treated to withstand temperatures of up to 450°F. It has a non-stick surface and can substitute wax paper in all applications plus more. For instance, it can be used as a pan liner for cookies, biscuits and roasting vegetables; goods in which the food does not completely cover the paper lining. It can be used as a non-stick surface when cooking fish on a frying pan and a casing for steaming fish and chicken legs. 
  2. Silicone baking mat (Slipat): Silicone baking mat is another excellent substitute for wax paper in the oven. It is coated with food grade silicone which enables it to withstand very high temperatures (up to 480°F). It has a non-stick surface which releases baked goods perfectly and make cookware cleanup a breeze. Best part: It is non-toxic and can be used up to two thousand times before it needs replacement.
  3. Line baking sheets and pans with aluminum foil: Using wax paper in the oven even when baking cakes, muffins, brownies etc, can produce highly unpredictable results. Because of that, it's sometimes better to line the surface of a baking sheet with aluminum foil and grease with a cooking spray or butter. The grease will serve as a non-stick surface and food will slip out easy and nice.
  4. Grease baking mold: The trick above can be duplicated without aluminum. Just grease the surface of the pan and bake food directly on it. The grease will serve as non-stick surface. Additionally, you can sprinkle flour on the greasy surface to achieve a better non-stick result.

What are the substitutes for wax paper in other applications?

  1. Parchment paper: Parchment paper can substitute wax paper in all kitchen applications and more; baking, freezing, wrapping and storing.
  2. Freezer paper: These are papers that are specifically designed for freezer use. They have plastic coating on one side and are typically much more durable than wax papers. They can substitute wax papers in all freezing applications and are usually the better option.
  3. Aluminium foil: Foil can substitute wax paper in warping and storing goods, preventing kitchen mess and making disposable funnel. Foils however, are not safe to use in the microwave.

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