Parchment paper has loads of uses when it comes to baking and keeping your counter clean as you shape those cookies or add glaze to those homemade donuts. However, are they just as dependable when it comes to cooking food with your microwave?
In other words, can you microwave parchment paper? Yeah, but it has limits. It’s also usable for microwaving purposes but it’s mostly a baking type of paper.
Can You Microwave Parchment Paper?
Long story short, parchment paper can be used for microwaving. In fact, some recipes allow you to steam-microwave fish covered in the stuff. It’s a cooking miracle. It’s sturdier than paper towels too. No, you shouldn’t microwave it alone with no accompanying piece of food for longer than a minute.
However, it’s still less likely to char or catch flame compared to its dryer counterparts, the paper bowl, plate, and towel. Mixing paper with heat will lead to fires 99 percent out of 100 since paper products tend to be flammable by nature.
However, parchment cooking paper is specifically formulated to resist this flammable nature the same way the wax in wax paper prevents the same thing. It’s something that’s specifically designed to be as microwave-safe as possible.
What is Parchment Paper?
Parchment paper is the waxy paper used by bakers to bake cookies. It’s a nonstick type of paper barrier between the cookies and the baking sheet so that you won’t have to use a spatula in order to lift or wedge out the baked goods from the tray.
With that said, how does parchment paper differ from was paper? What makes it even more microwaveable and fire-resistant than paper towels or paper plates? For one thing, parchment paper isn’t covered by wax coating even though it looks plenty waxy on its own.
Instead, it uses silicone. The cellulose pulp that makes up the paper part of parchment paper is exposed to zinc chloride or sulfuric acid, thus fortifying its resistance to heat for something made of pulp. This also makes it as nonstick as Teflon brand products.
In contrast, while the wax paper is capable of many of the things parchment paper offers, it’s quite different because of its wax coating. The ends are the same but the means are different.
Paper’s Equilibrium Moisture Content
All paper has about 8 percent of equilibrium moisture content. When they get heated up by a microwave, that moisture can go down from 8 percent to 1-2 percent. At that percentage of dryness, paper becomes much more flammable, especially when it’s under a hot turntable.
This is the reason why most people use moist paper towels to cover their food instead of dry ones. If the paper towel is dry, at least it’s able to absorb the moisture of the food so that it doesn’t drop down to that 1-2 percent moisture and dryness.
Equilibrium moisture content is also the reason why you should never microwave a paper plate, bowl, or towel on its own in the microwave. A paper plate could get burned on its underside if it gets dry enough. It might even catch fire altogether.
In contrast, parchment paper has waxy silicone content that prevents its equilibrium moisture content from dropping to that percentage. Both parchment and wax paper are microwaveable due to their heat resistance and nonstick properties.
Can You Microwave Paper Towels vs. Wax or Parchment Paper?
Paper towels can be microwaved as long as they have food underneath them or they’re partially moist. Avoid trying to microwave paper towels dry and on their own. They’re likelier to catch fire this way. In contrast, you don’t need to moisten parchment paper to make it more heat resistant.
Parchment paper is safe for use in a microwave oven or conventional oven (that requires preheating) because it’s heat-resistant enough to take temperatures as hot as 450°F. It’s roughly the same with wax paper, except parchment paper instead uses silicone coating.
Wax paper isn’t safe for baking in a conventional oven but it can be microwaved. This is why most baked goods use parchment instead of wax paper. This convenient material is something you can put in a microwave oven to do some baking.
You can use it for making mug brownies or mug cookies as well as cooking fish by steaming it. If you lack containers on hand to heat something up with, it’s a good alternative like paper plates.
Different Types of Parchment Paper Products
Not all parchment paper is created equal. There are two types of parchment paper available to you—the regular parchment paper and the unbleached parchment paper.
Standard parchment paper has a white color because it’s been treated with chlorine or bleached to a white color. In contrast, unbleached parchment paper is brown in color. That’s arguably the original color of the parchment paper.
Whether it’s bleached or not, both parchment paper types are microwaveable. Don’t worry about the color or chlorine treatment of parchment paper. Both are considered microwave-safe according to the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service or the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
How Do You Know If a Paper Product is Microwaveable?
Parchment paper is microwaveable up until the temperature of 450°F. Superheated food can lead to even microwave-safe parchment paper catching fire. In regards to other paper products, it’s tough to tell which ones are off-limits or not.
First off, you should check the packaging for the microwave-safe label. Err on the side of caution. If the paper container lacks that label then it’s likely to be unsafe for microwaving.
You can also go to the Internet and check the specs of the product on the manufacturer’s website. It should tell you if a given paper type is microwaveable or not. In particular, look at the website’s FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page.
Parchment paper is fine to use in the microwave along with other paper products like wax paper, paper towels, paper plates, and paper bowls. Its silicone content is not unlike the wax content of the wax paper that makes it nonstick and heat resistant.
In contrast, paper-like newspapers, brown paper bags, and cardboard boxes should not be microwaved due to their nonexistent heat resistance, ink leakage for newspapers, and metal or glue content for cardboard.
With that said, even if parchment paper is so heat resistant it could be used for cooking or baking, don’t push it to its flame-proof limits. Any food that’s superheated could make it catch fire.
- Karen B. Gibbs, “What can and can’t go in a microwave? An expert reveals the answers“, Today.com, December 17, 2016
- “Can you put parchment paper in the microwave?“, Quora.com, July 19, 2019
- “Can You Microwave Parchment Paper? (What You Nedd to Know)“, ThriveCuisine.com, April 25, 2021