Is Parchment Paper Safe to Cook With?
Everyone wants to do the best they can for themselves and their families. As a result, we understandably want to be sure that the products and ingredients we bring into our homes are not only good quality, but also free from any unexpected nasties that will disappoint us, or worse, put us at risk.
Since parchment paper is a paper that has been prepared in a specific way to make it heat-resistant and greaseproof it’s only reasonable to wonder if, at the end of the day, it’s still safe to cook with.
In this article we’re going to address three major areas of potential concern when it comes to the safety of parchment paper:
1. Is parchment paper a fire hazard?
2. Does parchment paper leach chemicals into my food?
3. Is bleached parchment paper safe to cook with?
If it’s made of paper, won’t parchment paper burn?
At the end of the day, parchment paper is paper which, we all know, is very good at catching fire. Why then would we recommend putting it in your oven? That’s because parchment paper is no ordinary paper. After the wood pulp has been laid out, dried, and rolled into huge reams of paper, both sides of this paper are coated with silicone. It’s this stage that gives parchment paper its unique properties, including a significant degree of heat resistance. Kana parchment paper, for example, can safely be used in ovens up to 428°F (220°C) without burning.
This coating of silicone is the major difference between wax paper and parchment paper. Where silicone helps parchment paper resist high temperatures, wax does not have the same effect and wax paper will smoke and burn in the oven.
It does need to be said that while parchment paper is heat-resistant, it is not flame-retardant. Which is why you should never let any parchment paper (including ours) come in contact with an electric heating element or be exposed to a direct flame.
Does parchment paper leach chemicals into my food?
As we become more aware of the chemical substances that live in our kitchens and their effect on our health, we have also become more wary of the phenomenon of leaching. Leaching is the term used to describe the chemical process that causes compounds to be drawn out of a solid into a liquid.
The process of leaching, in itself, is neither good nor bad. You rely on leaching every time you order an espresso as the hot water causes delicious coffee to extract from the ground beans1.
"Leaching" is what’s happening when boiling water draws flavour from tea leaves.
However, some leaching is cause for concern. Also referred to as "migration", recent studies have revealed that foods cooked and stored in aluminum are prone to contamination by leaching, especially acidic foods. Plastic storage containers made using bisphenol-A, or BPA, are also considered a health hazard as a result of leaching2.
If parchment paper is coated in silicone, you may wonder, is there are risk to my health if it ends up in my food? Thankfully, no. Kana parchment paper is certified food safe - meaning that its components will not migrate to food, nor will it impact the flavour or texture of the food with which it comes into contact.
When it comes to cooking or storing your food in contact with parchment paper, leaching is nothing to be worried about.
Is bleached parchment paper safe to cook with?
When we talk about bleached or unbleached parchment paper what we’re really describing is whether or not the wood pulp used to make the paper has been through a bleaching process. Bleached wood pulp results in paper that is a white color, while unbleached wood pulp retains a woody brown hue. This is due to the presence of lignin, the molecule in plants that also provides structure as well as shades of brown.
The purpose of bleaching wood pulp is to remove the lignin, which is an important step in improving the hygiene and heat resistance of parchment paper.
The lignin is then recycled and repurposed for a whole range of fascinating uses including as a natural adhesive, biofuel4 and even in medicine5. The wood fibers that remain are made of cellulose, which is pressed and dried to form paper.
In decades past this bleaching process used elemental chlorine, a method linked to the production of dioxins which can cause significant health and environmental problems. Concerns about the health risks of cooking with bleached parchment paper understandably prompted people to seek out an unbleached alternative. However, this is not without its own drawbacks. Unbleached wood fibers can contaminate food with which they come into contact, and since lignin is the component responsible for wood charring when burnt, unbleached parchment paper could be more prone to smoking at high temperatures6.
Thankfully, significant technological improvements in recent years have made the bleaching process safer for everyone. Kana parchment paper is made with pulp bleached using a process that is free from elemental chlorine (ECF), which enables us to create a parchment paper that performs well at high temperatures while also being easy on the environment.
in short, bleached parchment paper is perfectly safe to cook with.
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