Why Parchment Paper Burns – Scientific Explanation

I recently bought parchment paper for baking goodies this weekend. I remember a friend telling me to be careful about using it because it may burn and cause a fire. But I begin to wonder if it’s true. So, I put on my Sherlock Holmes hat for some sleuthing. 

So, I researched why parchment paper burns. Parchment paper burns if you subject it to a temperature higher than its rated temperature of 420 degrees Fahrenheit for an extended period.  This maximum level of resistance to burning is due to the silicone coating that is on parchment paper.

According to Silicone Engineering, silicone rubber that is coating parchment paper is heat-resistant and can withstand higher temperatures. However, time is one factor that determines its performance and lifespan. Silicone is an essential material used in making parchment paper. 

Manufacturers have set the rated temperature at 420 degrees Fahrenheit. While parchment paper can withstand occasional temperatures higher than its maximum tolerance, it will deteriorate if you use it frequently at that heat for extended periods. I recommend unbleached parchment paper that is available at Amazon. Click here to get yours delivered to your front door.

Can Parchment Paper Touch the Oven Rack?

Parchment paper can touch the oven rack, but you must ensure that it’s not anywhere near the heat source. Moreover, you can’t get it near the preheated oven’s walls to avoid any potential instant ignition that may cause a fire.

Remember that parchment paper can only withstand up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit or 204 degrees Celsius; therefore, if you’re using an electric oven, you should ensure that parchment paper doesn’t get near the oven’s heating elements or the range’s walls. In addition, it would help to cut the sheets in the right size to ensure no part hangs on the sides. 

Moreover, reusing parchment paper can produce unpredictable results because you’ve subjected it to heat a couple of times. If it’s been smoked or has brittle areas, you should discard it immediately. You may use parchment paper at higher temperatures in some instances, but you shouldn’t do so for more than 30 minutes.

For instance, you may use parchment paper as a liner for pizza and bread, but you should bake it in less than 20 minutes. You can expect your sheets to become brittle and darken. What’s good about this type of baking paper is that it won’t release any hazardous chemicals, so you get to enjoy your baked goodies safely.

For prolonged cooking and baking at higher temperatures, it’s best to use a material that can withstand higher heat than parchment paper’s rated temperature. The takeaway here is that you must check the label to know the rated temperature for your brand of parchment paper. Some brands are oven-safe, which means that they won’t burn. It will only darken and become brittle.

Does Parchment Paper Burn in the Air Fryer?

Parchment paper doesn’t burn in the air fryer if you do not let the fryer bypass the maximum temperature stated for your brand of parchment paper.  Make sure that the edges of the parchment do not directly touch the heating elements to further reduce the risk of burning the parchment paper.

I recommend the Ninja Air Fryer that is available on Amazon. Click here to get yours delivered to your front door.

Parchment paper has several uses in the air fryer:

  1. It can be an added catch-all to prevent food, like granola, from falling through the basket.
  2. If you don’t want your food sticking to the basket, you can use it.
  3. Cleanup is easier because you only need to throw it in the bin after use.
  4. Parchment paper can help extend the life of your rack because you don’t need to scrub it often.

You should perforate your parchment paper because it will disrupt the airflow and cause your air fryer to catch fire. Moreover, you must read the user’s manual to check if the manufacturer has some dos and don’ts regarding its use. A regular air fryer has 400 degrees Fahrenheit or 204 degrees Celsius at its highest temperature. Therefore, check your parchment paper to see if it can handle the heat.

Here are some helpful tips if you prefer to use parchment paper in your air fryer:

  • If you’re preheating your air fryer, don’t preheat it with parchment paper. You should add it together with your food.
  • Ensure there’s food on top of your parchment paper because it may stick to the heating unit and cause a fire.
  • Check the manufacturer’s manual for instructions regarding putting things aside from food in the air fryer. Moreover, go to the manufacturer’s website and search for the manual if you can’t find yours.
  • Don’t forget to read the parchment paper box to check for the maximum temperature it can handle. It would be best if you had it to manage the standard highest temperature of your air fryer.
  • Ensure that you’re not using wax paper.

Wax Paper vs. Parchment Paper

 Parchment PaperWax Paper
Available in white (bleached) and brown (unbleached)  
For cold applications and food preparation, only.
UsesBaking cakes and cookies
Roasting fish and vegetables
Reheating leftover foods
Wrapping baked goodies
For cooking “en papillote”
Excellent for food preparation with sticky or messy foods
As counter cover when coating chicken or fish with crumbs
As hard cheese wrapper
For candy-making
For dipping pretzels, cookies, strawberries, and other foods in chocolate
To avoid splatters inside the microwave
Separating layers of treats or cookies for storage
For storing and rolling pie crusts
The material used for coatingSilicone for a heat-resistant and nonstick surfaceParaffin or soybean wax
Is it oven-safe?Yes, but up to 425 degrees Fahrenheit only.Not for direct exposure to oven heat but can be used as a liner for the baking pan when batter or dough covers it completely
Best substitutesSilicone molds for baking
Baking mat for baking
Wax paper for food preparation
Microwavable plastic for microwave reheating
Plastic wrap or freezer paper for storage
Foil for food preparation Parchment paper for baking
Is it microwave-safe?Yes, as food cover for reheatingYes, as food cover for reheating

Will Parchment Paper Burn in the Microwave?

Parchment paper will burn in the microwave if the temperature is higher than 420 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are microwaving fatty foods, the temperature can rise quickly, so ensure that you reduce the microwave setting to the medium level.

Otherwise, regular use of microwave with parchment paper is excellent. The temperature of food in the microwave doesn’t always go up twice as hot as the boiling point of water at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re only reheating leftovers containing fatty fats, you shouldn’t experience any issue if you don’t reheat them for too long. However, using parchment paper to cook bacon in the microwave is a no-no. 

Moreover, parchment paper shouldn’t touch the microwave’s heating element. Therefore, if you wish to use it, you should secure it around the food you’re heating so that air doesn’t cause it to touch the radiation source. 

If you can use parchment paper in your microwave, your next question should be about its safety. USDA lists parchment paper as safe to use in a microwave because a microwave uses radiation in cooking your food. Fortunately, it does not affect parchment paper, even if you use it in heating your food. 

Microwave releases low-energy radiation that water molecules absorb. Then, these molecules move and vibrate and knock and rub against the other molecules. This friction produces heat that spreads through the food. Fortunately, the parchment paper molecules and particles aren’t the same as the molecules that microwave radiation affects. Therefore, the radiation of the microwave does not affect the parchment paper. The food inside the microwave causes heat and not the microwave itself.

Is Burnt Parchment Paper Toxic?

Burnt parchment paper is toxic, but it depends on your type. Unbleached parchment paper is safe, but the bleached one may be toxic. However, some brands of bleached parchment paper are free of elemental chlorine.

Parchment paper is extremely useful in the kitchen, but if you prefer a non-toxic alternative, you should opt for the unbleached one. How do you identify unbleached parchment paper? It’s brown, while the bleached parchment paper is white. 

Here are the top reasons you must go for unbleached parchment paper:

  1. Unbleached parchment paper has no toxic chemicals.
  2. Dioxin-Free

Some bleached parchment papers contain dioxin, a toxic chemical that may leach into food when heating in the oven and get into your body if you consume the food. It may cause hormonal and reproduction problems and cancer. Moreover, it may be present in your body for at least seven years. Therefore, health issues may arise some years after unknowingly consuming it.

  • Quilon-Free

Instead of silicone, some parchment paper manufacturers use the cheaper Quilon to make it nonstick. But unfortunately, this chemical has chromium, a heavy metal that can seep into your cooking food. 

  • Aluminum-Free

If you’re most people, you use aluminum foil in cooking instead of unbleached parchment paper. Unfortunately, aluminum has a neurotoxin that causes Alzheimer’s disease. However, using aluminum foil sometimes isn’t harmful. An unbleached parchment sheet is a safer alternative because it doesn’t contain aluminum, Quilon, and dioxin. 

  • Environmentally Friendly

Unbleached paper is biodegradable; thus, it’s environmentally friendly. On the other hand, its bleached counterpart has dioxin that may cause health issues. It’s also biodegradable, but it can release toxins to the environment. Moreover, Quilon is not safe for landfills.

  • Quick Cleanup

Both bleached and unbleached parchment papers have the same purpose – to ensure that your baked goodies don’t stick to pans, thus making cleanup straightforward. For instance, if you’re using toffee, you may use unbleached parchment paper to ensure it doesn’t stick to your pans. You don’t have to scrub your pans after baking vigorously. Just throw the parchment paper in the bin.

  • High-quality Performance

If you choose unbleached parchment paper, you get all the benefits it can offer without the harsh chemicals. You have no worries about leaching and damaging your pans or even your health. It won’t affect your baking or cooking. Moreover, you don’t have to add oil or butter to avoid sticking on your pans. Thus, you also eat healthily without the additional fats. 

Will Parchment Paper Catch on Fire under the Broiler?

Parchment paper will catch fire under the broiler because it’s not fireproofed. A broiler uses direct heat and will scorch it. Small flames will quickly turn the parchment paper into ashes. 

You should never use parchment paper in broiling because it’s not fire-retardant. If it gets into contact with the heat source, a fire can ensue. Thus, to be safe, you should keep it away from your broiler.

Parchment paper has a silicone coating to resist heat, but this heat-resisting material isn’t fireproof. It means it can’t withstand direct flames; therefore, use it for other cooking and food preparation types. Moreover, it can’t affect your dish’s flavor, and you won’t need to grease your pan. You can peel it off after use and dispose of it immediately.

Parchment paper is a helpful tool in the kitchen. Unfortunately, you can’t use it to cover or line foods for broiling. A broiler can produce new flavor and texture in your food using the direct heat method. You’ll love its rustic and smoky tones in your meats and vegetables. Should you prefer to use a broiler, you should use a suitable metal pan and dripping rack that’s both heat-proof and heat resistant. They won’t burn under direct temperatures.

A broiler’s temperature can reach as high as 550 degrees Fahrenheit, but parchment paper is only suitable for heat up to 420 degrees. Thus, it has the potential to burn under a broiler. On the other hand, you may opt for aluminum foil because it can withstand up to 1,220 degrees Fahrenheit. However, be careful because it’s not nonstick.

Final Thoughts

A kitchen wiz has parchment paper in its arsenal because it’s helpful in cooking and baking goodies. However, it also has its downside – elevated temperature. Most brands have a rated temperature from 400 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, but it will only disintegrate if you subject it to higher heat at extended periods. So if you haven’t tried using parchment paper, why don’t you go for it today?

Aron Blake

I am the lead copywriter on Homezesty and the Webmaster. I have a lot of experience in home renovations and the creation of style. I enjoy writing and sharing my tips on how to create the best living environment. My Linkedin Profile, My Twitter Account

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