unbaked cookies on parchment paper

Is Parchment Paper Safe? Debunking Potential Concerns

Parchment paper is a staple in the kitchen and has numerous advantages for cooking and baking. But as we shift to a more consumer-conscious society where food safety and environmental impact are our high priorities, we can’t help but wonder — is parchment paper safe?

In this article, we’ll explore the potential concerns that have raised eyebrows among both cooks and conscientious consumers. We’ll provide all the answers you need to decide whether it’s time to look for parchment paper alternatives.

The Composition of Parchment Paper

The composition of parchment paper is a mixture of natural materials and various coatings that give it those special properties that are essential to us in the kitchen. Here’s what that looks like in more detail:

  • Cellulose Fiber Base: This makes the core of parchment paper and is typically sourced from wood pulp. The cellulose base contributes to the paper’s strength, flexibility, and resistance to high temperatures.
  • Silicone Coating: One of the defining features of parchment paper is its non-stick surface, thanks to its silicone coating which is applied in a thin layer to both sides of the paper. This coating prevents foods from sticking to the parchment paper during cooking and baking.
  • Heat Resistance Additives: They may be added to the paper’s composition to help it withstand higher temperatures.
  • Food-Grade Components: To ensure the safety of parchment paper for cooking and baking, manufacturers must adhere to food-grade standards and regulations. This involves selecting materials and coatings that are safe for contact with food.
  • Bleaching Agents (Optional): Some types of parchment paper may undergo a bleaching process to achieve a lighter color. This process involves the use of food-safe bleaching agents to whiten the paper. We discuss this in more detail below. 

Parchment paper is created by blending these components. The cellulose fibers are mixed with water to create a pulp, which is then flattened and dried to form the paper sheets. The silicone coating is carefully applied to both sides, ensuring even coverage for consistent non-stick properties.

Is Parchment Paper Safe? Health Risks and Environmental Impact

While parchment paper is generally considered safe for culinary use, there are rising concerns regarding certain chemicals used in food packaging and preparation, such as per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Let’s explore all concerns to find out how valid they are. 

Food-Grade Certification and Regulations

The use of parchment paper in food preparation and baking is subject to rigorous food-grade certification and specific regulations that guarantee it meets the standards for consumer health and safety. Here are the main ones:

  • Food-Grade Standards and Compliance: Parchment paper manufacturers are obligated to comply with established food-grade standards, which determine the materials, coatings, and additives that can be used in production.
  • Materials and Coatings: Manufacturers are required to use materials that are safe for direct contact with food and do not pose health risks to consumers. Any additives, such as heat-resistant components or bleaching agents, must also be deemed safe for food applications.
  • Non-Toxicity and Migration: It must be proven with rigorous testing that the parchment paper is non-toxic and doesn’t transfer harmful substances to food during cooking or baking.
  • Heat Resistance and Stability: These refer to parchment paper’s ability to withstand high temperatures without degrading or releasing harmful substances. That’s why regulators may establish specific temperature limits to ensure the paper remains safe for use in ovens and other cooking environments.
  • Labeling and Packaging: Food-grade certification includes packaging and labeling. You should have clear and accurate information on the packaging about the product’s intended use, materials, and any relevant warnings.
  • Ongoing Testing and Quality Control: Parchment paper manufacturers typically implement rigorous quality control to ensure that the paper meets food-grade standards and is safe to use.

So, if the standards are so strict, why are we worried about parchment paper health risks?

baked biscuits on unbleached parchment paper

Does Parchment Paper Have Chemicals?

Yes, parchment paper contains chemicals, but they are generally considered safe for food contact and have been approved by regulators. 

One of the primary concerns is the silicone coating applied to the paper’s surface, which is responsible for its non-stick properties. But the silicone in parchment paper is a synthetic material that’s considered food-grade and safe for use in cooking and baking. It’s heat-resistant, stable at high temperatures, and doesn’t release toxic fumes under heat. Also, it doesn’t react with food or release harmful substances during the cooking process.

What About PFAS in Parchment Paper?

There’s a growing concern about the potential presence of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in some food packaging materials, including parchment paper. 

Wait, what exactly are PFAS? 

PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals associated with health and environmental concerns. They’re incredibly persistent once they enter our bodies and can lead to obesity, liver damage, fertility issues, and cancer. But wait, don’t panic just yet. 

Research on PFAS shows worrying amounts in various food packaging, mostly found in fast food and supermarket chains. So, the takeaway is you should limit your takeaway. But what about parchment paper?

I only found one study on baking paper, which is a type of parchment paper, where the topic of the research was how chemicals like PFAS can move from the cooking paper to the food. The study used special liquids to mimic fatty and acidic foods and used ultrasound to examine this process.  The early results showed that baking paper had more of these chemicals moving into the simulated food. The amounts were in the range of 1.43 to 13.87 nanograms per square decimeter for PFASs. Now, are those numbers worrying, and should you look for parchment paper without PFAS?

To answer that question, we must look at the acceptable weekly intake without health risks. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has set a tolerable weekly intake (TWI) of 4.4 nanograms per kilogram of body weight per week for PFAS. If we compare that to the range of 1.43 to 13.87 nanograms per square decimeter, we find out that the lower end of the range is approximately 5.8% of the TWI. However, the upper end of the range is approximately 56.4% of the TWI. Please keep in mind that these calculations are based on simplified assumptions, which do not take into account all potential factors. Alas, we’re not mathematicians, so take all that with a grain of salt.

Bottom Line on PFAS and Parchment Paper

Based on some basic calculations above, parchment paper should be safe to use, even if it contains traces of PFAS. If I were you, I’d worry way more about consuming food from fast food and supermarket chains where the food paper packaging has been found to contain more PFAS.

Also, while most parchment paper manufacturers do not intentionally use PFAS in their products, trace amounts of PFAS can appear due to cross-contamination from other sources in the production process. Still, the levels of chemicals in parchment paper are typically very low and are considered safe for normal culinary use. 

Generally, if used as intended – lining baking sheets or wrapping foods during cooking – parchment paper is safe and poses minimal risk to human health. But if you’re still worried, you can look for a label that says “parchment paper without PFAS” or look into the alternatives below. 

Unbleached vs Bleached Parchment Paper Safety

Unbleached parchment paper is made without bleaching, which involves the use of chemicals to whiten the paper. As a result, it retains its natural brownish color. It’s often considered the safer option, as it may contain fewer chemicals. Plus, it’s the more eco-friendly choice since it reduces the use of potentially harmful bleaching chemicals and the associated environmental impacts.

Bleached parchment paper undergoes bleaching to get a lighter and brighter color. The bleaching process involves the use of chemicals, like chlorine or hydrogen peroxide. While manufacturers try to ensure that any residues are within safe limits, there are some concerns about potential traces of these chemicals. 

Many cooks prefer bleached paper for specific baking and presentation purposes. But if the presentation isn’t that big of a deal for you, you might want to choose unbleached parchment paper. It’s more eco-friendly and contains less chemicals. Note that both types of cooking paper are deemed safe for cooking and baking by regulatory institutions. 

Is Burnt Parchment Paper Toxic?

Burnt parchment paper can release smoke and emit a burnt odor when exposed to high heat. Inhaling smoke from burnt parchment paper, like any type of smoke, can irritate your respiratory system and may cause discomfort, especially for individuals with sensitivities or preexisting respiratory conditions.

However, burnt parchment paper isn’t typically considered highly toxic. Parchment paper is usually coated with silicone, and while high temperatures can cause the paper to brown or char, the silicone coating itself isn’t likely to produce harmful fumes or chemicals when burned.

If you accidentally burn parchment paper while cooking, ventilate the area and remove the burnt paper to prevent any potential irritation or discomfort.

cookies on paper on top of a silicone baking mat

Alternatives and Safer Options

Although parchment paper is safe to use, you might want to look into alternatives, especially if you care about your environmental impact. Here are your options:

  • Silicone Baking Mats: They’re reusable and have a non-stick surface for baking. Plus, they can withstand high temperatures and are easy to clean. I’m using one and I highly recommend that as an alternative to parchment paper.
  • Greasing Your Pans: You can always go back to basics — grease your pans with a small amount of oil, butter, or cooking spray to create a non-stick surface. But this means adding extra fat and sometimes the food will still stick to the pan. 
  • Sustainable Parchment Paper: Some companies produce parchment paper from compostable materials or recycled paper. Of course, this has a higher cost, and you’ll still need to throw away each sheet after using it.

Overall, the best and safest parchment paper alternative is a silicone baking mat. It’s reusable and easy to clean. 

Should You Use Parchment Paper? Weighing the Benefits and Risks

Parchment paper has numerous benefits for us in the kitchen. It’s easy to use, helps with cleanup, the food won’t stick to your pans, and you won’t have to use as much grease. You can even use parchment paper in the microwave as long as it’s labeled as safe.

Its major con is that it’s mostly single-use, so you generate a lot of waste if you cook often with it. As for safety, you shouldn’t worry about that too much. But if you want to reduce your environmental impact, switching to a silicone baking mat is the best decision you can make. 


Does all parchment paper have silicone?

No. While many brands use a silicone coating for non-stick properties, some parchment paper products are silicone-free. Check product labels or descriptions.

Is parchment paper natural or synthetic?

Parchment paper is a combination of both natural and synthetic elements. It’s typically made from paper that undergoes a process to create a non-stick surface. Some parchment paper may also have a silicone coating for enhanced non-stick properties. This mix of materials makes it a hybrid product.

Does parchment paper contain plastic?

No, traditional parchment paper doesn’t contain plastic. However, some variations or substitutes may incorporate silicone, which isn’t the same as plastic but is a synthetic material.

Does parchment paper have Teflon?

No, parchment paper doesn’t contain Teflon. Teflon is a brand name for a type of non-stick coating called polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), used in cookware. Parchment paper is a separate product made from paper treated with a silicone coating to create a non-stick surface.

Is parchment paper freezer safe?

Yes, parchment paper is generally freezer safe. You can use it to separate and prevent frozen foods from sticking together. Make sure the paper is tightly wrapped around the food to prevent freezer burn. For best results, use parchment paper specifically labeled as freezer safe.

Is parchment paper safe in an air fryer?

Yes, you can use parchment paper in an air fryer, but you must ensure it’s safe. Check whether the paper is suitable for the air fryer’s temperature. Avoid blocking air vents and ensure the paper doesn’t come into contact with the heating element. Trim excess paper to prevent it from blowing around.

Is parchment paper safe for steaming?

Yes, parchment paper can be safe for steaming food. You can use it to create paper packets for steaming fish, vegetables, and other foods. Make sure the paper is securely sealed to prevent steam from escaping.

Is parchment paper safer than aluminum?

Parchment paper is generally safer than aluminum foil. While both have their uses, parchment paper is non-reactive, so it doesn’t leach chemicals into food. Aluminum foil can react with acidic or high-salt foods, potentially releasing aluminum particles.

Is parchment paper safer than wax paper?

Yes, parchment paper is safer than wax paper for cooking purposes. It’s heat-resistant and can withstand higher temperatures, while wax paper can melt or ignite at high heat. Parchment paper is also non-stick and doesn’t have a wax coating, making it more suitable for baking and cooking.

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