In the kitchen, or at the outdoor grill, the question of “parchment paper vs. butcher paper” often crops up.
To know their attributes well enough to make the most of their respective strengths in your next culinary attempt, take a look at our latest round-up.
Parchment paper vs. butcher paper may seem like a close call when it comes down to the essentials.
There are some marked differences, however, depending on what you are looking to achieve. Below, we have produced a simple summary for your reading digest.
There are various kinds of specialist paper products that perform all kinds of useful tasks for both indoor and outdoor cooking.
Parchment paper and butcher paper are two such specialist paper products which have traditionally been used by many cultures over the years in a culinary sense.
Online recipes for grilling and roasting meats and sweets of all sorts often involve the use of one or other type of paper.
In many cases, parchment paper and butcher paper can be used interchangeably and behave equivalently.
The contrast when it comes to certain qualities can be far removed from one another, making all the difference in technical application and therefore the end result.
Where quality is key, you want to make sure you are abreast of what’s what before you jump in. Below are just a few culinary uses of both products:
- Heat resistant
- Moisture resistant
- Grease resistance
We aim to address the physical and chemical properties which act as contributors to the well known performance qualities of both parchment and butcher paper in a cooking environment.
- 0.1 The following is a table of contents for the information enclosed within this post called “Parchment paper vs. butcher paper: What’s the difference to you?“:
- 1 Both Begin with Paper Pulp
- 2 Breakdown of Both Parchment and Butcher Paper
- 3 Recipes for Parchment and Butcher Paper
- 4 Risks: Using Bleached Paper with Food
- 5 Head-to-Head Comparison: Parchment Paper vs. Butcher Paper
The following is a table of contents for the information enclosed within this post called “Parchment paper vs. butcher paper: What’s the difference to you?“:
- Both Begin with Paper Pulp
- A Breakdown of Both Parchment and Butcher Paper
- Recipes for Parchment and Butcher Paper
- Risks from Using Bleached Paper & Food
- Head-to-Head Comparison: Parchment paper vs. Butcher Paper
Both Begin with Paper Pulp
What is paper pulp?
Paper pulp is created by a purpose-built manufacturing plant called a ‘pulp mill’.
The process by which paper pulp is made includes the conversion of wood into thick fibreboard, which is then shipped off to a paper mill for further processing into various types of paper products, like parchment and Kraft paper.
The pulping of wood occurs as it’s constituents: cellulose, lignin and hemi-celluloses, are chemically and mechanically separated out.
Lignin is primarily responsible for binding the cellulose fibres together.
Lignin is targeted by the likes of sulphuric acid and zinc chloride which act to chemically to breakdown its association with cellulose fibres.
The Breakdown Process
Exposure to heat in a chemical bath are the conditions which persuade the cellulose fibres to dissociate.
This process is effective enough to liberate cellulose gently from bonding with lignin, yet without damaging the cellulose fibres themselves, which are needed to make-up the paperboard end product.
Sulphite digestion to produce parchment paper
The acid bisulphite digestion of wood pieces takes place in steel tanks called digesters. This alkaline sulphite solution degrades the metal casing more readily than the alternative sulphate solution used in the Kraft process (by which Kraft paper is made). This sulphite process therefore creates the need for adding a protective lining to the insides of digesters for the prevention of corrosion.
The final product of this process is paperboard for parchment paper and other types.
Kraft process digestion to produce Kraft/butcher paper
The main difference between this paper manufacturing process and the aforementioned sulphite digestion process are:
- The caustic soda and sulphide mixture is less corrosive to the steel lining of the digester tanks which therefore negates the need for the addition of protective lining.
- The pulp produced is stronger from this Kraft process due to the chemical composition being more effective in removing the binding lignin fibres.
The resulting output of this process is Kraft pulp which is then further processed into Kraft paper.
Breakdown of Both Parchment and Butcher Paper
What Is Parchment Paper?
Parchment paper is a man-made paper product used far and wide by cooks and chefs for it’s non stick, heat resistance & high density qualities.
The following is a short description of parchment paper:
- Cellulose-Based Paper
- Produced by Sulphite Paper Manufacturing Process
- High Density Strength
- Bleached White or Unbleached
- Sheets or Rolls
What Is Butcher Paper?
Butcher paper is a manufactured paper product which is made by a process that yields a low lignin content for higher density and strength.
The following is a short description of butcher paper:
- Cellulose-Based Paper
- Produced by the Kraft Process (Sulphide)
- High Density Strength
- Bleached White, Unbleached, Pink, Peach, Black, Various Other Colours
- Sheets or Rolls
Recipes for Parchment and Butcher Paper
One of the most popular ‘ingredients’ (…if you think paper qualifies for such a term – as necessary as it can be at times when cooking) in online roasting, baking and grilling recipes is either parchment or butcher paper.
Their unique array of physical and chemical properties make them great candidates for saving on mess/loss and holding in moisture when steaming.
Talking of steaming, parchment paper has traditionally been used in the technique known as ‘En Papillote’ or ‘Al Cartoccio’ which in french and italian respectively carry the translated english meaning of, ‘in parchment’.
This method of cooking involves folding (especially meat dishes) in a paper envelope for the purpose of trapping in the steamed heat and more importantly moisture for producing a far more flavoursome and tender finish.
Whilst ‘en papillote‘ generally refers to the wrapping of food in a parchment paper parcel, in recent years barbecue cooking experts have popularly reported beef brisket smoke roasted in pink butcher paper is a great combination for flavour and tenderness – parcel style.
Some interesting advice for cooking in parchment or butcher paper:
- ‘En papillote’ sea bass recipe
- Rainbow trout ‘en papillote’ recipe with chillis
- Barbecuing meats in paper – the comparison experiment
Risks: Using Bleached Paper with Food
Paper bleaching is an aesthtically pleasing, yet not entirely necessary step of the paper production process.
The paper pulp is often at it’s end stage, soaked in chlorine/dioxin for the bleaching white of the final product.
Such chemicals can remain in the paper product, which have been reported to leach into food whilst cooking and therefore can be ingested.
Burning your parchment or butcher paper is also another risk involved in cooking.
Generally, manufacturers will declare on packaging instructions the maximum temparatures which their paper should withstand e.g. manufacturers like Reynolds, they advise their parchment paper can withstand temperatures up to 420-degrees farenheit.
If when cooking with either parchment or butcher paper you exceed these temperatures, or expose the paper to raw flame, the paper can scorch and burn leaving your food compromised.
Head-to-Head Comparison: Parchment Paper vs. Butcher Paper
The following are the performance related attributes and therefore advantages of both parchment paper and butcher paper, viewed in a head-to-head comparison:
- Non-stick e.g. lining baking tray for no mess, easy release
- Winner = parchment paper (treating either paper with a silicone layer is even better!)
- Heat resistant e.g. grilling or roasting meats
- Winner = both are usually stable up until about 400-degrees
- Greese-proof e.g. presenting baked good to guests
- Winner = parchment paper
- Tear resistant/High strength e.g. paper parcel cooking marinated meats
- Winner = butcher paper made by the Kraft process is much stronger
- Colour variation e.g. presentation for serving
- Winner = pink or peach butcher paper favoured by butchers and BBQ chefs alike
Overall, either paper treated in silicone gives rise to far more resistant product.
Although with smoke roasting meats outdoors, untreated butcher paper gves the best results, allowing smoke to pass through the paper material and into the food for fuller flavouring.
Butcher paper being a type of Kraft paper, shares the characteristics of Kraft (german for ‘strong‘) such as superior strength which can be of great advantage when cooking.
In summary, both types of paper clearly have their culinary benefits, but to know if you are really making the right decision for your intended recipe, why not perform a ‘cook-off comparison’ and let us know how you get on!