You’ll never have to guess again.

By Grace Elkus
November 21, 2017

Dropping cookie dough on a baking sheet. Roasting a pan of root vegetables. Should you use parchment paper or aluminum foil for the (delicious) task at hand?

To put the confusion to rest once and for all, we spoke with Charry Brown, current test kitchen manager at Reynolds, and Pat Schweitzer, consumer test kitchen manager at Hamilton Beach and former test kitchen economist at Reynolds, to provide a clear answer for every sweet and savory scenario. But first, a few notes:

Which one is nonstick? While parchment paper is always nonstick, only certain types of foil are. Nonstick foil has a special coating, and should be used when making sticky, cheesy, or starchy baked foods. Standard and heavy duty aluminum foil are not nonstick, but can be sprayed with cooking spray when necessary. 

Is there ever a need to grease parchment paper? While it depends on the recipe, you can usually skip the “butter and flour” step if you are lining the pan with parchment paper, Brown says—with a few exceptions. “If it is a very sticky or gooey dough, lightly flour the parchment paper, particularly in the bottom of the pan.” Additionally, always butter and flour the parts of a pan that aren’t covered in parchment.

Does it matter whether foil is shiny side up or down? It depends on the type of foil. When cooking with standard or heavy duty foil, you can place your food on either side. If you’re using nonstick, place your food atop the dull side.

Why do I need to use cover my pans at all? Both materials make for easy cleanup, and ensure your food doesn’t stick to cooking surfaces. Using parchment or foil also cuts down on the need for added grease or butter. 

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