What is freezer paper vs. waxed paper?

Written by cheryl munson
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What is freezer paper vs. waxed paper?
Freezer paper and waxed paper have different uses. (butcher image by .shock from Fotolia.com)

One paper is what your local butcher or delicatessen sandwich maker reaches for to wrap up your purchase. The other is used to create fabulous homemade desserts. The first is freezer paper and the latter is waxed paper. The primary difference is that freezer paper is primarily used for cold storage of meats, fish and poultry inside a refrigerator or freezer, and waxed paper can be used inside an oven for cooking and baking purposes. Both types of paper are indispensable in the kitchen. Both papers are also used for art, hobby and craft projects.

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Freezer Paper

Freezer paper is a heavyweight paper that is primarily used by butchers, delicatessens to wrap cuts of poultry, beef, fish and sandwiches. Freezer paper is one type of butcher paper. The difference is that one side of freezer paper is plain and the other side has a wax coating. Other types of butcher paper can be plain on both sides. Freezer paper helps to seal in the juices of meat and prevent colour loss and freezer burn. The paper is usually white or brown. The heavy weight of freezer paper prevents juices from soaking through en route from the butcher shop or grocery store to your refrigerator. Some manufacturers get approval for their freezer paper by the Federal Department of Agriculture.

Waxed Paper

In addition inventing to the light bulb, Thomas Edison gets credit for creating waxed paper. Waxed paper is a lightweight paper that has a paraffin wax surface on both sides of the paper. It is primarily used for cooking and baking. Cake pans and tins are lined with waxed paper to bake cakes. The waxed paper is laid on the surface of a metal pan to prevent food from sticking to the metal. This distinguishes waxed paper from parchment paper, which can be used to create a cooking pouch to seal fish or chicken so that they cook by steam in the oven. Waxed paper cannot be used for this purpose.

Distinctive Uses

Waxed paper can be used for microwave cooking, whereas freezer paper cannot because the paper side would heat and burn. Waxed paper is used to line the microwave glass cooking tray and place on top of a dish to prevent splatters and to seal in heat.

Freezer paper, can be used for cooking oven baked fish or chicken, similar to cooking methods used with parchment paper. Do not try to use waxed paper for sealed cooking methods because waxed paper will melt and burn. One method used for cooking fish with freezer paper is called "en papillotte," which is derived from the French term for butterfly. In this method, freezer paper is folded and cut in a heart shape. The fish or poultry is placed on the waxed side of the paper and topped with seasonings, butter, wine and other ingredients. The edges are folded to create a sealed pouch with the dull side of the paper exposed to the oven heat. After the food is cooked, it is plated directly from the oven, still in the pouch. The diner opens the pouch and savours the fresh-baked aroma.

Alternative Uses

Both freezer and waxed paper have non-cooking related alternative uses, largely in the area of craft use. Freezer paper is commonly used as a colouring paper for children. Restaurants often cover their tables with freezer paper to allow guests of every age o colour on the paper while waiting for their food. Quilters use freezer paper to create and iron appliques onto their quilt pieces. Waxed paper is often used by artists who make candles and those who work with clays and resins to cover their work tables so that the clay or resin does not interact or seep into the surface of the table, and to make clean-up quick and easy. One popular craft use for waxed paper is to dry and press leaves.

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