Don’t get these two products mixed up.
Wax paper and parchment paper might look similar, but they serve very different purposes in the kitchen. Wax paper has a thin coating of wax on each side, which prevents food from sticking to it and makes it moisture-resistant. But wax paper is not heat-resistant; the wax will melt at high temperatures and the paper itself can catch on fire. Don’t use wax paper to line baking sheets or cake pans or put it in a hot oven.
Wax paper is useful in many other ways. It’s handy for rolling out dough of all kinds, pounding chicken breasts into cutlets, lining a baking pan for no-bake bar cookies (like our No-Bake Fudgy Toffee Bars) and covering countertops when you are decorating iced cookies, working with melted chocolate, or dusting a recipe with powdered sugar. You can sift dry ingredients onto a large piece of wax paper, then lift the paper and pour the contents right into your mixing bowl. Wax paper also makes a good wrapper for sandwiches, sticks of butter, or wedges of cheese.
Like wax paper, parchment paper is also moisture-resistant and non-stick. But because it has been made with silicone, it can also be used in the oven, generally as high as 450 degrees. Even if your oven is a little hotter than that, the paper will usually darken but not burn. Parchment paper is sold bleached (white) and unbleached (light brown), the color will not make a difference in your recipe.
Use parchment paper to line baking sheets, cake pans, pie pans, and meatloaf pans, cook fish and vegetables en papillote, as a makeshift muffin pan liners, and for any of the tasks listed above.
Bottom line: You can use wax paper and parchment paper interchangeably if you are not cooking with heat. If you are cooking with heat, choose parchment paper.