Sheet pans are a kitchen staple. You need them for cookies, macarons, bread, veggies – you name it! And lining the sheet pans is crucial – it’s basically a ritual when putting anything in the oven.
But what should you use to line the pans? It really depends on what your end game is. Do you want a browned, crispy edge? Do you need your food easily released from the pan? Are you looking for convenience or to reduce your environmental footprint?
There are two popular options when lining sheet pans – parchment paper or silicone baking mat. I did some research and conducted some baking tests in my kitchen with both of these so I could give you all the facts.
Alright, grab yourself a drink and a snack. Let’s get into this.
Parchment paper is a cellulose-based paper coated in a thin silicone layer. This silicone layer makes it non-stick and heat resistant up to about 450°F/232°C. When baked at a higher temperature, say for artisan breads, parchment paper can get dry, dark and brittle. It will still be non-stick, you just need to be careful not to crack any brittle bits into your food.
It’s fairly cheap at about $5 per box, depending on where you shop. One of the nice things about parchment is that you can cut and customize it to fit any sized pan, which makes it pretty versatile. The downside to this is that it can be hard to get the paper to lay flat once you have it cut. Don’t worry about this too much, as you can always purchase pre-cut sheets!
So, let’s talk about how they effect baking cookies. Parchment paper isn’t perfectly smooth, which means the cookies typically spread as intended (meaning they don’t spread too much). They also get crispier, browner bottoms and edges, because the parchment paper soaks up extra fat so it doesn’t pool underneath the cookie.
I think it’s also worth noting that after you have your paper on the pan, you technically can reuse it, depending on its wear and tear. If after your final batch of cookies is done and your paper is still white and not dry, dark or brittle, simply wipe it down with a clean cloth and store! You can probably get 3-4 uses out of them after that.
Moving right along!
Silicone Baking Mat
Silicone baking mats are thin, flexible sheets made from food grade silicone with fiberglass or nylon mesh inside to help conduct heat. Most are oven save up to 480°F/249°C, which is a little higher than parchment paper. Keep in mind that this can vary by brand.
They are a great eco-friendly option, since they can be used again and again. Purchasing these can be pricey initially, but the nice part is that it’s a one-time buy. If treated properly, these can last years or even decades! Just avoid using sharp objects on them.
Silicone mats are the ultimate non-stick surface, which makes them perfect for foods like caramel, chocolate dipped desserts or brittle. These sticky kinds of food peel right off the mat once they’ve cooled completely.
When it comes to baking cookies, silicone mats slow the browning process. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing! If you want a soft, light and cakey cookie, you may want to try baking on one of these. Also, since the surface of the mats is perfectly smooth, cookies tend to spread a little more when baked on these.
Once the cookies are done baking, letting them cool on the silicone mat is a no-no. Silicone doesn’t absorb extra fat, which means it’s all just sitting underneath the cookie. If left to cool in its place, it could lead to the bottoms being sweaty and soggy (see above photo). Ick.
When doing research on these, I read that some bakers complained that the mats absorbed odors. So you may find that it smells like your last batch of cookies or whatever you used it for. Another complaint was that this is an awkward item to clean and dry. I have a few myself, and know I kind of dread having to wash them once I’m done.
Also, when purchasing one of these, make sure you are buying the right kind. There are silicone mats that are intended for things like rolling out fondant, dough or even crafting. These are not meant for oven use. Mats that are suitable for the oven are always labeled silicone baking mats.
In case you’ve already forgotten all the information I threw at you in the above paragraphs, never fear! Here are a couple pro’s and con’s lists.
|PARCHMENT PROS||PARCHMENT CONS|
|non stick||single-use item|
|heat resistant||recurring cost|
|easy clean up||candy may stick|
|can be cut to size|
|prep multiple pans|
|SILICONE PROS||SILICONE CONS|
|non stick||washing after each use|
|heat resistant||leads to spreading|
|reusable||size not adjustable|
|less browning||costly initial investment|
|perfect for candy making||may need multiple|
|doesn’t absorb fat|
And that’s it! That’s all I got for ya on this subject. If you have any questions or info I missed, leave them in the comments! Or ask me on instagram @fg_bakes!
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