Why You Shouldn't Let Excess Parchment Paper Dangle In The Oven

While unassuming at first glance, parchment paper is a versatile tool for cooking and baking, and a must-have in any kitchen. Whether you're making brownies or bacon, parchment paper creates a barrier between your cookware and your food to negate sticking and cut down on cleanup. Parchment paper also has a slew of creative uses: you could turn it into a makeshift icing bag, or use it to wrap sandwiches, leftovers, and even presents. In general, parchment paper is a helpful tool to have around. However, if you're not cautious when using it in the oven, this innocuous item can cause a real problem.


Let's say you're in the mood for cookies. You preheat the oven, break out the frozen cookie dough, and start to prep the baking sheet. In your excitement, you tear too much parchment paper off the roll, and it dangles over either end of the baking sheet. This is where the trouble starts; if you were to disregard the excess parchment paper and put it in the oven anyway, there is a risk that the paper may come into contact with the heating elements of the oven and start to burn, or even catch on fire.

How to safely use parchment paper in the oven

It's important to be diligent when using parchment paper to avoid this potentially disastrous scenario. Speaking to Homes & Gardens, cookbook author Kristen Wood recommends you "only use parchment paper on the middle rung of your oven" so that the paper is as far away from the oven's heating elements as possible. You should also take notice of whether the parchment paper is curling up or down on the baking sheet. Since heat rises, placing it so that it curls down will reduce the chance of it getting too hot.


Also, be careful not to use more parchment paper than necessary. Ideally, you should just use enough to cover the bottom of your cookware without reaching over the edges. You can easily cut a piece of parchment paper to fit by putting your cookware on top of it and drawing around it with a pencil. If you're planning on using extra parchment paper to pull baked goods out of a loaf pan, consider folding the paper over itself to create shorter, sturdier tabs that are less likely to catch fire.

Use parchment paper at the right temperatures

Parchment paper may be able to withstand high temperatures, but there's a limit to how much heat it can take. Once the paper is exposed to temperatures above 420 degrees Fahrenheit, it will start to appear singed, and then start smoking. When left at a high heat, the parchment paper can ignite and start a fire in your oven. Avoid parchment paper if you're going to be using the broiler function, which averages around 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Don't submerge the paper in hot oil, and don't let it get too close to open flame.


If you make regular use of your baking sheet, you may want to invest in a silicone baking mat. These mats work the same as a piece of parchment paper, can withstand slightly higher temperatures (around 450 degrees Fahrenheit), and can be reused thousands of times. Otherwise, be sure to cut your parchment paper down to size, unless you like your cookies with a hint of smoke.