Comparing Food Wraps

Dirty aluminum foil cannot be recycled. If foil reaches the recycling plant contaminated with food scraps then it must be sent to the landfill. The same goes for tin foil that is crumpled into a tight ball. According to the Environmental Protection agency, millions of tons of aluminum foil are ending up in landfills across America. As you might guess, this stuff is called tin foil for a reason and takes centuries to biodegrade.

So, although aluminum foil is great for a lot of jobs, there are other wrapping choices that can do some jobs just as well and some that can do certain things even better. For instance, unbleached parchment paper can bake, roast and wrap just as well as any wrap. What makes it a better choice than aluminum foil is that it is biodegradable, compostable and sometimes even reusable… but, don’t ever stick it on the grill! Read on as we compare the four major types of food wraps currently available.

which wrap

Comparing Food Wraps

Wrap Strength Weakness Best Uses
Parchment Paper Can withstand heat up to 420°F. Holds moisture and it remains strong when wet. It is biodegradable and compostable. Most expensive of the wraps. Makes an excellent pouch for cooking fish or veggies and a nice wrapping paper for baked goods (it comes in brown and white color).
Wax Paper Coated in a food grade wax. It breathes so that foods won’t get soggy or slimy. Less expensive than parchment paper. Can’t be exposed directly to heat. Although, it can line the bottom of a cake pan only if the batter fully covers it. Best for wrapping sandwiches & cheese. Can be used for rolling.
Aluminum Foil The only wrap that can withstand high heat and high temperatures. This wrap doesn’t breathe, so foods stay moist and do not absorb odors. It is recyclable and reusable. Not microwave safe! Great for the grill.
Plastic Wrap It is clear and sticks to itself. Can microwave if it is marked “microwave safe” and does not touch the food. Best for wrapping refrigerated foods so they are more likely eaten before they secretly expire.

Comparing Food Wraps

Additional Information

For 51 uses for parchment paper, see our parchment uses page.

There is a newer hybrid of parchment paper and aluminum foil that is called Parchminum. This product is made to go from the oven into the dishwasher up to 500 times! It is more of a cooking tray liner than a wrap so we did not include it in the chart above, but this product should be considered for its non-stick and reusable qualities as it can go from oven to table and then into the dishwasher between baking cookies and steaks. Reusable is always a huge plus!

To find out how long other foods are good for, please visit the Dairy, Drinks, Fruits, Grains, Proteins, Vegetables and Other sections of Eat By Date or use the search function below.

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