Food 101: Know Your Roll
Awhile back I gave you the rundown on pantry staples. While it’s important to keep food staples on hand, there are some good things to keep in your pantry that you’re not going to eat. Today I’m here to fill you in on some pantry staples that aren’t edible, but are important in food preparation and storage.
Aluminum foil is probably the most multipurpose roll to have around the house. You can use it to wrap food to keep in the fridge, you can use it to cover things baking in the oven, you can use it to line pans to help make clean-up easier… You can even cook food in foil pouches. There are a lot of different types of aluminum foil out there, but to just have on hand for day to day use I’d recommend either just standard or heavy duty foil. If you need your foil to be non-stick you can easily just spray it with non-stick spray. Pro-tip: though generally not used for lining baking sheets, if you’ve run out of parchment paper (see next section) you can use aluminum foil in a pinch. You might just need to boost the baking time of your cookies. Also a nice bonus of aluminum foil is that it can be recycled.
Parchment paper is paper that’s been partially dissolved and gelatinized. Really fancy ones are coated in silicone. This makes it nice and non-stick, and it won’t burn in temperatures under 425°F. This is our favorite thing to use when making cookies. You just line the baking sheet with parchment paper, and when you’re done, throw out the paper and not have to clean the pan! If you want to be fancy you can even cook food in parchment paper pouches, similar to how you can with aluminum foil (just make sure to use this method in the oven, not on the grill, or it’ll burn).
Wax paper is similar to parchment paper in that it’s paper coated with a substance to make it non-stick – in this case, wax. Wax paper can be used to line cake pans to help aid in removal from the pan after cooling. Wax paper is also good for wrapping food for storage since it is waterproof. I also use wax paper to grate cheese on and then wrap up until I’m ready to use it. Important to note: DO NOT USE WAX PAPER FOR COOKIE BAKING! It can go in the oven if it will be entirely covered by food, but if anything is exposed the wax will melt and smell terrible and also make your food taste like crayons.
Plastic wrap is good for wrapping food for storage, either around the food itself or over a bowl/container. You can also use it to cover the bowl/pan if you’re steaming something in the microwave (ideally it would be food, but I’ve also used it when dyeing yarn), just make sure to slash some ventilation holes in the top first.
While it’s good to have all four of these on hand, if you forced me to choose, I’d say only the first two (aluminum foil and parchment paper) are must haves. To be honest I don’t really use wax paper or plastic wrap all that often, but they’re still good to have around for those times you do need them, and do have additional uses outside of the culinary realm.