When to Use Aluminum Foil, Parchment Paper or Silicone

Aluminum Foil Parchment Paper or Silicone by Cece Kirkwood

Ever wondered if it makes a difference if you line your baking sheet with aluminum foil, parchment paper or silicone mats? What happens if I bake with aluminum foil even though the recipe calls for parchment paper? Is it better to bake with one or the other?

The short answer is, there is a difference when baking with Aluminum Foil, Parchment Paper or Silicone! 

I’ll be talking mostly about how the different liners affect cookie baking, below, but many of these baking basics can be transferred into all your baking needs.

While your cookies will still turn out delicious, each baking sheet liner creates a different type of cookie, both in the browning on the bottom and edges, as well as how much the cookie spreads in the oven. 

To dive a bit deeper, I completed a little science experiment in my own kitchen to see the difference of baking with Aluminum Foil, Parchment Paper or Silicone. 

Using my Classic Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, I baked three sets of cookies. Everything remained constant (ingredients, oven temperature, dough chilling time and even the pan I used), except I changed up the liner in the pan. 

Dive deep with me to see the difference between baking with aluminum foil, parchment paper or silicone mats. (And a bonus tip… what not to use). 

Baking with Aluminum Foil:

Aluminum foil is essentially really thin aluminum. It is heat resistant so it makes for a great all-around tool for the kitchen, but standard foil is not non-stick so you’ll need to apply a non-stick spray in order to ensure the cookies won’t stick! 

When using aluminum foil to bake with, the cookies will spread less, but the bottoms will brown the quickest. This is because the aluminum foil is an insulator of heat, so it will grab all the heat from the oven, and bring it right to the cookies. Causing them to begin baking quickly. 

The cookies were still utterly delicious, but I kept a close eye on them in the oven and pulled them out in only 9 minutes, instead of my normal 10-11 minutes of baking. 

A benefit to this insulation of heat is the high heat resistance of aluminum foil. This makes it great for really high-heats and even grilling or cooking on an open fire. It can also be recycled in some places, so long as you wash the food off it before tossing it into the bin. 

In short, Aluminum Foil is…

  1. Heat resistant.
  2. Not non-stick. 
  3. A heat insulator. 
  4. Recyclable (without food residue)

And aluminum foil will make your cookies…

  1. Spread the least. 
  2. Brown the quickest. 

Baking with a Silicone Baking Mat:

The biggest bonus to baking with silicone mats is that they are non-stick, reusable, fit perfectly inside my pans without any adjustments and are heat-resistant. Although not as heat resistant as aluminum foil, most silicone mats can reach heats up to 450ºF without being damaged. 

Silicone mats are great for really sticky or wet cookies because of their non-stick and heat distribution properties. 

When I baked the Classic Chocolate Chip Cookie on the silicone baking mat, the cookies spread the most, but the bottoms browned the least. This is because the silicone is a great distributor of heat. The outside edges of my cookie were quite crisp, but the center was nice and melty. 

In short, Silicone Mats are…

  1. Heat resistant, up to 450ºF.
  2. Non-stick.
  3. Distributors of heat. 
  4. Re-usable! 

And silicone mats will make your cookies…

  1. Spread the most.
  2. Brown the least. 

Baking with Parchment Paper: 

Parchment paper is easily my favorite to bake with. It is heat resistant as well (up to around 425ºF), non-stick and porous so it allows heat to escape, leading to a beautifully fluffy cookie that had the most even browning on the bottoms.   

Not only that, but it is easily customizable, being able to be cut into shapes for cakes, muffin tins, baking sheets and more. 

Because it is already non-stick, you do not have to spray or coat the paper in anything else. Although, I do typically spray a little extra when baking cakes to ensure they come out of the pans easily. 

The tiny pores of the parchment paper allow the heated air to travel freely between the baking sheet, the paper and the cookie which helps regulate the overall temperature of whatever you are baking. This leads to the most even bake possible in the oven, which is the most important piece of baking. 

In short, parchment paper is…

  1. Heat resistant, up to 425ºF.
  2. Non-stick. 
  3. Porous, leading to the most even bake.
  4. Easily customizable for baking pans and sheet sizes. 
  5. Not recyclable, although unbleached parchment paper can be composted!
  6. Reusable for a few times (until the edges start to brown and burn away)

And parchment paper will make your cookies…

  1. Spread a medium amount. 
  2. Brown the most evenly. 

What not to use while baking…


Wax paper is not safe for the oven. 

While wax paper is like parchment paper in that it also has non-stick properties, it is not heat resistant and will therefore melt in the oven. The wax coating will melt off and get all over your food and baking sheet. 

Save the wax paper for decorating cookies or other kitchen messes that will not end up in the oven! 

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