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This is such a simple thing, but I often get asked why I line baking pans with foil. I also am often asked if it’s really necessary and if parchment paper can be used instead.

I think lining your pan with foil or parchment for baking is super important and this post will explain why.

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collage of two photos showing hands pressing foil into 9x13 pan

Why Line Baking Pans?

Whether you use foil or parchment is personal preference and I’ll go into each, but first let’s talk about reasons why you should line your pans when baking.

Just like how I use parchment paper or Silpat baking mats on cookie sheets, I always line my cake pans as well as pans for brownies and bars.

Read here for how I line my cake pans.

  1. Easy Removal: If you line a pan with foil or parchment, it’s easy to remove the baked goods from the pan all at once. As long as you’ve left some overhang you can just pull the entire slab of brownies out of the pan all at once.
  2. Nonstick: Parchment paper is nonstick, so lining your pan with it helps your baked goods release easy. With foil, I always use nonstick cooking spray, so it comes off easy.
  3. Easy Clean Up: Once you remove your bars or cake from the pans, there’s nothing to clean!

Foil vs Parchment Paper

This is all personal preference. When I first started baking I never used parchment because I never had it. It was new to the mainstream market at that point so it wasn’t my go-to. I always had foil on hand, so I always just used that.

Personally, I like how foil lines the pan and hugs it better than parchment. Parchment doesn’t really fold and cling to the pan like foil.

Parchment Paper is nonstick, so you don’t usually have to grease or spray it with nonstick spray, which is a plus. Foil, on the other hand, does need to at least be greased with nonstick cooking spray.

There have been some discussions on whether it’s safe to bake with aluminum foil and that is also personal preference. If you’re worried about it, then use parchment.

If a recipe calls for foil can I use parchment paper?

Most of my recipes call for lining a pan with foil. Newer ones may say foil or parchment paper because I know people have preferences. If one of my recipes says to line your pan with foil you can use either foil OR parchment paper.

Likewise, you can use foil in place of parchment paper, but you need to spray it with nonstick cooking spray so your baked goods don’t stick.

Is wax paper the same as parchment paper?

No. Whatever you do, don’t line your pans with wax paper. Wax paper is coated with wax and will melt and burn in the oven.

How to line your pan with foil

Here’s a step by step for how to line your pans with foil. If you’re using parchment paper you do basically the same thing, except parchment doesn’t lay nicely.

First, press the sheet of foil into the pan.

hands in 9x13 pan pressing foil into bottom of pan

Second, form it to the bottom edges and wrap the excess over the sides to secure it.

hands pressing foil into the corners of a 9x13 pan

Third, spray with nonstick cooking spray.

hand spraying pam on foil in 9x13 pan

Tip for lining your pan with parchment paper

  • When lining your pan with parchment paper, crumple the paper into a ball then flatten it out. This helps it not roll back up when you’re lining your pan.
  • Always leave a bit of overhang so that you can easily lift the entire sheet out of the pan.
  • Parchment is nonstick so you shouldn’t need spray unless the recipe calls for it.

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Dorothy Kern

Welcome to Crazy for Crust, where I share recipes that are sometimes crazy, often with a crust, and always served with a slice of life.

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  1. Food cooked in aluminum foil has way more aluminum in it than food cooked other ways. Aluminum is really bad for the body. Don’t encourage people to cook food in aluminum foil.

  2. Thanks for the tip to crumble parchment paper. I like parchment paper but I always have trouble getting it in the corners of the pans.

  3. You can line cake pans with wax paper. My mom did when I was small and it never caused a problem. She would set the pan on top of the paper and trace the pan bottom and cut it out. Worked Great.

    1. I would definitely not recommend wax paper. I’ve accidentally done that and it’s almost caught fire in my oven.

  4. It is SO MUCH EASIER to turn the pan upside down and shape the foil over it first. Then flip your pan and drop the preformed foil into it. Use fingertips (watch those nails!) to nail down inside corners. Much easier to line up edge of foil to rim of pan so it isn’t crooked as in your last photo.

  5. I line my pans with foil when I’m baking bars using the overhang so cutting them into bars is easy.
    When I bake cookies I have a raised pattern on my aluminum pans that I’ve used for years without any lining at all and those pans still look like new. I’ve baked every kind of cookie known to man or beast as I always like something sweet after dinner.
    When I bake cakes I have these black sheets that I’ve cut into rounds and they just peel off.
    I never use parchment as it curls and I don’t like fighting it. When in doubt I use foil.

  6. Here’s an easy way to get parchment paper to fit closely into a pan: cut/tear the size you want, crumple the sheet of parchment up into a ball, then smooth it back out and shape it into the baking dish. That takes a little of the ‘starch’ out of it and makes it pliable, so you can fit it down into corners just as you would with foil. Handy!