The burning question from our email inbox this week has been – Can I use parchment paper on the grill?
The short answer is yes you can… but the real question is, should you?
Let’s take a look at the science.
PARCHMENT PAPER TAKES THE HEAT ON THE GRILL
Parchment paper is the most versatile wrap in your kitchen, but can it take the heat when it comes to the BBQ grill? One of the main reasons that chefs, bakers, moms, and dads love using parchment paper for food preparation is because of its ability to withstand high temperatures without losing its non-stick, non-toxic qualities.
The silicone micro coating on every sheet or roll of high-quality parchment paper is darn near indestructible in everyday use. Parchment paper has become a favorite replacement for foil in oven-ready recipes (en papillote, anyone?), but we are here to talk about the open flames of the grill so let’s crank up the temperature a bit.
Most parchment paper can withstand temperatures up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit without risk of burning or catching fire – it is paper, after all. It is probably prudent to stop short of that “max” temp, as various conditions could drop that ignition point by a dozen or more degrees.
The bros over at BroBBQ.com came up with this cool chart that shows what they consider to be the ideal cook temps for the most popular grill ready meats:
As you can see, they never recommend anything over 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and most of their recommendations do not call for extended lengths of time either.
So, technically, if you can trust your BBQ’s temperature gauge, and if you can keep that temp well under the danger zone of 450 degrees, then you can use parchment paper on your grill.
NOTE: That temperature gauge is giving you a semi-accurate reading of the ambient temperature inside of your grill. Flames and flare ups can carry much higher temperatures with them and could potentially lick your parchment a bit too much and cause it to burn. The best way to avoid this is by using indirect grilling techniques, only keeping a flame lit under unoccupied portions of the grill.
Ok, so you can do it… should you?
SHOULD I GRILL MEAT IN PARCHMENT PAPER?
The answer to this question really comes down to what sort of meat you are trying to grill and why you feel the need to keep that meat from touching the metal grill itself.
For decades, Americans turned to aluminum foil to wrap their food in for grilling, but more recent research suggests that foil can transfer potentially toxic byproduct to the food when under prolonged high heat.
We know parchment paper is non-stick, non-toxic, and can take the heat from the grill so what meats is it good for?
Many people have a hard time grilling fish and chicken because they both have a tendency to stick to the grill and make a mess trying to remove, let alone eat. While most meat (including chicken and fish) should release from the grill once perfectly cooked, it doesn’t always go that way. Certainly, a sheet of parchment paper laid on the grill would prevent your food from sticking to the grill as long as you keep your temperature around 350-400 max and use indirect heat.
Parchment paper is also a great alternative to aluminum foil when going low and slow with the temperature and time on the grill or smoker.
Recent research in the International Journal of Electrochemical Sciences suggests that cooking with aluminum foil presents the risk of aluminum leaching into your food. As temperatures rise, as does the likelihood of your food absorbing unwanted ingredients from the metal itself.
Increased levels of aluminum intake have been linked to neurological and nervous system diseases. Obviously, you would probably have to eat several mountains of BBQ baby back ribs to boost your levels that high, but why add to that risk when you can avoid it altogether?
A lot of BBQ “masters” insist on using foil but when you press them on why that is, they don’t really have a good answer other than the fact that it is semi-non-stick and it transfers and retains heat well. Both of those aspects are true, but they just do not outweigh the risks when better options, like parchment paper, exist.
PREPPING WITH PARCHMENT PAPER FOR SUCCESS ON THE GRILL
When preparing your food for the grill, parchment paper can save you a lot of time and waste as it can go from the countertop to the freezer to the grill!
Prepping patties for burgers? Put a pre-cut parchment paper square between those patties to keep them separated with no sticking when it is time to hit the grill.
Looking to add a splash of color to that meaty meal hot off the grill? Pre-pack some parchment paper pouches with your favorite medley of veggies and seal it all up with a crimp and a fold. Toss those flavor bombs on the grill (indirect heat!) and let them swim in their own steam until the rest of the meal is ready to be plated.
It seems that we have answered the question of Can You Grill with Parchment Paper? Yep.
As for the question of Should You Grill with Parchment Paper… Yep! I mean, I love cooking with parchment paper, but I would not wrap a filet mignon in it to put it on the grill, but I wouldn’t wrap it with foil either.
That seems to be a good rule of thumb when it comes to using parchment paper on a BBQ grill. If you reach for aluminum foil, ask yourself if you can use parchment instead. Your taste buds, and maybe even your braincells, will thank you.
Of course, the only thing better than using parchment paper on the grill is using American made parchment paper on the grill, in the kitchen, and wherever else you need a non-stick, non-toxic option.