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Someone might look at parchment paper and butcher paper and assume they’re the same thing. After all, paper is paper, right? Especially when the two look and feel so similar on the face of things.
But the truth of the matter is that they couldn’t be more different, both in their uses and how they’re made, butcher paper and parchment paper serve entirely different roles in your kitchen. Let’s do a breakdown on what their main uses are, and why you might want to keep around either (or even both!).
Butcher Paper Breakdown
The main thing you need to know about butcher paper is that it’s essentially just paper. That might sound like an obvious statement, but it’s an important one. Butcher paper is a kraft paper, which basically just means it’s thick and chemically treated for a bit of extra durability.
Since it has few additives and a thick construction, it’s very sturdy, which is why it’s used by butchers to wrap meat so you can take it home; there’s little danger of it tearing or leaking if wrapped properly, so you can use it to safely store meat and fish with ease.
Most butcher paper is safe to recycle, and overall provides an excellent go to paper for all sorts of jobs besides wrapping meat; this can be anything from art projects to packing fragile glassware with. In short, butcher paper is extremely versatile for all sorts of jobs, and excels in wrapping meats and keeping them safe if you want to use them in the kitchen.
However, butcher paper is again “just paper”. That means it’s highly flammable. This is a bit of a double edged sword.
On the one hand, butcher paper makes an excellent starter for your grill. You can easily unwrap whatever meat you want to grill, and then immediately take the butcher paper out to help start the charcoal or wood you’re using to create the fire.
On the other hand, this makes it highly unsuitable for use in actually cooking anything, as if you try to wrap a piece of meat in butcher paper and throw it on the grill, the entire paper will likely be consumed in minutes, even on a fairly low burn.
The only real exception to this is its use in smoking, and this is a big one. The temperature in a smoker, and the indirect heat, mean that the paper won’t catch fire, particularly if you use exceptionally high grade butcher paper. Since this butcher paper has a characteristic pink color to it (naturally, from the wood fibers used in its construction), it’s often referred to as “peach paper”, and it’s something many smoking experts swear by for smoking brisket in particular.
So, to recap, butcher paper is a highly versatile paper for many projects, both in and out of the kitchen. However its primary use in cooking is only for smoking; higher temperatures and more direct heat will cause the paper to catch fire, and likely ruin your food.
Parchment Paper Breakdown
Parchment paper is an interesting beast. At first glance, it looks thin and flimsy, but this is deceptive.
While certainly thin, parchment paper is also surprisingly durable, and has a number of interesting and unique properties that make it your best friend in the kitchen for a huge number of tasks.
When parchment paper is made, it’s treated with one of a few types of acid. The particular kind doesn’t really matter for our purposes (though it’s usually sulfuric acid, for posterity), all we really need to know is that this makes the paper fibers somewhat gelatinous before it dries, which makes it both more durable and heat resistant.
Generally speaking this puts your heat resistance at around 400 degrees Fahrenheit. As an added bonus, this acid treating process also makes the parchment paper naturally nonstick.
This makes parchment paper a natural friend of bakers, and if you’ve ever done any serious baking you’ve likely used parchment paper for something or another. It’s also great for making naturally sticky foods, like Divinity (a sticky candy), which would be unwieldy if set on anything more porous and prone to sticking.
Parchment paper isn’t just oven safe though: it’s grill safe. This makes it an interesting alternative to aluminum foil on your grill, since you can wrap meat in it to seal in the juices and still create a very nice bark, since it still allows enough of the juices to evaporate. Keep in mind that this is for indirect heat only (the cool side of your grill, in other words); direct, open flames will almost always exceed that 400 degrees Fahrenheit rating.
Parchment paper isn’t good for much else besides cooking, but it really doesn’t need to be. In terms of kitchen “gadgets” it’s one of the more versatile you’re likely to find, equally at home in the oven, on the grill, or even just a liner for your countertop when you’re working with something sticky.
Butcher Paper VS Parchment Paper
1. Tenderlicious Pink Butcher Kraft Paper Roll
- Type of paper: peach butcher paper
- Total paper amount: 18 inch by 2100 inch roll
- Package dimensions: 18” x 3.6” x 3.6”
- Total weight: 3.64 lbs.
This is the exact stuff you want to look for if you’re in the market for “peach paper”. High grade, food safe butcher paper you can stick in your smoker safely.
This is the best quality type butcher paper you can find, by a wide margin, and the best part is it doesn’t even cost that much, coming in at about the same price as your standard brown butcher paper.
This is the most versatile and usable butcher paper out there, at least for cooking. For home crafts and other projects, you might want to look into getting something else instead, since the bright pink coloring isn’t exactly going to work for everything, where the more neutral brown color is going to be more usable in that regard.
In short: get this for brisket, not your kid’s arts and crafts project.
Great for smoking
Beautiful pink color
Great price for the quality
Less good for general crafts than cooking
2. YRYM HT Brown Kraft Butcher Paper Roll
- Type of paper: butcher paper
- Total paper amount: 18 inch by 2100 inch roll
- Package dimensions: 17.6” x 3.66” x 3.62”
- Total weight: 3.67 lbs.
If you’re just looking to wrap your meat up nice and tight, or want a versatile craft paper, YRYM-HT is a great option.
In terms of price and amount, it’s the same as the Tenderlicious peach paper above. That means you get the same bang for your buck in certain regards.
This one isn’t as good for smoking, but it makes up for it with the neutral brown coloring and sturdy construction that makes it great for standard butcher paper uses, as well as crafts.
As an added bonus, this one comes with a good length of hemp rope, so you can tie up your bundles with minimal hassle and without needing to go out of your way to get something else to go along with it.
Comes with a handy length of hemp rope
Neutral brown color is great for crafts and professional looking results from wrapping
Burns well; great for fire starting
Great price for the quality
Not as well suited for smoking as the peach paper
3. Reynolds Kitchens Parchment Paper Roll with Smart Grid
- Type of paper: parchment paper
- Total paper amount: 15 inch by 40 feet per roll (3 rolls total; 150 square feet)
Cheap and ubiquitous, Reynolds is probably the brand that first comes to mind when thinking about kitchen wraps and the like, from aluminum foil to this parchment paper.
The ubiquity is an advantage alone; you can walk into pretty much any store in the US and buy a roll of this stuff, which is great when you run out and need some in a hurry for whatever reason.
But more than that, the quality of this stuff is good. Maybe not as good as some “artisan quality” parchment paper or what have you, but significantly cheaper for sure, and easier to use; this paper comes with a handy grid for helping to measure when cutting or spacing cookies and the like.
Don’t sleep on this stuff just because it’s the name brand, or seems basic; sometimes the simple, cheap option is the best.
Inexpensive and easy to find in stores
Good quality paper
Can be bought in bulk
Handy grid for easy cutting and spacing
Heat safe up to 425 degrees Fahrenheit
Takes up a lot of space, since it comes in three rolls
4. Katbite Heavy Duty Parchment Paper Roll
- Type of paper: parchment paper
- Total paper amount: 15 inch by 164 feet per roll (250 square feet)
Whether you’ll like this or the Reynolds option better is going to be up to a matter of what you need.
The main differences between the two is Katbite is about the same price per amount (a little cheaper, actually), and comes in a single big roll, for a total of 250 square feet of parchment paper. That’s a solid deal, and gets better when you realize this has slightly better heat resistance; it’s safe up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
The only thing it lacks is the grid, which I think is an extremely good feature. Basically pick this if you want raw performance, or the other for better quality of life.
Heat safe to 450 degrees Fahrenheit
Great amount for the price
Heavy duty paper
Lacks the handy grid of the Reynolds paper
So Which One is Better?
That’s a tough call, especially since there’s nothing stopping you from just buying both.
Still, it’s worth looking at their relative properties and comparing them. After all, you don’t have infinite storage space in your home, and your kitchen especially can get cluttered fast.
Butcher paper is significantly less versatile in the kitchen, but more versatile out of it. It’s just a nice product to have around the house for when you need to do something with paper, whether it’s the intended purpose (wrapping meat), using it for some kind of art project, or as packing paper for your big move.
Parchment paper on the other hand is pretty much useless outside of the kitchen…but is a highly versatile and nearly invaluable tool within it. I could genuinely see someone using parchment paper on a daily basis, particularly if they bake a lot. It’s useful for pretty much anything you can think of, and can take the place of a lot of things around the kitchen in a pinch, making a nice makeshift cutting board, a replacement for aluminum foil in most circumstances, or a wrap for your meat when you put it on the grill or in the smoker.
If you were only going to buy one, I’d certainly stick with the parchment paper; it’s just going to do a lot more for you in the grand scheme. In my experience needing butcher paper specifically is a pretty rare occurrence. It’s nice to have on hand, for sure, but I’ve never gotten up to do something and thought to myself “Darn, if only I had butcher paper I could do this right”. Anything you’d want to do around the kitchen could be taken care of by parchment paper instead, including wrapping the meat (though you’d likely need to use extra).
In short while parchment paper isn’t far off from being a necessity (there are plenty of things you can’t effectively do without it), butcher paper is more of a luxury; the things it can do can be handled by a whole ton of other things, if not quite as well.
It’s sort of like the difference between masking tape and duct tape; the latter is just so much more generally useful, and even if the masking tape is likely to be exceptionally appropriate for circumstances it doesn’t do much that can’t be replaced by the duct tape for home repair purposes.