parchment paper [pahrch-muh nt] noun
Thin, white paper that can withstand oven temperatures of up to 450° F. Large, rectangular pieces the dimensions of full sized sheet pans are used in commercial kitchens, while the home cook can buy parchment paper on small rolls, found alongside the aluminum foil and plastic wrap in the supermarket. Using this paper as liners for pans makes for easy clean-up, and the large sheets are also sometimes used to cover food to retain moisture. (In a commercial kitchen it wouldn’t be unusual to see a tray of chicken breasts covered with parchment while roasting.) Cooking in a parchment packet is a classic technique known as en papillote, where a large piece of parchment is folded up and over ingredients and sealed to allow hot air and steam to gather within. Parchment paper is not the same as waxed paper, which cannot withstand the heat of the oven.
We use parchment paper to line baking sheets when baking cookies and to line pans that hold cake batter, among other uses. The parchment provides a nonstick surface and facilitates clean-up. We also like to use parchment cones for melted chocolate when writing on cakes and for other baking and confectionery applications (video of making parchment cone coming).