Tips & Tricks: how to use parchment paper and not set your oven on fire

Chocolate covered sugar cookies on a self-cut circular sheet of parchment paper

I once set my oven on fire. It wasn’t really as dramatic as it sounds, and it could have been much worse than it was. I was living in a little studio apartment as a student that had a tiny kitchen with an old electric oven. I’d bought the oven of another student and had cleaned it the best I could. It worked reasonably well if you kept in mind that the temperature difference between the back and the front of the oven was about 40°C (you had to turn a pizza half way to prevent it burning on one side). The oven wasn’t very large because it had to fit on my counter and parchment paper, which is a standard size for larger baking trays, was too big for my little oven. I used to fold the parchment paper into the right size and just use to volume of whatever I was baking to press it down.

Anyway, I used my oven a lot for cookies, pizza and cakes. I was experimenting using it for bread, which was a bit of challenge because of the heat distribution inside the oven. So I put the bread dough on the parchment paper on the baking tray on the side that wasn’t scorching hot and turned on the alarm to turn the bread half way through. As the alarm went off, I walked back into my little kitchen and there were flames inside the oven. I didn’t quite know what to do, so I dropped everything I was holding (which was a pile of clean laundry) and turned off the electricity to my oven. I opened the oven and used my oven mittens to take the baking tray out and noticed that it wasn’t my oven that was on fire, but it was the parchment paper. It had curled up because of the weight of the bread on the other side and had been touching the ceiling heat element for 15 minutes. No surprise that it caught fire… but a big scare for me.

Afterwards I became careful to cut my parchment paper the right size for what I was baking. After I got a new oven, a microwave oven this time, I needed to cut my parchment paper into circles. This is much harder than it looks, and I used to trace the baking tray out in pencil and cut along the lines. A lot of work and not very rewarding.  Until I learned this trick from a cooking show. I’m not really sure which show it was…but I think it may have been Good Eats by Alton Brown.

Just fold the paper in the following way and cut of the bit that’s too big:

step-by-step making square parchment paper into a circle
step-by-step making square parchment paper into a circle: fold it as many times as you can. Keep the center of the paper, the pointy end of your folded paper as well.

As you can see.. A nifty trick! Perhaps not an eye-opener to most people, but I use this trick a lot. For a round baking tray, but also round pie trays etc. And really great because it really reduces the chances of me setting things on fire again…

If you have any tricks that were an eye-opener for you, please leave them in the comments! I love these life-hacks that make working in the kitchen extra fun.


4 thoughts on “Tips & Tricks: how to use parchment paper and not set your oven on fire

  1. I had never seen this trick before, looks nifty. Not sure I’ll use it though. The only time I need the paper to be round is when I use a spring cake tin and then I simply use a larger piece than I need, make sure it gets stuck between the bottom and side of the tin and then cut the paper around the outside.

    I have had burning paper as well one time. Not good…

    1. I think the trick is probably most useful when you have a microwave oven that’s got a rotating platform.
      Did your paper catch fire in the same way mine did?

      1. Yes, the paper was left in the oven after it was used and when I preheated the oven I didn’t notice that it was touching the heating elements at the top of the oven.

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