Without a doubt, my most beloved kitchen tool is parchment paper. It makes baking and roasting a cinch, without having to use oil, butter or spray, and it also seriously reduces clean up time. Did your roasted ribs leave a caked-on sugary sauce on your pristine baking sheet? Not if you used parchment paper!
Running cellulose paper through a bath of sulfuric acid or zinc chloride makes baking parchment paper. A 1860 mention of parchment paper in The American Journal of Science and Arts notes that the 1846 invention of parchment by Poumarède and L. Figuier had, “With the exception of a few comparatively unimportantapplications in France, where it was used on the shelves on which silk worms were reared, had excited scarcely no interest other than that naturally attaching to it as a chemical curiosity, until patented (Dec 6, 1853) in England…”
This journal goes on to describe that the properties of parchment paper would make it a suitable replacement for legal documents, school book and possibly even bank notes due to its resistance of oil and water, saying, “Since the parchment paper contains no nitrogen, it is much less liable than ordinary parchment to putrefy when exposed to moisture, and will probably be less subject to the attacks of insects.” But yet it makes no mention of its innumerable culinary uses!
Typically sold is large rolls, there are increasing specialty purveyors who sell pre-cut paper, bags, and other specialty parchment items. Check out PaperChef who stocks a variety of sizes and shapes for most baking needs.