Looking for a portion-controlled, mouthwatering meal that takes seconds to clean up? Try cooking in parchment paper, or as the French say it, “en papillote.” Although most French techniques have a bad reputation for being unhealthy (hello butter and salt!), cooking in parchment can be a light and flavorful, quick and simple way to cook. Here’s what you need to know to get started.
Why cook in parchment?
When you cook ingredients like fish, meat, veggies and herbs in a parchment paper packet, you’re steaming the ingredients inside using their own moisture — no added fat required. Plus, there’s no need to dirty pans, so cleanup is as simple as tossing the paper in the trash.
The French term for this cooking method comes from papillon, the French word for butterfly, since the paper resembles delicate butterfly wings when cut into a heart shape. You then layer ingredients on one side of the paper, fold the other side overtop, and crimp the edges to seal. (To get a visual on how to cook in parchment paper, check out this how-to.)
In addition to traditional parchment paper, you could use a plain paper bag, depending on what you’re cooking. Paper Chef also makes culinary parchment cooking bags available in stores nationwide. The packet becomes a single-serve portion to be served as a meal, making it easy not to overeat or nibble on leftovers.
You may see the packets puffing up in the oven as they cook due to steam building up inside. To open them, carefully cut into the packet or open the crimped edges with a knife to safely release the hot steam. (The puff of aromatic steam can be quite dramatic!) Once you’re done with your dinner, just toss the parchment paper and you’re left with minimal cleanup.
Recipes to try
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.
*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.