A TikTok cooking hack has gone viral and a debate is raging on whether it's genius or dangerous.
On Friday Sept. 30, TikTok user @josedahype shared a video that quickly went viral for both its apparent mind-blowing nature and its relatable comedy. In the video, which garnered over 1.5 million views and 327,800 likes over the weekend, a woman can be viewed sharing her hack for easy clean up while frying food.
“It makes cleaning the pot way more easy, ‘cause look,” said a woman as she lifts the edge of a sheet of parchment paper with meat and oil actively cooking in it to show that there’s no grease underneath sitting in her pan. The woman begins to say ”when I’m finished frying” but is cut off by @josedahype who institutes a quick scene change where the TikToker is shown in a tense argument with someone.
“No, no, no,” said @josedahype repeatedly before asking the person on the phone to listen in an angered, heightened tone. “At my big, big age you were the one that taught me how to cook! You failed me as a mother. You didn’t teach me this!”
Comedic family drama aside, the video that @josedahype duetted with was originally posted by a TikTok account @youthinkyouknowme99.
In the clip posted on Sept. 18, the self-professed Londoner’s full thought expressed in the video is that she uses parchment paper so that nothing sticks to the pan when she fries chicken. She finishes the hack by saying when she’s done cooking, she simply picks up the paper and grease and throws it in the trash, making washing the less-oily pan much simpler.
The original video also went viral, garnering 4.3 million views, 382,500 likes and more than 5,000 comments, with most folks either praising the tip or questioning, often with confusion, about the particulars of the tip.
“This feels like it isn’t a safe idea.....but I have no reason why it feels like that,” said one commenter on TikTok.
"Instructions were unclear I used paper and now my house is on fire," joked another commenter.
“Wax paper burns above 200 degrees, where parchment withstands 450 degrees,” said another commenter, advising the multiple commenters who are confusing parchment paper with wax paper, the latter which isn’t safe to bake in an oven with, let alone place on top of your stove in a pan with hot oil.
“Only works on electric stoves and certain things,” said another TikTok commenter. “My friend’s house nearly went up as she tried to do this and fry chicken on a gas stove.”
That last commenter pointed out something we should all pay attention to from the original video: that the woman in it is using an electric stovetop — you know, the ones that cook without using flames? This may be a reason the parchment hack works for them since there’s minimal risk of stove top ignition.
What the experts think: Is this a good hack?
To find for sure whether or not this hack is advisable we spoke to a couple of folks who know their way around the kitchen.
“I honestly never thought about doing this before,” Chris Spear, an in-home personal chef and culinary instructor told TODAY Food. Spear said he usually puts parchment paper on sheet trays to keep his trays clean, which he said is one of his biggest hurdles in having to handle cleanup after cooking at a client’s house, which he often undertakes by packing everything up and washing all of his cookware at home.
“I have tons of dishes and I don’t have a commercial dishwasher. So, I go to someone’s home, bring all my stuff, cook there, and then bring it home and have to wash all of them in my sink and home dishwasher,” Spear said. “I’m using parchment paper a lot to help mitigate some of that — but I’ve never seen this hack before. Now I’m like, ‘Wow, this actually might make my cleanup a little easier.’”
Spear also said he regularly uses parchment when baking bagels and pizza on pizza stones, and those temperatures typically reach ranges of around 500 degrees. This is well above the smoke point of most oils, so essentially, your oil would disappear before the paper would. But don’t break out the parchment for your Friday night fish fry just yet.
“My only concern would be that I use a gas range at home,” Spear said. “So, if the paper overhangs, is there any chance that the paper is going to catch fire now? A wax paper would ignite but regular parchment paper I don’t think is going to catch.”
We also asked TODAY culinary producer Katherine Stilo whether or not folks should try the hack and she told TODAY Food that she wouldn’t recommend it because the risk of fire is high. Most parchment paper is oven safe, yes, but the key words here are oven safe, as in: inside your oven it’s safe to use.
Stillo said if you’re using a gas stove, the flames could run up the sides of the pot and catch the parchment on fire as it’s still paper, as heat resistant as it may be.
“Parchment also tears easily so it would not withstand if a utensil even slightly tears it,” Stilo said, adding you would still have to clean the skillet anyway because oil would splatter all over the place. In fact, the original TikToker does just that in a follow-up video.
She also pointed out that a sheet of parchment paper is a rectangle so no matter what kind of scissor geometry you could conjure, you will be able to neatly cover the bottom and sides of a concave and round pot or pan. This could lead to the oil slipping under the parchment which may then just go sliding around all over the place, completely full of boiling hot oil. “This idea sounds like a recipe for disaster,” she said.
According to Reynold’s website, a maker of a well-known brand of parchment paper, all four types of their parchment paper are safe to a temperature of 425 degrees and are both oven and microwave safe. It doesn't say the parchment paper is stovetop safe, so take caution when using a kitchen item not as intended.
We reached out to Reynolds for comment on the viability of this hack, and they had this to say about the TikTok hack:
“We’ll have to test this one ourselves," said Carlee Bilello, marketing director for Reynolds Kitchens. "We love to see the creative ways people use Reynolds Kitchens Parchment Paper to make their lives easier in the kitchen.”
Despite the encouraging possibility of a new line of parchment pan liners thanks to social media, both experts I spoke to for this story agreed that parchment paper as it exists now can darken and turn brittle if baked at high temperatures and would in fact do so if exposed to direct flame.
Still, even though browned parchment paper won’t release toxic chemicals, no one wants crispy bits of it in your food, which might happen if you aren’t careful.
“I’m sure we all have roasted a tray of vegetables just a biiiit too long, right?” Stilo asked. “If you’re using parchment, the edges become black/brown and the paper itself becomes brittle and breaks, which could easily happen when frying. Then you’ll end up with pieces of paper in your food!”
Stilo suggests using parchment for the applications it suggests on its packaging, such as lining a baking tray for the oven to avoid items sticking to the bottom of the tray or lining a cake pan or baking dish for easy removal. There is also one hot oil application where parchment comes in handy.
“You can, however, proof a yeast-leavened item, such as a donut, on a small square of parchment and use the parchment to easily transfer and release the donut into the oil,” Stilo said. “By quickly dipping the entire parchment square into the oil, the donut will easily slide off and you avoid squishing all of the beautiful air bubbles out of the dough.”
TikTok is a foundry of hot tips for optimizing your time in the kitchen, from teaching us all how to make taco shells in the microwave to removing the pits from a basket of peaches with ease. For those of us trying something new we saw on the internet, though, let's be sure we're exercising kitchen caution and being safe about it, first.
This article was originally published on TODAY.com