Recently I purchased my first piece of silicone bakeware. I didn’t make the purchase because I wanted the silicone part, I just wanted the sheet pan, but a silicone liner came with it. Silicone liners are intended to keep foods from sticking and make clean up easier. I mostly use parchment paper for that purpose and believed it to be a better choice.
For a while now I’ve had a few silicone spoons in my kitchen, but this was my first bakeware. I like silicone spoons because unlike wood, they can be put in the dishwasher and foods don’t stain them.
Ever since I learned that heated plastic releases harmful chemicals into food, I have tried to avoid using it for cooking. I loved Teflon, until I learned it put chemicals in my food. I still miss it, there’s nothing quite like toxic chemicals to keep your food from sticking.
But what about silicone?
The spoons seem harmless enough…and they come in pretty colors. And it’s not plastic. In fact, it’s made from a natural substance.
Silicon: A natural chemical substance, atomic #14, it is the second most abundant element after oxygen.
Silicone: A synthetic polymer created by adding carbon and/or oxygen to silicon. It can exist as a solid, liquid or gel and is often used in medical devices like pacemakers, joint replacements and implants.
When we talk about silicone bakeware, we are referring to the synthetic polymer. Silicone bakeware is made of rubber created from a mixture of bonded silicone and oxygen. The rubber mixture can be injected into molds or heated into shape during the manufacturing process.
Silicone bakeware is in the category of products the FDA labels “GRAS”, meaning “Generally Regarded as Safe,” which essentially means there is not yet data to suggest otherwise.
Unfortunately, there hasn’t been much research on silicone bakeware so while there isn’t much evidence that it is harmful, there isn’t much evidence for its safety either.
Should you use silicone bakeware?
One of the selling points of silicone is that it can go from freezer to the oven, is microwave safe and easy to clean. It is marketed as non-stick but bakers that use silicone will tell you it is a good idea to grease them, especially cake and loaf pans.
There are only a few studies done on silicone bakeware and none of them in the US. One thing the studies found was that at high temperature silicone cookware releases volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. The studies also suggest that unhealthy levels of manmade compounds called siloxanes can be transferred to your food from the silicone when used at high heat.
Due to the popularity of silicone kitchen items the market is flooded with products. Low quality silicone products use fillers and other additives. Make sure you buy food-grade silicone. Pure silicone does not contain BPA like plastics however low-quality bakeware and utensils with fillers might contain BPA and other harmful ingredients.
If you decide to use silicone products in your kitchen, here are some things that can help you make a safer choice:
- Buy Pure Silicone: Look for the words “100% food-grade silicone” when you’re considering buying something made of silicone.
- Do the “Twist Test”: Try the “twist test” on silicone you already own. If you see white when you twist it, it likely contains fillers with unknown ingredients. Take extra precautions with those pieces if you choose to keep them, reserving them for non-food uses and/or avoiding high heat.
- Keep It Cool: The limited data we have on how silicone behaves at higher temperatures suggests it’s wise to skip the silicone for baking and other high-temperature cooking.
As for me I’m going to keep my silicone spoons but I’m not using silicone for anything high heat. And remember what I said about using parchment paper for my baking needs? Turns out parchment paper has a thin layer of silicone on it.
I learned something new today.