Touted as the kitchen material of the future, silicone is like the Pyrex for the 21st century. Highly heat resistant, non-stick, easy to clean, easy to grip, flexible, and odor and stain resistant, silicone has found its way into almost every part of the kitchen, from bakeware to garlic peelers. But if worries about safety or stability, or just an unease with the notion of trusting your muffins to a floppy colorful tin has kept you from giving silicone a chance, there are a few things you should know that might change your mind.
1. Silicone Won’t Leech Anything Into Your Food
Synthetic silicone rubber, the material most “silicone” cookware is made of, is incredibly inert, which means that even under harsh circumstances, it doesn’t break down or change. So while some plastic bottles can leech harmful chemicals into your water merely if you’ve left them in the sun too long, you’d have to get a silicone utensil over 600 degrees Fahrenheit before it even thought about melting. All food-grade silicone materials are (and should be labeled as) 100% BPA free – in fact, the only two components in the silicone are silicone itself (which is found in sand, glass, and some stone) and oxygen. The process to combine the two is pretty complicated, but the components themselves are harmless and not chemical based. As long as it’s labeled “food grade,” like this Loaf Pan, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
2. Silicone Is Impressively Non-Stick
Food grade silicone has a non-porous surface that prevents just about anything from sticking to it. Practically, this has several applications: first and most obviously, silicone baking dishes- even complicated ones like this Brownie Pan – don’t have to be sprayed, buttered, or floured to make every dish come out clean. Just give the pan a little twist and shake, then flip and your baked goods will drop out clean. And when you go to wash it, anything left on the inside (which probably won’t be much) will rinse or wipe out easily. Something you might not think of, though, is that silicone utensils like this Basting Brush are non-stick as well. In this case, that means you can dunk, mop, or brush just about anything with this brush and when you’re done it’ll rinse completely clean. No more greasy buildup or unsightly stains – the silicone won’t even retain an odor once it’s rinsed, so you’ll be able to use the same brush for all your applications.
3. Silicone Is Very Heat Resistant
Most silicone kitchenware will come with its heat resistance printed right on the surface – usually between 500 and 600 degrees. That means your Spatula can stir in a hot pan – or even sit in a hot pan – without melting. Even over years of repeated use, the utensil will hold its shape no matter how tough you are on it. And because the material is soft and flexible, you’ll never have to worry about it scratching your pan. And when it comes to bakeware, silicone dishes like Muffin Tin heat up very quickly and evenly in the oven, ensuring even cooking throughout your dish, and cool down quickly once they’re removed from the oven, which will prevent the bottom of your dish from burning. And, unless you chuck it in with your cleaning cycle, it’ll retain its form perfectly and never melt or deform.
4. Silicone Can Be Used Almost Anywhere In Your Kitchen
Unlike glass, which responds poorly to rapid temperature change, or metal, which retains heat and doesn’t do so well with microwaves, silicone can move from fridge to oven to freezer to microwave to dishwasher and back, just like that. The same Tray Molds can even be used both for candy making (think: lollypops) and to make fun-shaped ice cubes. The dish or utensil won’t lose its shape, won’t be ruined in the intense cold of a freezer, and won’t break your microwave. Many of the baking dishes, like this Chantal Make & Take, even come with secure silicone lids, which can eliminate the need for saran wrap or foil covering typically used on lidless baking dishes.
5. Silicone Won’t Wear Out With Age
Unlike many plastics, a good silicone dish or utensil won’t discolor or absorb odors when you use it – even pieces that get used every day will retain their same look, color, and consistency, and won’t ever develop a funky smell. Unlike metal baking dishes, silicone won’t rust, and unlike glass, it won’t break if you drop it. That said, like most other kinds of baking dishes and utensils, it’s not a good idea to leave your silicone ones over an open flame or directly on a hot stove – Silicone Spatulas won’t melt in a pan, but they might if pressed against direct heat. You also want to take a little extra care with very sharp knives. Just like a metal pan, silicone can scratch, and if you’re very aggressive with a knife or other sharp object, you could puncture or slice the silicone. It’s safer and easier to remove your food from the flexible pan and then cut it, rather than the other way around, and with something like this Muffin Tin you shouldn’t even need to loosen your baked goods with a knife at all, just wiggle your dish until they shake free on their own.
6. Silicone Makes For A No-Slip Grip
Used on the handles of utensils as well as the heads, along with a whole range of Pot Holders that double as trivets and jar openers, silicone will give you a solid, heat-proof grip. While the silicone is engineered not to stick to food, it has a sturdy hand feel and is easy to grab, and will create friction on pots, pans, and dishes to help you get a solid hold. Plus, silicone’s heat resistant qualities ensure you won’t get burned, no matter what you’re pulling out of the oven. You can even buy whole paper-thin Silicone Mats that can serve as reusable parchment paper, creating a perfect non-stick layer for the bottom of your metal or glass pans that can be rinsed clean and used again and again.
So if you haven’t given silicone a try, and you’ve been longing to add a pop of color to your kitchen (or just find a lighter weight alternative to the cast iron crock you keep in your RV), now might be the time. The floppy construction might seem feeble at first, but these things hold their shape – and many of the larger containers come with sheets to prop them up, just in case. If you’re still nervous about it, start out with a simple utensil like a spatula to get a feel for the material – if you love it, you can always go from there! Do you own any silicone utensils or bakeware? Love it, hate it? Let me know in the comments!