Silicone Bakeware has fast become the cool kitchen trend. Gone are the days of difficult-to-clean, scratched and battered metal tins- the chic modern baker’s kitchen is packed to the brim with a glistening array of wildly colored silicone baking mats and cupcake tins.
As with most crazes, sooner or later [and sadly, usually later] someone actually stops to ask whether this chichi new trend is actually better and safer then what it is replacing. So, the question is- is Silicone Bakeware really safe? We look at the answer to that oh-so-important question below.
What is Silicone Bakeware?
Silicone is a synthetic form of rubber, widely held to be non-reactive under most circumstances. You’ll be familiar with it both as the substance in breast implants as well as a myriad of uses of medical-grade silicone. As a baking product, silicone baking mats and other products are heat resistant and versatile in both the freezer and oven. It’s sold on the basis of those same qualities- stable, non-reactive and inert- that make it so important in the medical field. Add to that its easy-to-clean nature and non-stick qualities, and it seems like a gem for use in the kitchen.
So, is it really safe?
The jury is out on this one. A limited study suggested heating silicone- as you do with Silicone Bakeware- caused a chemical to be released which adversely affected the health of lab rats. However, lab rats are not human and nor are their metabolisms, and its one study. Don’t be put off by the horror stories surrounding early silicone breast implants either- the grade of silicone used here was not only far inferior to modern offerings, it also is not remotely the same product. There are some concerns that silicone oil may leak over time from the product into the food it contains, but again there is nowhere near enough data to draw a sensible, non-scare-tactic conclusion on this.
What is certain is that it’s a healthier alternative to bakeware coated in PFOA [i.e. ‘non-stick’ bakeware]. It’s also a lot safer then plastic bakeware, which contains phthalates and which we know can have health issues [yes, even the ‘BPA free’ versions]. It may not be as safe or healthy an alternative as glass and cast iron bakeware, about which we have far more history and data and which we know cause no issues at all. Silicone bakeware does have a green angle, though, as it does away with the need for copious amounts of paper muffin skirts etc. However, be aware that it is not biodegradable, and dispose of it carefully. With luck, we will soon see recycling initiative aimed at silicone products- at the moment, these are not available.
So what do I do
If you’re still worried, be extra careful to stick within the recommended range of temperature use for food-grade silicone bakeware [220 degrees C or 428 degrees F] and do not exceed these limits. Additionally, rather make an investment in high-quality offerings from reputable brands. As with any popular product, silicone bakeware from low-cost sources is a huge emerging market, but if you are concerned about your family’s health, low quality offerings are not what you want. Fillers and other non-silicone elements of the poorer quality offerings could easily be the source of your woes, not the silicone itself, and some report awful burning smells from fillers. A quick tip is to twist the silicone baking mat- if it shows white; you are handling a piece ripe with fillers and may want to look elsewhere.
While there is still a lack of data on the use of silicone in bakeware, silicone bakeware can in general be taken as safer then several popular alternatives and, when used correctly, can be a suitable option for your family. Don’t throw away that silicone baking mat just yet!