Silicone bakeware seems to become more popular each year. From pan liners to baking mats, cake pans, bundt pans, silicone molds and utensils, there are few baking needs that can’t be served by this durable and versatile material. However as it has increased in popularity, more and more people are keen to know if it is safe, or whether there might be some dangers to using silicone bakeware.
Today we take a look at the benefits and potential concerns of silicone products. We’ll help you to decide whether you feel silicone bakeware is safe for your kitchen.
What is Silicone Made From?
Silicone is a synthetic material. It’s created by bonding silicon (a natural element) with oxygen. It’s incredibly versatile and can be found in a variety of applications such as medical devices, insulation, sealants and, of course, cooking and baking accessories.
In the case of cooking and baking accessories the type of silicone most commonly used is called polysiloxane, commonly known as rubber silicone.
What are the Benefits of Silicone in Bakeware and Cooking Utensils?
Easy to clean. Silicone is dishwasher safe, so cleaning any stubborn stains from cooking or baking is a breeze.
Resistant to high temperatures. Able to withstand temperatures of up to 500°F, silicone is perfect for bakeware as it won’t melt in the oven. This quality is also the reason why it’s a great material for quality pan handles.
Flexibility. The chains of molecules in silicone are very flexible. Because of this, it deals well with sudden temperature changes. So it doesn’t matter if you take silicone bakeware straight from the freezer to the oven, it won’t crack.
Storage. One of the benefits of silicone bakeware’s flexibility is that it can be bent and folded away, making it perfect if you’re short of storage space.
Stain and odor resistant. Silicone is a non-porous material. This makes it much more difficult for stains and odors to seep into your silicone bake and cookware, meaning that they’ll stay fresh and good-as-new much longer than many other items in your kitchen.
Durability. Items made from silicone are tough cookies and will withstand an awful lot of abuse before they show signs of wear and tear.
Suitable for nonstick surfaces. Using utensils made from metal or plastic, you run the risk of scratching the surface of nonstick cookware. There us no risk of damagin the surface of your pans with silicone utensils because they are so soft.
Is Silicone Cookware Toxic?
According to the FDA silicone rubber is inert. It doesn’t react with food, leach any chemicals or give off any toxic fumes.
There has been some testing that looks at the safety of silicone. These tests have been on medical-grade silicone that contains no fillers, carried out at room or body temperature.
Is Silicone Toxic When Heated?
There are anecdotal stories of high temperatures causing silicone kitchenware to emit odors and react with food. However, there is little direct evidence to confirm that this happens in 100% silicone products and may be caused by fillers.
What About Silicone Fillers?
One of the biggest dangers of silicone bakeware is when the silicone used is adulterated by the addition of fillers. Food-grade silicone used in cooking should be made of 100% silicone. However, lower quality and cheaply made products can contain plastic fillers.
These plastic fillers can react with food and leach harmful chemicals when cooking. Be sure to only buy products made from pure food-grade silicone.
Is Silicone BPA Free?
There is rightly widespread concern around Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used in the manufacture of some plastic containers. BPA has been found to cause some nasty health problems including cancer, heart disease and hormonal imbalances.
Whilst silicone kitchen tools should not contain BPA, it’s important that you check the manufacturer’s details before buying. The fillers in those lower quality silicone utensils and bakeware that we’ve mentioned may contain BPA, not to mention other potential nasties.
Can You Microwave Silicone?
A common question we see asked is whether it is safe to microwave silicone. Whilst we always advise double-checking the manufacturer’s information, it it usually safe to use silicone in the microwave.
It is certainly a better option than many plastics which may leach chemicals into food when microwaved.
Is Silicone Bad for the Environment?
Aside from safety in the home, another concern you may have is whether your silicone baking products could potentially be harmful to our planet.
The good news is that silicone is far less harmful to the planet than plastic products, which break down into dangerous microplastics. Plastic also contains either BPA or Bisphenol S (BPS), which may be even more toxic than BPA. Silicone on the other hand is non-toxic and non hazardous when disposed of, making it a more environmentally friendly option than plastics.
Is Silicone Biodegradable?
Silicone is not biodegradable, however it can be recycled relatively easily at many facilities. Because of its durability, silicone products tend to last for a long time before needing to be replaced. This can help to reduce the amount of waste produced in your kitchen over time.
Should you use Silicone in your Kitchen?
We’ve taken great care to make sure that we present all of the potential dangers of silicone bakeware and cooking utensils. On balance, we believe that it is safe to use silicone in your kitchen. As long as you use 100% silicone products and avoid very high (500°F +) temperatures, you shouldn’t experience any problems.
How to Buy Safe Silicone Bakeware
Avoid Silicone with Fillers
We’ve stressed the importance of avoiding anything other than pure silicone products and steering clear of potentially harmful fillers.
But how can you tell if a silicone product has fillers added? Luckily there is a quick and easy method: simply pinch and twist a flat part of the item. If the color changes and some white shows through, the product contains fillers. If the color doesn’t change you can be confident that it is pure silicone.
Look for FDA Approval
Whilst the test above will help you weed out any products that contain fillers, you should also ensure that the kitchenware you’re buying is FDA (or the equivalent in your country) approved and is certified as food-grade.
Check the Temperature Range
If you’re buying silicone baking products that will be placed directly in to the oven or over the stove, it’s important to understand the temperature range of the product. Whilst silicone as a rule is resistant to high temperatures, properties such as the thickness of the material can impact heat resistance.
Make sure the product you’re buying can withstand the temperatures you intend to use it at, else you run the risk of melting your bakeware.