Are silicone baking mats a good alternative to parchment paper?
I personally use silicone spatulas and baking mats and have experienced no ill effects. Nothing sticks to them and they are very easy to clean. My silicone baking mats (which can be reused more than 2000 times) have already saved yards and yards of parchment paper!
Silicone is now being used to make a whole variety of useful non-stick cooking items. They are bright and colorful and easy to store. While there are no stovetop pots and pans, there are hundreds of useful kitchen items, including baking pans, baking sheets, spatulas, molds, ice cube trays in fun shapes (that also can double for baking little cakes), rolling pins, and more.
- Silicone is a synthetic polymer made from silica and other ingredients.
- Silica is common sand, made up of silicon, the second most abundant element in the earth's crust (about 28%).
- Silicon is not found in its elemental form but occurs mainly as oxides and silicates, like sand.
- Silicones are made chemically by creating a "backbone" of silicon and oxygen molecules, a combination that does not occur in nature.
- Various other synthetic molecules are added, branching off of the main silicon-oxygen line to create hundreds of different silicones that range from liquids to rubbery solids.
I tried to find some information on the health effects of silicone rubber, but it was not listed in any of the toxic chemical databases I use. I went to the Dow Corning website (who makes over 700 different silicone rubbers) and looked at a random sample of their MSDSs. The ones I read listed no hazardous materials or health effects, or needed first aid measures. All descriptions I read of silicone rubber describe it as chemically inert and stable, so it is unlikely to react with or leach into food, nor outgas vapors. MSDSs also note that silicone is not toxic to aquatic or soil organisms, it is not hazardous waste, and while it is not biodegradable, it can be recycled after a lifetime of use.
Silicone has many desirable benefits:
- inherently nonstick without an added finish
- does not retain odors or flavors
- stain resistant
- dishwasher safe
- can go from temperature extremes of -58 degrees F up to 428 degrees F, from freezer to oven [note home ovens can go up to 500 degrees F, so keep the 428 degree F limit in mind]
- promotes even heat distribution
- quick cooling
- some items can be folded for easy storage
All that said, some users have reported concerns about colorants used in the brightly colored pieces, and odors during use