I’ve been using the baking mats for years under the pretence that silicone is safe, especially compared to the hazards of aluminium and the many safety issues surrounding Teflon.
The official information is “Silicone rubber does not react with food or beverages, or produce any hazardous fumes.”
But like everything it just not that simple, you should do your own research and make your own informed choices. Just because there aren’t many studies done on food safety and silicone that show that it is not safe most certainly doesn’t mean it is safe. All over the Internet, people are basically saying, “I can’t find anything dangerous about silicone, so I assume it’s a safe material.” That’s basically what I’ve assumed and yes my research does make me think it is a better choice than Aluminium or Teflon but my preferred oven trays and dishes are glass-until I go and do some more research on them!
Silicone is a synthetic rubber that contains bonded silicon and oxygen. Bonded silicon is a natural element, abundant in sand and rock. Silicon is on the periodic table, a natural element that is in sand and makes up 28% of the earth’s crust.
Silicone bakeware is heat-resistant and safe for the oven and freezer. It doesn’t change flavours or release odours that might affect food quality. Silicone is FDA approved as a food-safe substance. (Note: that sentence means very little since the FDA approves a whole bunch of things for human consumption that I don’t trust, like hydrogenated oils, for example.) Almost all the sources I’ve found state that silicone is inert, doesn’t react with food or liquids, and doesn’t give of chemical fumes. However, there haven’t actually been studies testing silicone’s reactions with food under heat. The “nonreactive” claim is just based on the fact that silicon (the element) is “inert.”
It’s believed to have low toxicity and thermal stability. It’s also non-stick and easy to clean. One safety tip: Use food-grade silicone products at recommended temperatures — not above 220 C (428 F).
Silicone bakeware can be reused. It allows you to replace disposables like paper muffin tins and parchment — but both of those can go in the compost. It doesn’t biodegrade and can’t be recycled. For now, silicone is a safer alternative to non-stick cookware treated with perfluorooctanoic acid.
With all of that said, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Lower quality silicone coatings contain fillers that may be hazardous. Most sites say that if any white shows through when you twist your silicone bakeware, there are probably fillers. Don’t buy cheap its expensive in the long run!
- The oils in silicone, which are very powerful and toxic, may “migrate” from the material, but I can’t find any real data.
- Some sources offer concerns about bright colours and leaching.
- Some have concerns about odours during use, but that may be related to the fillers, and not the silicone.
- Many silicone baking mats are actually made of fiberglass covered on both sides with silicone, so unless you want to risk fiberglass in your food, don’t cut on the mats!
- It’s reasonably new, so long-term studies haven’t been performed on cookware that has been exposed to high temperatures over very long periods.
Things to consider when buying kitchen equipment
Is it safe for my health?
Is it safe for the planet?
Does it make the act of making food easier or tastier?
Do I need it?
The bottom line on safety is:
- Check your manufacturer for other materials possible contaminating your silicone bakeware.
- Treat it well – no cutting on those baking mats!
- If you want to be very conservative, skip the silicone and stick with glass, cast iron, or stainless steel for cooking and baking and unbleached parchment paper if you need something flexible.
Note: there is a discrepancy between food-grade silicone and industrial grade silicone, just something to take note of when doing research on the safety of silicone in general.
Is Silicone Bakeware good for the environment?
Some sources say silicone can be recycled, which is great. It doesn’t take more energy to create than glass or mining metal for pots and pans, and it is not toxic to aquatic or soil organisms.
So for the earth, silicone bakeware is a fine choice compared to just about anything else out there, and better than Teflon, which contains chemicals that won’t break down at all.
Tip on Cleaning Silicone wipe with a damp cloth, if it is really messy heat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius and pop the empty bakeware into it for 10 minutes. When the time is up, take the bakeware from the oven directly to the sink and fill it with hot water. After soaking a few minutes any residue will come right off. Exercise caution when using this cleaning method as the silicone bakeware will be very hot when it comes out of the oven.
Do you use Silicone bakeware, what do you think?
I wrote this article some time ago but sinc writing Norwex have bought out some fabulous Silicone Storage Boxes, check them out here