Silicone utensils and bakeware have been gaining popularity recently due to their versatility and fun colors. Silicone utensils such as spatulas work well with nonstick cookware, and silicone bakeware are favored for their high nonstick quality. Still, silicone is a synthetic compound, so you may be wondering if it’s realy safe enough to be used in cooking and baking.
There aren’t a lot of studies that explore the possible health dangers of silicone. However, it is considered by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be safe for cooking and baking. Silicone is inert so you don’t have to worry about toxic fumes and chemicals leaching into your food.
Unlike what a lot of people think, silicone differs from the element silicon (Si) which is commonly used in making computer chips and other electronic equipment parts. However, silicone does contain silicon atoms along with other elements like hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen.
People also often mistaken silicone as a kind of plastic due to its malleability, water resistance, and flexibility. Unlike plastic which is made from petrochemicals, silicone comes from silica or sand quartz. So, instead of carbon, the “main ingredient” of silicone is silicon.
How Is Silicone Made? What Is It Made of?
To start with, silicon is derived from silica, since silicon doesn’t exist by itself. To achieve this, silica, a mineral quartz that is abundant in sand, is heated by up to 1800˚C. The resulting silicon is cooled and ground until it becomes a fine powder.
Next, methyl chloride is added to the fine powder before it is heated once again to start the chemical reaction that will turn the mixture into methyl chlorosilane. Then, it is distilled to extract dimethyldichlorosilane.
Water is added to dimethyldichlorosilane to start the condensation process which will turn it into polydimethylsiloxane. From there, it can undergo different processes depending on what the silicone will be used for. Polysiloxane, or what is commonly known as rubber silicone, is the form that is often used in kitchenware.
To get a better idea of how silicone is manufactured, you can check out this video.
What Makes Rubber Silicone Suitable for Utensils and Bakeware?
- Despite the complex process of making rubber silicone, it can be done in large batches at a low cost.
- Silicone kitchenware can withstand high temperatures of up to 500˚F. This means that they won’t melt even if you leave them in a hot pan.
- Since rubber silicone consists of long chains of molecules, they are very flexible. Even with sudden temperature changes, they barely expand or contract. This is why silicone bakeware can go from the freezer to the oven without cracking.
- Rubber silicone is non-porous, making it stain-resistant and unsusceptible to microbial growth. And, if you’ve used silicone utensils before, you might have noticed that it doesn’t retain odor from the foods you cook.
- Silicone is soft so it’s suitable for nonstick cookware. It isn’t hard like metal utensils which can scrape the coating of nonstick pans.
- This type of cookware is easy to clean since it is dishwasher-safe.
- Silicone bakeware are space-saving since their flexibility allows them to be folded to fit into small spaces.
- Compared to other types of kitchenware that rust, warp and break, silicone is durable.
- They are also safe to use in the freezer, refrigerator, microwave, and oven.
- Silicone is translucent so they can be dyed any color. This makes matching your utensils and bakeware to the motif of your kitchen very easy.
We’ve established that rubber silicone has the qualities needed for good kitchen utensils and bakeware. However, all these are pointless if silicone comes with health risks. This leads us to the question – is silicone safe or toxic?
Silicone: Safe or Toxic?
Unfortunately, not a lot of research has been done to answer this question. Still, there’s no clear evidence that suggests that rubber silicone is bad for the health. This is probably why the U.S. FDA has this material labeled as GRAS which stands for “Generally Regarded as Safe.” The FDA checks the silicone products during the manufacturing process and even post-production to ensure that they are fit for “producing, manufacturing, packing, processing, preparing, treating, packaging, transporting, and holding food.”
There is a study as well that was published in 2016 that focused on human reaction to medical-grade silicone. It found that people have good tolerance to medical-grade silicone. Not only is it found to be highly non-toxic, it has no effect on the immune system and does not cause skin irritation as well.
If you’re buying silicone utensils and bakeware, you’ll want to find a product that is at least rated food-grade. The higher the quality, the better.
What is worrying is that there are a lot of low-quality silicone kitchenware in the market today. Food-grade silicone should be 100% silicone, but some companies add plastic fillers that compromise the quality of the product. The chemicals from these plastic fillers can leach into your food and cause you harm. Pure silicone is inert and won’t leach toxic chemicals as you cook.
Does Silicone Contain BPA?
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical that is often used to make plastic containers and bottles. It is found to have harmful effects on the human body since it can interfere with our hormones and cause brain and behavioral issues. It can also cause cancer, heart disorders, ADHD, obesity, and diabetes.
Fortunately, pure silicone does not contain BPA. However, poorly made silicone bakeware and utensils that have fillers in them might contain BPA.
Is Silicone Safe to Use in High Temperatures?
Silicone is non-reactive and considered to be safe up to temperatures of 572˚F.
Should You Buy Silicone Utensils and Bakeware?
Since the FDA has deemed silicone as safe for cooking, I have little reservations using or recommending silicone utensils and bakeware. The key is to purchase silicon products that are made of 100% food grade silicone, with no plastic fillers. Furthermore, for utensils, it won’t hurt to explore your other options as well.
For example, if you’re looking for utensils that are compatible with nonstick cookware such as ceramic cookware, check out wooden utensils first. Weigh their pros and cons first before you complete your purchase.
Buying Tips for Silicone Kitchenware
If you decide that you want to give silicone kitchenware a try, here are some buying tips that can help you.
- When buying bakeware, you’ll want to check the safe temperature range of the product. Otherwise, you might end up melting your new silicone baking pan.
- Do the twist test to check if the product you’re considering doesn’t contain fillers. Hold the silicone firmly between your fingers and twist it. If the color doesn’t change, the product is filler-free. If the color turns whitish, it has some fillers in it. You can check out this video to get a better idea of what each one looks like.
- If you’re buying silicone baking pans, get ones that come with a support ring for stability.
- Buy silicone molds that don’t have tight spaces where food can get stuck, making it hard clean.
- Only buy silicone utensils and bakeware that are FDA-approved to ensure that they are nontoxic. They should have a food-grade rating as well.
How to Successfully Cook and Bake with Silicone Kitchenware
Check out these tips on how you can properly use your silicone utensils and bakeware.
- Though food doesn’t easily stick to silicone bakeware, they aren’t completely nonstick. So, you’ll still need to grease or dust them with flour especially if you’re using large pans. If you’re baking a chocolate cake, you can try dusting the silicone pan with cocoa.
- Silicone muffin molds can be used for both sweet and savory food. Aside from muffins and cupcakes, you can also make mini quiches, cheese puffs, and more!
- Silicone cake pans are too wobbly for baking large confections. Unless you’re willing to risk an accident, it’s better if you stick to your metal pans for more support.
- If you’re new to silicone bakeware, it’s better to carefully observe the baking time the first few times that you use it, until you get a better feel of what adjustments you need to make.
- Make sure to use hot pads when taking silicone bakeware from the oven. Though they are quick to cool, they can still get hot.
- Silicone muffin molds should be placed on a metal tray for stability before they are placed on the oven rack.
- Do not use sharp and pointed objects on your silicone utensils and bakeware. Though silicone is naturally resistant to microbial growth, scratches and cuts can harbor bacteria.
How to Care for Silicone Kitchen Utensils and Bakeware
- To make it easier to clean the silicone cupcake liners and smaller muffin molds, soak them in water for a few minutes first before you wash them.
- Do not use abrasive chemicals and cleaning tools on your silicone kitchenware as they can cause surface damage.
- If there are some food stuck in your mold, try using silicone utensils to remove it.
- Though silicone kitchenware are dishwasher-safe, washing them by hand with some mild soap can extend their lifespan.
- Before storing your silicone bakeware, make sure that they are completely dry to prevent dust from sticking to it.
- A sticky residue sometimes builds up on the surface of silicone bakeware. This is due to the grease and oil that you use when baking. To remove it, wash your silicone molds with some water and mild detergent. Next, sprinkle some baking soda on the remaining greasy areas. Then, with a wet dishcloth, scrub the areas gently until you can no longer feel any grease. Rinse again with water and mild detergent before drying.
- If you find your silicone utensils and bakeware giving off a soapy taste, try boiling them for a few minutes. You can also try wiping it down with some vinegar or washing it with some baking soda. If the soapy taste persists, the silicone kitchenware might be of low quality. Throw it out and get FDA-approved silicone products instead.
- If your silicone kitchenware has a stubborn white residue, soak it in a solution of vinegar and water for 15 to 30 minutes. Then, wash and dry it as you would normally. According to a manufacturer who tested what this white residue is on a returned product, it is calcium sulfate. The minerals from hard water calcify on the surface of silicone and form the white residue.
Frequently Asked Questions About Silicone
Can Silicone Bakeware Be Used for Steaming?
Since food-grade silicone is safe up to 572˚F, it can be used for steaming and steam baking. The only thing you shouldn’t do is to put your silicone molds over an open fire where it can melt. To help you get started here’s an easy steamed egg recipe which you can try for a healthy breakfast.
Does Silicone Bakeware Take Longer to Bake?
Most recipes are designed for metal pans which are better at conducting heat. Since silicone is an insulator, you’ll have to experiment a bit at first. Try to slightly increase the baking temperature and time and carefully monitor what you’re baking. Once you’ve achieved good results, note it down for future reference.
Is Silicone Recyclable?
Though silicone is nonbiodegradable, there are recycling facilities that process silicone wastes to remold them into new products.
Is Silicone Better than Plastic?
Silicone is more environment-friendly than plastic. Plastic is less durable than silicone so they get replaced more often, causing more waste.
Plastic is harmful to humans as well since they contain BPA which is a chemical that can mimic our hormones, causing endocrine disruption. Since plastic manufacturers faced consumer backlash due to BPA, a lot of companies now produce BPA-free plastic, replacing the chemical with bisphenol S (BPS). However, there are studies that suggest that BPS is just as toxic as BPA.
Silicone is non-toxic and is not a hazardous waste, making it the better choice.
Silicone utensils and bakeware are safe to use for cooking and baking, provided that you don’t expose them to temperatures more than 572˚F. The key lies in buying food-grade silicone kitchenware that is FDA-approved to ensure that it won’t leach toxins into your food.