Still, silicone is a synthetic compound, so you may be wondering if it’s real safe enough to be used in cooking and baking. 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. 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. Water is added to dimethyldichlorosilane to start the condensation process which will turn it into polydimethylsiloxane.
Despite the complex process of making rubber silicone, it can be done in large batches at a low cost. And, if you’ve used silicone utensils before, you might have noticed that it doesn’t retain odor from the foods you cook.
It isn’t hard like metal utensils which can scrape the coating of nonstick pans. Compared to other types of kitchenware that rust, warp and break, silicone is durable.
This is probably why the U.S. FDA has this material labeled as Gas 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.” 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.
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.
It is found to have harmful effects on the human body since it can interfere with our hormones and cause brain and behavioral issues. However, poorly made silicone bakeware and utensils that have fillers in them might contain BPA.
Since the FDA has deemed silicone as safe for cooking, I have little reservations using or recommending silicone utensils and bakeware. When buying bakeware, you’ll want to check the safe temperature range of the product.
Do the twist test to check if the product you’re considering doesn’t contain fillers. 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. Though food doesn’t easily stick to silicone bakeware, they aren’t completely nonstick.
Silicone muffin molds should be placed on a metal tray for stability before they are placed on the oven rack. Though silicone is naturally resistant to microbial growth, scratches and cuts can harbor bacteria.
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.
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.
Then, with a wet dishcloth, scrub the areas gently until you can no longer feel any grease. If you find your silicone utensils and bakeware giving off a soapy taste, try boiling them for a few minutes.
If your silicone kitchenware has a stubborn white residue, soak it in a solution of vinegar and water for 15 to 30 minutes. 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. The only thing you shouldn’t do is to put your silicone molds over an open fire where it can melt.
Plastic is harmful to humans as well since they contain BPA which is a chemical that can mimic our hormones, causing endocrine disruption. Silicone utensils and bakeware are safe to use for cooking and baking, provided that you don’t expose them to temperatures more than 572F.
The key lies in buying food-grade silicone kitchenware that is FDA-approved to ensure that it won’t leach toxins into your food. This is a question on many consumer's minds, ranging from professional bakers to the occasional home cook.
You will also find silicone ice cube trays, rolling pins and all sorts of baking pans. Silicone bakeware is tolerant of both heat and cold, and can be used in the oven at temperatures up to 428 degrees Fahrenheit.
It can go directly from the oven to the freezer, is microwave safe, and easy to clean. It does not emit fumes of any sort, leach into food, or pose any health risks according to the FDA.
If you are concerned about the possibilities of long term use of silicone bakeware, consider confining your use to spatulas, trivets and other items that are not exposed to heat on a consistent basis. If you do use silicone pans, you should also keep in mind that they should be placed on a firm surface, like a cookie sheet, when baking.
Lifting a flexible pan from the oven can leave you with burns and a cake on the floor rather than your table. It appears that these odors are connected to fillers in the final product, rather than the silicone itself.
Keep in mind that silicone cookware has become quite popular and low quality items are available. While there is no evidence that risks are posed by poor quality silicone cookware, offensive burning smells when baking is enough to make any baker want to avoid these items.
I’ve been using the baking mats for years under the pretense that silicone is safe, especially compared to the hazards of aluminum and the many safety issues surrounding Teflon. Silicon is right on the periodic table, a natural element that is in sand and makes up 28% of the earth’s crust.
(Note: that sentence means very little since the FDA approves a bunch of things for human consumption that I don’t trust, like hydrogenated oils, for example.) Those that stated otherwise were usually single people in a forum or comments railing about silicone being toxic.
The “nonreactive” claim is just based on the fact that silicon (the element) is “inert.” Again, let’s be serious: just because something in nature is fairly stable doesn’t mean I’ll necessarily cook and eat on it. The oils in silicone, which are very powerful and toxic, may “migrate” from the material, but I can’t find any real data.
I do notice an odor or smoking every so often, especially when oil hits the surface (like when roasting pumpkin seeds tossed in Too). 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.
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 said over the years, and now I’ve just contributed another article to the vastness of the Internet that says little to nothing about the safety of silicone. 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.
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.
I also swear by my silicone “spoonful” for scrambling eggs in the pan and other stove top cooking. I found the muffin tin to be a beast to clean, much worse than its metal counterpart.
The nonstick claim leaves a lot to be desired on the three-dimensional products, but the mats are still my friend…unless I decide they might be toxic. Katie Kimball has been “green” since 5th grade when she read 50 Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth.
She remains slightly disappointed that she didn’t actually save the whole thing back then, but now that she has 3 kiddos counting on her, she keeps plugging away hopefully. Katie blogs at Kitchen Stewardship about real food and natural living and is the author of Healthy Snacks to Go and other e-books, available for Kindle.