When it comes to silicone kitchen utensils, the market is generally divided into two groups: Those that prefer their traditional metal tools, and those that are silicone converts.
Made of a type of polymerized material in laboratories, silicone - not to be confused with silicon, a metalloid element - was introduced as ideal baking and cookware material for its many benefits, being non-stick, pliable and light.
But it was hard to win over the public trust. How could this rubber-like material withstand the heat of cooking or baking? Turns out, it could. In 1979, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concluded that silicon dioxides were generally recognized as safe (GRAS) to use as food-grade materials for kitchen tools. Then, it really took off.
Silicone kitchen utensils not only delivered multiple practical benefits, it solved issues that the metal ones caused - such as weight, scratching of pots and being more heat-conductive.
But is silicone kitchenware infallible? No - no material is. Therefore, it’s good for consumers to understand what they are buying and the evolving studies about the material, so they can use them safely while enjoying their benefits.
Here are the pros and cons of using silicone cookware.
Silicone cookware is non-stick, which is why they are most popularly used for cake and muffin moulds. Just peel and voila - your bakes are released cleanly. This benefit has widened the range’s popularity, and when used in other tools, their non-stick and non-porous surface makes them impossible to stain and a breeze to clean. It is also why, unlike a wooden spoon, it won’t transfer odours between food or have the problem of mould and bacteria.
Silicone material can withstand very high heat, with some manufacturers claiming up to a high of 315 degrees celsius (though 250 is generally regarded as the norm). Despite their outwardly rubbery/plastic look and feel, silicone kitchen utensils are safe to use, especially as cutleries. They also are heat insulators, which makes them great for anything from cooking spatulas and soup ladles to pot holders and even washing sponges.
On top of that, they can be safely stored in freezing conditions as well, with no alterations to their make even if you go straight from the freezer to the oven.
While it’s a relatively stable material, silicone has been found to leak chemicals into food and the air. A study in 2005 by the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health discovered that chemical migration levels exceeded Europe recommendations at 175 degree celsius - the impact of which has not been ascertained.
That said, the agency also noticed that during their tests, the transfer dropped significantly after the third trial. They, therefore, conclude that certain manufacturers may not have “cured” the material as well, and advise consumers to heat any new silicone cookware or bakeware to 220 degrees celsius by itself for a couple of hours before use to “seal” it. These days, certain manufacturers also ensure safety by coating the surface with a food-grade compound or agent to seal it.
Silicone is technically a cross between rubber and plastic, and like the two, it bears the benefits of flexibility and longevity. Silicone spatulas can give enough bend to scoop up that last bit of batter without deforming, and bowls, cups and containers can suffer any kind of drops without so much as a ding or scratch.
With anything popular, imitations will always appear to cut corners. In a bid to save on material costs, unethical manufacturers may include chemical fillers such as plastics with BPA in them into their silicone products. One easy way of testing is to pinch the product and see if it turns white. If so, it might have fillers. Full silicone will be one pure colour throughout.
The best way to prevent impure products is to buy only medical or food-grade high-quality silicone kitchenware. Added indications that are a good sign include it being BPA-free and FDA-approved.
Fancy more colour in your kitchen? Silicone kitchenware is best for that. Because silicone is naturally translucent, it is possible to add any colour to it. From bright candy-coloured palettes to soothing natural tones, it’s easy to add some flair to the kitchen with silicone.
As electrical insulators, silicone cookware can attract static electricity, and by proxy, dust. This won’t be as much of a problem for most items though and usually occurs with more flexible products such as lids, soft containers or baking moulds.
Silicone cookware’s soft, rubbery surface is incredibly gentle on coated surfaces. If you’re worried about damaging non-stick coating on pots and pans, silicone kitchen utensils are your best bet.
When it comes to metal kitchen tools, certain acids in food might unwittingly corrode it. Silicone is non-corrosive and hard-wearing, so it will not react to any types of oils or acids while cooking.
The benefits of silicone cookware far outweigh its cons. It is not only safe to use when one adheres to recommended instructions, they make for beautiful, lasting and functional pieces that can help any proud homeowner.
If you’re set to get your first silicone piece, here are a few extra tips to keep them in top condition:
Discover the joy of cooking with silicone cookware with Liahome.