Silicone is a natural element found in sand and oxygen. When it’s extracted and bonded, it forms a natural rubber. According to the FDA, it doesn’t react to other compounds (such as anything you might be baking with like cake batter) and won’t release unsafe compounds when heated.
Cooks like silicone bakeware because it can go from the oven to the freezer while still hot, unlike glass bakeware. Additionally, silicone seems like the answer to wary chefs who refuse to cook on aluminum or Teflon due to substances that may end up in food.
Mills-Gray also says that silicone bakeware cools very quickly, so it is ideal for use around children.
There are several drawbacks to silicone bakeware, however. Since the cookware is flexible, it may not stack well and can take up more space in your cabinets. In addition, because silicone does not transfer heat well, baked goods may not bake evenly all the way through. In a 2006 review, Consumer Reports indicated that baked goods cooked in the cookware in their test kitchen did not brown all the way through and was misshapen due to the flexible nature of the cookware.
To bake safely with silicone bakeware, the University of Missouri Extension recommends using 100 percent pure silicone with no fillers.
“Knowing what quality of silicone you’re buying is crucial,” Said Mills-Gray. High-quality silicone bakeware will last longer. Also, while silicone will not react with food or release chemicals, fillers carry no such guarantee.
In order to see if you are cooking with silicone bakeware that has no fillers, pinch and twist the bakeware. Fillers will appear as bits or strips of white.
Although silicone pans cool quickly, they will be hot to the touch in the oven. Chefs should still use pot holders while cooking with silicone and should grasp both ends of a piece of bakeware when placing a pan in the oven or removing it. This way you can make sure that the bakeware will not burn you before it cools, and will not spill due to its flexible nature.
If you wish to keep the bakeware rigid like a metal pan, you can place it on a cookie sheet to transfer it to the oven and remove it. Baking with a cookie sheet under the pan also ensures that baked goods do not become odd-shaped due to the pan’s flexibility.
Always take baked goods out of the pan before cutting them. This will keep your pans from being sliced in the process. And always check the manufacturer’s recommendations on cooking temperatures and never exceed them to keep the bakeware from melting in your oven.
One advantage of silicone bakeware is that it is very inexpensive. According to Mills-Gray, consumers who are curious can buy a few items just to try them out. Reading online reviews of silicone bakeware can also give you an indication of what baking with it might be like.
“If you don’t like it, you’re only out a few dollars,” Mills-Gray said.