Kitchen utensils and tools are made from various materials, wood, stainless steel, plastic, aluminium and others. In recent years, silicone utensils were introduced into the market. What makes these products different from others is flexibility and durability.
Are silicone kitchen utensils safe? Silicon is a natural element, enriched with sand and rock which is heat-resistant and safe for the freezer and oven. It does not change the taste or release any smell that might affect food quality.
Silicone is a dormant man-made synthetic rubber compound of silicon and oxygen with organic side groups that attach to the silicon atoms. These elements do not react with drinks or food or produce any toxic fumes.
What is Silicone
Silicone is a strong and flexible material, because of this trait it is beneficial for the kitchen utensils in the form of muffin pans, cupcake liners and other utensils that can work easily in the oven and freezer.
Its non-sticking and stain-resistance traits make it different from traditional cookware. Silicone is also available in bright and cheerful colours. In this blog, we will find out the allegations against silicone utensils but first, we will begin looking at the compound.
This man-made rubber is produced by bonding silicon and oxygen molecules. Technically, the material falls within a synthetic rubber and plastic polymer.
Several synthetic molecules are added to the oxygen-silicon mixture to make different varieties of silicone from liquid to solid rubber. It is not a biodegradable material, so it can be recycled and turned into other things.
Safe or Not
Because of too many negative reports about plastic disadvantage to the environment and body, consumers turn to see a replacement that is safe and easy to clean. Silicone bakeware and tools have been getting much popularity due to their non-stick and flexible traits.
Silicone is safe because it is a dead material – every element used in its manufacture will not leach into food. So, for now, no health & safety issues have been reported, but if you are interested, stick to silicone utensils and avoid other cookware.
In fact, many people prefer stainless steel cookware, but now-a-days silicone utensils seem to be everywhere. You can get brightly coloured cake pans, spoons, pastry brushes, ice cube trays, and even baking mats made out of silicone.
Some silicone products checked by the Times proved useless, like silicone garlic peeler, lemon squeezer, and measuring cup.
Sales of silicone products have increased into the millions. The traits of silicone include flexibility, heat resistance show that it can go from freezer to oven that is easy to clean. Silicone storage containers are eco-friendly; the lids can vanish the need for aluminium foil and plastic wrap.
Difference of Silicone Kitchen Utensils from Others
Silicone utensils have traits that provide some advantages over metal, rubber, plastic and wooden kitchenware. Most silicone products are some in bright colours, beside this, let’s consider other qualities.
Silicone utensils are stain-resistant. Due to the non-porous quality of silicone. So that it does not emit smell or colour when it is used for stirring like tomato food products.
Sometimes removing spaghetti sauce stains become head-ache. This also put the silicone utensils to easier cleaning. As compared to the wooden spoon which is porous and increases bacteria growth, silicone products do not support such growth.
Silicone utensils are flexible. This trait makes them user-friendly when dealing with non-stick utensils. As compared to metal or wooden spoons it can not damage non-stick pots or pans. This quality makes it effective as the rubber spatula easily scrapes off cake batter from the mixing bowl.
Some more differences are following:
- Despite the tough process of making silicone rubber, it can be done at a low cost.
- Silicone utensils can beat up to 500˚F temperature. It means they would not melt if you leave them in a hot pan
- As silicone rubber consists of long-chain molecules, they are flexible, even with temperature change, they barely shrink or expand.
- Its non-porous surface makes it stain-resistant and prevents microbial growth.
- As compared to other materials, silicone kitchenware does not break and rust.
- Silicone is a transparent material so it can be dyed in any colour.
Pros & Cons
Food items generally do not stick to silicone utensils, which makes them easy to clean following are some pros of silicone utensils and tools:
- Does not hold smell or taste
- It is safe to use in dishwasher
- Raise the distribution of heat
- Cool down quickly
- Some items can be folded for storage
- Silicone utensils do not break if dropped on the floor as compared to other materials.
Silicone utensils are not going to do any harm however using silicone bakeware is a different story. Because of the silicone kitchenware popularity, the market is full of cheap and fake products that do not work to the same standard.
In other words, its benefits may not show progress if the products are not bought from a trusted seller. For example, the addition of any glue or filler that has the possibility to carry chemicals and odours that show a risk to your health. Also, poorly made silicone utensils may leak out colour and give a bad smell.
The main concern lies in the fillers added in the raw silicone material. As a human-made silicone rubber has shown best properties, such as heat-resistance, thermal conductivity, chemical stability, flame retardance and cold resistance. By adding these fillers, the properties of silicone will be changed and cause harm.
Another point is the moulding stage, two fillers we added include vulcanizer agent and colour pigment. The bright colours make silicone utensils attractive but also cause problems. Many consumers worry the colour may be a threat to their health. But do not worry about it because the amount of colour pigment is so small, normally 0.1% – 1%.
The next filler is a vulcanizer agent, which is platinum silicone. Platinum is added to silicone material to convert silicone gel into solid elastic rubber. As compared to other agents platinum has no smell and it is safe, but under high temperature, a small amount of residue is left, that’s why some products have a smell.
Silicone Cookware Alternatives
If you are not convinced with the safety standards of silicone utensils, we recommend buying these products instead:
Carbon Steel Frying Pan – This frying pan offers better heat distribution searing, browning and grilling of foods on the camping stove, barbeque or in the oven
Corning Ware – This product is non-reactive to acidic foods, easy to clean and can be used serving, storing and cooking different food items.
Lodge Cast Iron – Cast iron utensils are robust, versatile and a great investment.
Scientific Research on Silicone Baking Products
A study published by the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health in 2005 looked at if chemical substances were released from silicone utensils when they were heated to 200-250 degrees Celsius, this is also the recommended limit for these products. They tested the silicone products up to 280 degrees Celsius.
Up to 100 degrees, the silicone showed low migration of chemicals. This migration increased gradually after 150 degrees, at higher temperatures, migration increased even further. At 175 degrees, all products showed maximum migration (25 mg/dm2 and 50 mg/ dm2).
In some cases, the chemical migration dropped on the third round of testing. This shows that manufacturers are not curing silicone utensils before the sale and that it makes sense for customers to heat any product to 220 degrees without food for 1-2 hours. Once, it cools, rinses out thoroughly with warm and soapy water.
Silicone cookware for Kids
Silicone utensils are easy to use and fun for kids. It comes in different shapes, sizes, bright colours and easier to grip than metal or other bakeware. And if you are changing house, silicone utensils can be transported more easily than ceramic or cast iron bakeware.
Points to Consider Before Buying Silicone Utensils
When purchasing any stuff, it is a good idea to consider a few points to ensure that you are buying quality products. Here are some comments of silicone utensils users:
- Consider the purpose of buying silicone utensils. Some people claim that silicone spatulas work best for scooping out the batter or dough from the mixing bowl but they are not hard enough for cooking purposes because they are rubber-like.
- Check the grip of silicone utensils as handles of these utensils will tend to be soft so it may not give you the leverage you need while cooking to high temperature. You can consider silicone kitchen tools with strong and long handles but usually, those are made with plastic or metal.
- It is also best to find out customer reviews online if the handles do not break.
- In addition, when you purchase silicone bakeware, always check the safe temperature range of that product. Otherwise, your silicone baking pan might melt.
- Also, do the twist test to ensure the product you are buying does not contain fillers. Hold the product between your fingers and twist it. If the colour does not change, this product is free from filler and if the colour changes, it has some fillers.
- Only buy silicone pans that come with a support ring.
- Molds with tight spaces are hard to clean. So do not buy such molds.
- Purchase only FDA-approved utensils and cookware to ensure that they are harmless.
- The silicone should be high quality but at least “food grade”. If the grade is not visible, ask the seller. The higher quality minimizes the possibility of leaching chemicals.
- Pacifier and bottle nipples are safe, but ideally, do not put them in the dishwasher, if they become cloudy then replace them. Natural rubber is also a good option, as long as your child does not have any allergy from this rubber.
Cooking and Baking Tips for Silicone Utensils
If you are using silicone utensils for baking and cooking these tips will help you a lot:
- Hard food does not stick to silicone bakeware easily, so you need to dust with flour or grease them if you are using a large pan. For baking a chocolate cake, you can also dust the pan with cocoa powder.
- You can use silicone muffin molds for both savory and sweet food. Besides muffins and cupcakes, you can make cheese puffs, mini quiches and more items.
- Some silicone cake pans are not suitable for making sweet food, unless you are ready to risk an accident, it is a good idea to use your metal pan for convenience.
- If you are using silicone utensils for the first time, it is better to watch the baking time, until you get a better idea of adjustments.
- When you are taking silicone bakeware from the oven, use hot pads for your safety. Because they are quick to cool and they still get hot.
- Always place the muffin molds on a metal tray for better stability before they are placed on the oven rack.
- Do not use any sharp object on silicone utensils, as they are resistant to microbial growth, scratches can make a place for their growth.
How to Care Silicone Utensils
- For easy cleaning of silicone cupcake liners and muffin molds, soak them in water before washing them.
- Do not use any corrosive chemical or detergent on silicone utensils because they will damage the surface.
- Use silicone utensils to remove any stuck food in the molds.
- Silicone utensils are dishwasher-safe, but if you wash them by hand with a mild soap it will increase their lifespan.
- Before storing them, ensure that they are fully dry to prevent them from dust.
- Sometimes a residue can build up on the surface of silicone utensils, due to the oil and grease you use while baking. To remove it, wash silicone molds with mild detergent and lukewarm water. Next, sprinkle baking soda on the greasy surface, then, scrub the surface with a wet cloth until you feel any grease.
- If your silicone utensils are giving any soapy taste, boil them for 5-10 minutes. Now wipe it down with some baking soda or vinegar. If you still feel soapy taste, that product might be of cheap quality. Throw it and buy an FDA-approved product.
- If you see white residue, soak it in a solution of water and vinegar for 20-30 minutes. Then, rinse out normally. This white residue is calcium sulfate, the mineral from hard water calcified on the surface of silicone.
Are silicone kitchenware tools biodegradable?
Silicone is not a biodegradable material but it can be recycled. Unfortunately, it is hard to search a recycling facility that will accept this material. Silicone lasts a longer time, and won’t be thrown away. If your products become useless, it is a good idea to use it for other activities.
But if you throw them into a landfill, it will likely leach out any hazardous chemicals because it is an inert material as compared to plastic.
Can I use silicone utensils with hot oil?
Silicone utensils can bear heat up to 500 Fahrenheit. Hot oil ranges from 300 to 370 deg Fahrenheit unless overheated. (Oil can catch fire at 500 deg F).
Can silicone Bakeware be used for steaming?
Silicone food-grade is safe up to 500 deg F, so it can be used for steaming. The only thing you should avoid is to put molds over and open fire, as it can melt.
Does silicone Bakeware take longer time to bake?
As most recipes are made for metal pans and utensils which are better at conducting heat. Because silicone is an insulator, so you have to try to gradually increase the time and temperature. Once you have got results, write it down for further use.
Is Silicone better than Plastic?
Silicone material is eco-friendly as compared to plastic. Also, plastic is less durable so they cause more waste.
Plastic is harmful for human health because it contains BPA that can harm hormones. Because of this issue, a lot of manufacturers are now producing BPA-free plastic and are using BSP. However some studies show that BPS is also hazardous as BPA.
There is little safety data on the use of silicone products and the availability of other types of cookware that are eco-friendly and non-toxic. I would prefer to use it in making popsicles, ice cubes, chocolates and jellies which pose little risk of leaching chemicals into food.
As long as you are not putting silicone products in the oven, you are fine to use these products. Just cure the silicone moulds in the oven and after that clean them completely before using them for any cooking purpose.