I've been a bit skeptical of silicone. Because I didn't know much about it, I just lumped it into the general plastics category and tried not to buy much of it. I also wondered about heating it - does it leach toxic chemicals like some other plastics? I finally decided to dig a little bit deeper...and it helped me to feel more comfortable about using it...although I don't think I'll be running out to buy a bunch at Target anytime soon.
What exactly is silicone?
Silicone is a synthetic rubber which contains bonded silicon (a natural element which found in sand and rock) and oxygen. And in case you're wondering, food grade silicone is not the same as the kind that caused the big scares in breast implants years ago.
Kitchenware made from silicone has become very popular because it is nonstick, stain-resistant, very durable, tolerates extremes of temperature - both hot and cold and cools down quickly. You can put it in the microwave, the freezer, the oven and the dishwasher. Quite the workhorse of a kitchen material, if you ask me. Also, unlike some other plastics, it can be made into bright, vibrant colors, making it a fun addition to your kitchen!
Is silicone safe to use with food?
In terms of safety, silicone seems to have a good track record. It is an inert material, therefore it does not react with food or beverages, or produce any hazardous fumes. I did a lot of searching on the web and there appear to be no known health hazards associated with use of silicone kitchen products - even with baking. I just hope that's still true in 10 years...
Is silicone recyclable?
Silicone does not decompose but it is recyclable - although probably not through your city-wide recycling program. You'll probably have to drive to a specialty recycling facility - but then again, silicone is very durable so you won't have to worry about disposal for a long time.
So far, the only thing I've seen made from recycled silicone are those stretchy bracelets that people wear for every cause known to man...but I bet there are some industrial uses for it too.
What silicone products should I look for?
OK, so I've never baked in silicone and maybe once I have I'll become the biggest silicone advocate on the planet, but for now, my tendency is to want to stick to things that don't get hot. Call me crazy.
- Silicone cookie dough scoop - I actually own one of these and I love it! Is it necessary? Hell no. Fun? You betcha! The silicone lets you push the dough out into the perfect little blob. I'm easily amused.
- Silicone strainers from Williams Sonoma. The bowls collapse flat to save space. And in my kitchen that would be a big plus.
- Silicone pinch bowls for spices - too cute and so practical!
Bottom line - I think silicone is OK. I'm really not trying to promote the purchase of more plastic products but I think silicone has it's place - especially because it is durable and has so many uses. But for now, I'm going to stick with good old fashioned metal when it comes to baking...