Silicone bakeware has many advantages which contribute to its growing popularity among cooks: it is non-stick, easy to clean, cools down easily, remains stable at hot and cold temperatures and is nonreactive to most chemicals. It is also lightweight and easy to store as it can be folded and stowed in a very small space. There are some issues, however, that have cropped up as its use continues to grow.
Since silicone rubber bakeware is fairly new, there are no studies available regarding long-term effects from regular use. While silicone is considered inert and therefore stable, and is not toxic to aquatic or soil organisms, many people still have doubts that will only be alleviated when the products have been around long enough to have completed studies regarding their health safety. Also, while silicone itself is considered food safe, some manufacturers add filler which may or may not be. Check with the manufacturer to make sure the product is 100% silicone before purchasing the product.
Silicone is not biodegradable, which is a concern to many people, although it is not considered hazardous waste and can be recycled. The environmental impact of silicone production is also an issue. The traditional method of production releases significant amounts of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. While new, more environmentally-friendly methods are being invented, most silicone is still produced the old-fashioned way.
Silicone baking moulds and sheets are marketed as completely non-stick, supposedly not requiring an application of grease or flour. However, many consumers have found that this is not the case. Good Housekeeping still prefers metal pans for making cakes as the silicone moulds don't always release the cake perfectly. Many users of silicone muffin pans report significant sticking issues and problems with the individual muffins holding their shape.
Odour Retention Problems
Manufacturers of silicone baking products also claim that these items don't retain any odours from food. Many consumers, however, have refuted this claim, saying that certain foods, particularly fish, leave an intense odour that is hard to eliminate. Some have even reported that the silicone product itself produces an off-putting smell after use. However, this may be a problem that only crops up with cheaper models that are made with plastic filler.
The Bottom Line
Consumers still have many questions about silicone bakeware that probably won't be answered for years. However, if you research the product before purchasing it, make sure it is made by a reputable manufacturer that doesn't use cheap filler, and follow the manufacturer's instructions for use, you will most likely avoid many of the issues associated with it. If these issues leave too many question marks and make you uncomfortable, stick with traditional metal bakeware for now until more studies are completed.
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