Silicone products in the kitchen intrigue me. I have a nice little collection of silicone items: pots and pans with silicone-coated handles, a silicone spatula, a silicone lid for capping bowls or lid-less pans, baking mat – like parchment paper for baking or lining pans, hot pads , and silicone cookware. And I love them all. I like them enough I've recently added a silicone bottle – for traveling with liquids – to my silicone rubber collection.

So far most of the silicone I've experienced has been malleable and soft, the spatula being the most rigid of my collection. I'm thinking more rigid might be good for bakeware as a “reasonable” alternative to non-stick pans, or even stainless steel or glass pans. My silicone hot pads are a bit thick for grabbing things out of the oven, but they work nicely as a trivet; maybe my WalMart source was not the best and I can find thinner, more supple ones elsewhere.

Do not mistake silicone for silicon, the element. The term silicone is essentially a derivative of its formula. Variations of the formula give us variations of products that we are familiar with: glass aquarium joints, gaskets, grease for auto brakes, insulators (heat and electrical), caulk, tubing, spark plug insulation, bandages, breast implants, molds, toys, and cookware / bakeware. The list goes on and on.

Commonly I hear people express concern about silicone. They figure they'll learn about the health or environmental problems associated with using silicone. But those very people use non-stick (like Teflon) kitchenware, and that has reports of health and environmental issues. So, I made that question part of my research.

I found lots of evidence of silicone being safe to use. At least the Dow / Corning manufacturing approach is designed to be sustainable too, focusing on the environment, health, and safety / security issues. It's recyclable, though not biodegradable, and it does not offgas over its lifetime or while in use.

Silicone is made of polymers of silicon, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and sometimes other chemical elements (as in those found on the element chart). Those are all natural ingredients, not man-made chemicals; a plus in my mind. It has low chemical reaction, repels water, and is resistant to ozone, oxygen, and UV light. Furthermore, it does not support microbiological growth, and has low toxicity (does that sound like a hedged bet, or careful marketing, to you?). I'm comfortable with the material, given my research.

But, back to my cooking focus. Here are just some of the benefits I've found in using silicone in the kitchen:

  • dishwasher safe, unlike some metal and all wooden items
  • insulates my hand from heat construction on pots and pans
  • no more melted spatulas because of high cooking heats, like with candy
  • more resistant to food stains, like tomato or saffron sauces
  • long lived, unlike wood and rubber utensils
  • it keeps its “new” look much longer
  • no more shattering / breaking because of dropping it or adding cold water to a hot pan
  • I do not have to grease my baking pans, saving prep time
  • easy clean up
  • it does not take on odors or flavors of food, unlike plastic bowls I've used the past
  • non-stick, so no need for non-stick pans, which I got rid of years ago anyway

I mentioned the silicone bottle for my travels. I do like it because it's lightweight, not plastic, and it's squeezed. However, the lid does leak slightly, so I keep it in a tiny Ziploc bag while traveling, which is not a big deal to me. I got mine at REI, and suspect they are available at a variety of stores.

Heck, now that I've done this research to share with you about the benefits of silicone bakeware, I think it's time to expand my collection of silicone – for travel and cookware items. My list of goodies to pursue:

  • mixing bowls, aka pinch bowls
  • metal / silicone bundt pan and muffin pans
  • silicone cooking tongs

I have a ball whisk that my friend Brita bought me from Germany, and I love it. I see there is a silicone ball whisk available too, but would like to see it to understand if it's as good as my all metal German brand before adding that to my collection.

Silicone rubber products seem like safe and environment friendly items to use in your life, starting in your kitchen.