Spotlight on Silicone

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…

18 Comments

  1. Thanks for doing the research, I have been wondering abt the silicone scrapers I have had for a few years now (the high temp ones). I feel better about keeping them around. Thanks!

  2. It seems like a lot of mainstream baby products (such as pacifiers and bottle nipples) give the option of rubber or silicone. Do you know which is better? Thanks for the informative article!

  3. I learned quite a bit more about silicone from your post. I have been hesitant to try baking with silicone products even though I have read great reviews about it. Still might wait awhile but your information is helpful. Thanks!

  4. I thought silicone was the stuff in hair products that make your hair smooth- gets rid of frizz. Is this the same stuff that is in these products?

  5. Answering Rebecca’s question asking which is better for pacifiers and bottle nipples – rubber or silicone? I think it’s a matter of preference. Rubber (often known as latex) is naturally softer and babies often like it better. However, a small percentage of people have latex allergies so you might want to consider that. Natursutten rubber pacifiers claim that they will NOT cause latex allergies.

    Also, rubber is not as durable as silicone. Aside from the small allergy potential, I don’t think there are any health risks to either type. Many people try out both on their babies and see what they like best.

    Jeneflower asked about silicone in hair products – I believe it’s the same type of product – only in a different form, however I have not looked into it.

  6. I have a silicone muffin pan, and it’s not that great. You can’t just turn over the pan and expect the muffins to pop out, even if you “punch” them on the bottom. It’s not nonstick, so I have to douse it with baking spray. The floppiness actually makes it somewhat difficult to wash.

  7. I’m so happy to see this – I was just starting to wonder about silicone! Thank you for sharing your research!

  8. slightlytilted says:

    The only experience I have with silicone is in baking with it, and maybe it’s the particular product I was using but I could taste it on my food! >.

  9. Just tuned into this post. I bought a silicone strainer. I have found that these strainers are all made in China, and I think we know about things made in China. Has anyone heard anything about how safe using these silicone products that are made in China are?

  10. Thanks for the research…I too have been looking at silicone in regards to effects over the years and haven’t found any claims to date. I wear a negative ion bracelet that is made of silicone with tourmaline & germanium and it wears wonderfully well in all types of situations and allows good health benefits.

    I also use the silicone individual muffin containers and find them quite good and handy for not only baking but freezing as you can just peel them off both the cooked and frozen items. Also by having them as individual you can do small amounts or if your batter calls for 12 and there is that extra batter it is ideal to have a few extra on hand. I also use the spatulas and find that unlike the ‘rubber’ ones that eventually break down and leave bits somewhere there doesn’t seem to be the same problem after years of use. Also the oven mitts are great especially the little finger mit ones. I still use wooden for mixing and stiring even over metal utensils.

  11. Thanks for this research, I use a menstrual cup (femmecup – sorry for posting when your talking about food!) and that is made of medical grade silicone. I did wonder how safe it was, the company said it is very safe and your research says the same which is fantastic to know.

  12. way to shut down the conversation

  13. With today’s technology, silicone can be fully recycled and made into new products. Although silicone is generally not accepted at recycling centers and not recycled at the post-consumer level, much of the post-industrial silicone such as rejected parts from manufacturers are depolymerized to be remade into new silicone parts and products.

  14. Emma I actually see that as a conversation starter! I also use one – mooncup and I think every woman should, so it is a very interesting question….How would that impact our environment.
    I prefer the idea to landfill with other sanitary products, but practically if individuals aren’t going to recycle them (hopefully after a lifetime of use)is it still going to be the most eco-friendly option. I’d love some other opinions as I can’t find any other helpful info online.

  15. What an irony – silicone is an inert material and is used everywhere in our life, but my co-worker is super-allergic to a silicone breast implant that is laying on her desk. Hahah, mey be she just doesn’t like our company;)

  16. I agree with Noel about the silicone baking pans; not great. But I adore my silicone baking mats, which make greasing cookie sheets a thing of the past…..

  17. Silicone is in a lot more products than you may think. Many products with added soft-touch grips like most toothbrushes, power tools, electronics and countless others, use silicone. These are very hard to recycle because the silicone is often bonded to the main plastic in the molding process. I hate to buy products like this especially if they are products with a relatively short life span.

  18. Pingback: The Benefits of Using Silicone Products

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