Silicone is generally safer and more eco-friendly than plastic, so it's a great alternative to plastics containing known carcinogens or endocrine disruptors like BPA. We use silicone in kid's dishes, molds and kitchen gadgets all the time without worrying that they'll leach harmful chemicals into foods. But is silicone safe for baking? We're not so sure…
Is Silicone Safe for Baking?
Let's get right down to it: there just hasn't been enough solid research to prove its safety at temperatures above 350°F. Debra Lynn Dadd, one of our favorite sisters-in-arms when it comes to non-toxic living, found a couple of new studies on silicone that discuss the potential of formaldehyde and other VOCs off-gassing when exposed to high heat in industrial situations. Now that's definitely not the same as silicone being used in cookware, but it gives me pause.
The truth is that it really depends on the quality of silicone. Very high quality professional grade silicone products are far less likely to be made with inferior materials that will off-gas at high temperatures. The trouble is that we as consumers aren't privy to which silicone is the best silicone…
How to Use Silicone Cookware Cautiously
We recommend you follow these guidelines if you choose to bake in silicone cookware:
- DO choose products made from high quality 100% food grade silicone (like this baking mat)
- DO keep baking temperature at 350°F or below
- DO return any product that smells while being heated
- DO confirm that all colorants used are not BPA-based and that lead testing has been done, especially for brightly colored products
- DO NOT be fooled by thermoplasticized rubber (TPR) dishes. They look and feel much the same, but TPR isn’t nearly as durable and doesn’t tolerate high heat like silicone does. Products like these measuring cups made from TPR often have a rigid plastic skeleton and may warp and off-gas when exposed to heat
Is it Safe to Microwave Silicone?
Microwaves rarely get above 212°F so silicone dishes seem to do well, making them super versatile for going from the freezer to the microwave. But regular plastics, on the other hand, don't hold up as well in the microwave. Even our all-time favorite safer plastic, polypropylene, has a high melting point of 320°F compared to other plastics and it still warps and degrades more quickly when heated in the microwave because of the hot spot phenomenon.
Is it Safe to Use Silicone Bags for Sous Vide Cooking?
Boiling water is only 212°F so silicone sous vide cooking bags should hold up just fine and shouldn't release formaldehyde.
Do you use silicone bakeware? If so, what has your experience been with off-gassing or bad smells while cooking?