Is cooking with silicone safe?

We’ve been shouting out about the Fusionbrands Foodpod, and in a conversation about it on our Facebook page, a great question cropped up:

Lauren Fabian asked about the safety of cooking with silicone, and Jaqui Strydom followed on with a question about the general pro’s. You know when your teacher at school tells you to ask questions because everyone is probably wondering the same thing? We’re glad they asked.

A bit of sciencey stuff – Silicone is a synthetic rubber containing bonded silicon and oxygen. Silicon is a natural element found in sand and rock, if you think back to the good old periodic table it was there as Si. It is an inert material, so nothing in its manufacture should leach into foods – but it is always a good idea to buy tools that have been rigorously tested.

The FDA (Food and Drug administration) is an American agency that oversees medications, food safety, cosmetics, medical and veterinary products. They are “responsible for ensuring that foods are safe, wholesome and sanitary; human and veterinary drugs, biological products and medical devices are safe and effective; cosmetics are safe; and electronic products that emit radiation are safe.

So when you buy silicone kitchen products, you can look out for FDA approval which will be clearly indicated on the packaging. This guarantees the item is pure silicone and doesn’t contain any filler or other substances.

If you have a silicone kitchen item and are unsure of its quality, you can test it by pinching and twisting it (preferably a flat surface) to see if white shows through. If it does, bin it, because it indicates filler has been used.

The key benefits of silicone cookware are it’s superior non-stickiness and high temperature resistance.

Silicone is wonderfully non-sticky – when using silicone loaf and muffin pans no greasing is required and food is released with a gentle twist or nudge. Most silicone products can withstand up to 260 degrees (500 Fahrenheit). Manufacturers do recommend maximum oven temperature for every item (they vary slightly) which is usually stamped right on the product. No more melted plastic spatulas. Life is definitely too short for those.

Some other pro’s of silicone utensils, containers and bakeware:

– non-porous so doesn’t retain odors or flavours
– freezer, refrigerator, microwave and oven safe
– generally dishwasher safe
– only take a minute or two to cool down after use
– cleaning is a breeze because of the nonstick qualities
– never rust or stain
– easily stored and space saving
– can be folded or stacked and will keep their shape (check out this collapsible colander)
loaf and muffin pans heat quickly and bake evenly (no burnt or dark edges or bottom)

Environmentally, there are benefits of using silicone. They eliminate the need for greaseproof paper, clingwrap and foil (think non-stick baking trays and silicone storage containers with snap-on lids) and over time will save you money (think durable silicone cupcake cases can replace throw-away paper ones).

Finally, some tips for caring for your silicone kitchen products:

– never put an empty mold into the oven (fill any empty muffin tray pockets with flour)
– don’t use metal brushes or abrasives to clean your molds
– warm soapy water and a gentle sponge will do the trick (or the dishwasher).

So. Is it safe to cook with top grade silicone? Absolutely.