Turn on the television on any day of the week and you’ll soon come across professional and amateur chefs around the world grinding, stirring and seasoning on ratings winners such as America’s Test Kitchen, The Great British Bake Off and MasterChef: Australia.
Interest in cookery has soared and so, as a result, have sales of kitchenware. Silicone products, in particular, have seen a huge rise. Watch any chef on TV and it won’t be long before you spot him or her creating a wonderful dish with the help of silicone baking pans, sheets and mats, spatulas and moulds.
With popular TV shows promoting silicone kitchenware, it’s no surprise that home cooks are now buying these products in ever-increasing numbers. The world-famous John Lewis department store in London, for example, announced at the end of 2012 that its sales of silicone bake-ware increased by 126 per cent year on year.
Silicone itself is a man-made, synthetic material created by bonding silicon with oxygen. But what is it about this product that is fast making it a must-have in the kitchen?
1. Silicone is a non-stick material, meaning that food will not get baked on. This makes silicone bake-ware very easy to clean saving you time and a lot of elbow grease! Silicone baking mats can be used on top of baking sheets and cookie sheets, or inside baking pans, making your non-silicone bake-ware completely non-stick.
2. Silicone can handle heat and cold. Whether you want to store food in the freezer or cook in the oven, silicone is perfect for the job. A silicone baking mat is also ideal as a counter-top sheet for kneading bread or rolling dough.
3. Silicone conducts heat very slowly, so utensils stay cool even in a hot saucepan and kitchen tops and surfaces won’t suffer burn marks. When silicone mats are made to include fibreglass mesh they provide an even heat transfer, the fibreglass mesh and silicone work together to boost even baking and browning.
4. Silicone does not degrade over time and won’t rust or stain. If made from high quality silicone your bake-ware can be used thousands of times.
5. Silicone is very flexible so it can be folded or squeezed into tight storage spaces. This also makes the removal of cakes and muffins from silicone bake-ware very easy.
6. Silicone is a soft material and its utensils won’t scratch or damage non-stick pans.
7. A silicone baking mat can be used more than 2000 times so there is no need to purchase parchment paper and other disposable linings/sheets. The environment will thank you!
Now that we’ve established the many reasons why silicone is so popular let’s look at the safety issue – silicone is man made after all and for food preparation purposes it will be used for making something that you will put in your mouth!
Not all silicone is created equal and as a result quality and safety must be considered.
When purchasing silicone kitchenware and baking mats make sure that it has both FDA (United States) and LFGB (Europe) certification – this means that it has been awarded food-grade certification and is safe to use for cooking and baking.
If you’ve not used silicone kitchen tools and baking products, or tried silicone baking mats, you should consider giving them a try but be sure that they have the relevant certification. It could revolutionise the way you cook. And anything that makes home cooking easier is a real benefit in our hectic and time-poor lives.