Is Silicone Safe for Baking?

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I’ve mentioned before that I use silicone molds to make homemade gummy vitamins, lotion bars, and other household staples. However, the mention of silicone molds tends to spark the question, “Is silicone bakeware safe?” Unfortunately, this is one of those questions that I usually answer by saying: “It depends.” Here’s a more in-depth explanation.  

What is Silicone? 

First, it’s crucial to understand three often-confused terms: silicon, silica, and silicone. These substances are related but distinct. Here’s a brief overview of each:

  • Silicon – A natural element (symbol Si and atomic number 14). An element cannot break down into smaller particles without splitting atoms. Silicon is the second most abundant element in the earth after oxygen. It’s used in many industries, including electronics (hence, “Silicon Valley”), solar energy, and construction.
  • Silica – A compound made of silicon and oxygen (SiO2). It exists in various forms, including quartz, sand, and glass. Silica is a major component of the Earth’s crust and occurs throughout nature. It shows up in glass manufacturing, ceramics, and abrasives. The human body also has a high amount of silica. Some research even suggests it may have health benefits. That’s why I’ll consume it in diatomaceous earth.
  • Silicone – A synthetic polymer created by adding carbon and/or oxygen to silicon. It can exist as a solid, liquid, or gel. It’s frequently used in the medical field. You’ll find it in medical devices like pacemakers, joint replacements, and implants. It’s generally considered safe for these uses and is now used to make cooking utensils and bakeware. 

So, in this article, we’re talking about silicone, the synthetic polymer. It’s “FDA approved as a food-safe substance” since 1979 and has long been considered inert. People have widely used silicone in the kitchen for about 40 years, starting with silicone spatulas. You’ll find that not all silicone bakeware online is certified FDA-approved, though. More on that later.

Benefits of Silicone Cookware

There’s a good reason people like silicone products like baking pans for the kitchen. Here are a few of them:

Reusable 

Silicone is a durable material that can withstand repeated use. It’s also resistant to cracking, fading, and peeling. People often use silicone baking mats as an eco-friendly alternative to aluminum foil as a baking sheet liner. The same goes for cupcake liners. If you buy silicone ones, you’re good to go for years to come! 

Non-Stick 

Silicone bakeware also tends to be more non-stick than traditional bakeware. That’s especially important for muffin cups and cake pans. Its natural non-stick properties mean it needs little to no greasing or oiling before use. This can reduce the need for added fats in baking, saving on ingredients and costs.

 It also simply reduces the frustration of having baked goods stick to the sides of the pans. You’re more likely to end with a beautiful result when using a silicone cake pan.

Easy-to-Clean 

Silicone bake mats and other silicone baking products are usually easy to clean. The flexibility of silicone bakeware and molds makes it easy to get things out of them and makes cleanup easier. Silicone bakeware is typically dishwasher safe and easy to hand wash with soap and water. Its smooth surface resists staining and doesn’t retain odors. So, it generally stays looking like new for years. 

Multi-Use

Silicone is advertised as refrigerator-safe, freezer-safe, and oven-safe, as long as you use it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. So, it has many different uses. However, most manufacturers will recommend not putting silicone bakeware directly on an oven rack. That’s because it can become a bit unstable or “floppy” when heated. Setting it on top of a metal baking tray can help keep it stable.

But Is It Safe? 

People often point out silicone isn’t aluminum, it’s petroleum-free, and doesn’t have BPA or PFAS. But that’s not all there is to consider. Silicone product manufacturing often uses certain agents and additives in the process. The question is whether these agents and additives remain in the final product you take to the checkout. 

There hasn’t been much research on the safety of silicone bakeware or silicone molds until more recently. That may be due to the increase in popularity and variety of available products. 

A 2022 study looked into these additives to see what might leach from silicone cupcake molds into food. They found BHT, a known carcinogen, plus two more probable carcinogens, naphthalene and biphenyl. They also found dodecyl acrylate, which irritates the eyes, skin, and lungs.

This study also mentioned the difference between low-quality silicone molds and higher-quality “platinum” silicone. These molds tend to be more expensive but are certified to be high quality and pure. High-quality silicone products undergo an additional heat treatment to eliminate chemical residues.

This difference was measurable. The low-quality silicone exceeded the standards for off-gassing volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The researchers determined these should not be used in contact with food at higher temperatures. The high-quality silicone cupcake molds met the standards and were approved for high-heat use.

Testing on Silicone

Silicone manufacturers typically conduct safety tests internally or through third-party laboratories. These tests ensure the silicone products comply with safety standards and regulations. Safety testing on silicone bakeware usually looks at factors like:

  • Material Composition: Testing to ensure the silicone used in bakeware is food-grade and free from harmful chemicals or additives.
  • Heat Resistance: Testing to see if it can withstand high temperatures without melting, deforming, or emitting harmful fumes.
  • Non-Toxicity: Assessing whether the silicone leaches any harmful substances into food when exposed to heat or other conditions.
  • Durability: Testing the bakeware’s resistance to tearing, cracking, and degradation over time.
  • Non-Stick Properties: Checking the bakeware’s non-stick coating and ensuring it doesn’t have any harmful substances.
  • Stain and Odor Resistance: Testing to ensure it’s resistant to staining and doesn’t retain food odors.

However, silicone’s safety at high temperatures still hasn’t been adequately tested, which is why baking with silicone remains controversial. Officially, silicone pans are rated for temperatures below freezing and up to around 450 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, depending on the specific grade of silicone used. So, until recently, studies showed high-quality silicone is safe for cooking and baking. 

Potential Dangers of Silicone Bakeware

So far, there haven’t been conclusive studies on the safety of silicone. Many have assumed it’s safe since the FDA gave it a GRAS rating in the late 1970s. However, more recent studies indicate there may be toxicity concerns depending on the grade and use. Some potential dangers include:

Leaching of Additives 

Lower-quality silicone bakeware may have fillers that could leach into food when heated.  These additives may include plasticizers or pigments, which could pose health risks if consumed. The studies aren’t clear on whether that’s the case.

According to a 2016 analysis:

“[T]he production of silicone rubber is very complex; various processing agents are used in its manufacture, such as antioxidants, fillers, vulcanizing agents and vulcanizing accelerators. Diverse residual additives, impurities in raw materials, and newly-formed chemical substances could remain in the final product and migrate into infant saliva and foodstuff to potentially cause harm.”

At this point, studies are unsure how often this is the case. Buying higher-quality silicone is likely worth the extra cost.

Degradation at High Temperatures 

While silicone is heat-resistant, it may not be suitable for all types of cooking. Direct exposure to open flames or extreme heat from broilers may cause silicone bakeware to degrade, melt, or emit odors. Those are the VOCs mentioned earlier that often emit from lower-quality silicone molds. 

A 2005 Danish paper reviewed animal studies by the Siloxane Research Program. They concluded inhaling certain siloxanes could impair fertility and contribute to uterine tumors. The kidneys, liver, and lungs may also be affected.

A 2005 Swiss study determined silicone baking products are only stable up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s concerning since most recipes call for baking at 350 Fahrenheit and above.

A 2009 German study found that there may be greater leaching when silicone bakeware is used for high-fat food. Muffins over 30% fat had higher migration of chemicals than lower-fat muffins. Meatloaf had a greater leaching than muffins, according to a 2010 follow-up study.

In 2022, nine European consumer groups published a report on the latest test results of silicone bakeware. They focused on using silicone bakeware at higher temperatures for higher-fat foods. 

After testing 44 silicone molds, they found that 23% of them released contaminants into foods or released increasing amounts from repeat uses. Two of them had toxicity levels above legal regulations. Most of them (82%) had chemicals of concern, like endocrine disruptors.

This recent report definitely gives reason for concern — especially when using silicone bakeware for keto baking

Potential for Contamination

Silicone bakeware, like any kitchen tool, can harbor bacteria or mold if not cleaned and maintained properly. Scratches or damage to silicone bakeware could provide a breeding ground for bacteria to grow. This could lead to food contamination or even foodborne illnesses.

Potential for Mislabeling 

In some cases, businesses may mislabel or falsely advertise silicone bakeware. Packaging may say it’s food-grade or heat-resistant when it doesn’t meet safety standards. So, use caution when purchasing silicone bakeware. Look for reputable brands that comply with regulatory guidelines.

These dangers aren’t completely proven for all silicone brands and products. They’re also more typical at high-temperature use, but it’s a good idea to be cautious about how and when to use silicone.

How to Choose Safer Silicone

First of all, you probably don’t need to worry about oven mitts and ice cube trays. In those cases, there’s no direct contact with food at high temperatures. If you use silicone molds or bakeware, make sure it’s high quality. You want to ensure as much as possible that it doesn’t contain fillers or dangerous additives. Here’s a checklist of what to look for:

Food Grade Silicone  (or Platinum- or Medical-Grade)

Choose silicone cookware labeled “food-grade” or “FDA-approved.” Ideally, it should also say “100% silicone.” Food-grade silicone undergoes rigorous testing to ensure it meets safety standards for food use. In theory, it shouldn’t have harmful chemicals or additives. 

“Platinum-grade” uses only the precious metal platinum in processing, so it’s very pure and the highest grade. Platinum is what’s used in hospitals, so “medical-grade” is also good, but you may not find it on cookware. This type is used in medical devices like menstrual cups

Check for Certifications

Look for cookware certified by reputable organizations or regulatory agencies. In the United States, that’s the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In Europe, it’s the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). These organizations regulate food contact substances, including silicone used in bakeware. They set safety standards and ensure manufacturers are compliant. Food-grade silicone certification indicates it meets safety and quality standards.

Inspect for Quality

Examine the quality of the silicone cookware, including its texture, flexibility, and thickness. High-quality silicone cookware should feel sturdy and durable, with a smooth surface and no visible signs of damage or wear. Avoid silicone cookware that feels flimsy or has a strong chemical smell. These signs may indicate lower-quality materials or manufacturing processes.

Look for Heat Resistance 

Make sure the silicone cookware is heat-resistant and okay to use in ovens and freezers. Look for information on the cookware’s temperature range and avoid exposing it to open flames or putting it under broilers. Extreme heat can cause the silicone to degrade or melt.

Read Reviews and Ratings 

Research the silicone cookware brand you’re interested in. Read reviews from other customers to learn about their experiences with the product. Look for their comments on safety, durability, and performance to help inform your decision.

Choose Reputable Brands (Avoid Cheap Imitations)

Stick to well-known and reputable brands with a track record of making high-quality silicone cookware. Established brands are more likely to prioritize safety and quality control. That said, avoid cheap imitations. This cookware may be made from inferior materials or lack safety certifications.

What I Do (And Where Silicone Could Still Work)

I still consider silicone much better than plastic, which I avoid at all costs. However, when it comes to cookware and bakeware, I skip the silicone and stick to cookware I know is safe when heated. That’s where brands like Caraway and Xtrema come in. 

I often use Caraway’s bakeware for desserts or muffins. They have a full set of cookie sheets, cake pans, and muffin pans that are toxin-free and easy to clean. Xtrema is another brand of bakeware I use. Their products are high-quality ceramic and are also toxin-free and user-friendly. 

If you want to try Xtrema bakeware or cookware, you can use this link and the coupon code WELLNESS to save 15%.

I save my silicone molds for cool-temperature uses like:

These are the silicone molds I have, which you can easily find on Amazon:

The lower quality ones should only be used for cool-temperature and non-food purposes like lotion bars and soaps.

Can Silicone Go in the Oven? The Bottom Line

Based on that 2022 report, I’ll continue to use most of my silicone molds at low temperatures and in the refrigerator or freezer. For higher temperature use, I’d stick to high-quality FDA-approved medical-grade or platinum silicone. I’d also avoid using it over 300 degrees Fahrenheit. There are better options for kitchen tools, muffin pans, and cookie sheets. 

I prefer to stick with my Caraway or Xtrema for baking and use wood, glass, and stainless steel for the stovetop. They’ve been in kitchens for generations and can work well with a little extra oil or elbow grease! 

What’s your take on silicone cookware or baking molds? Do you use it? If so, how? Share with us below!



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