Are Silicone Cooking Utensils Safe?

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Keeping your kitchen accident free as you chop, cut, and slice is a must. Silicone cooking utensils, from cutting boards to spatulas to containers, are designed to aid in this endeavor, and are becoming a more important product in the cookware industry, especially bakeware.

However, many people still question whether or not silicone utensils are safe to use in the kitchen. So before you go out and stock your kitchen with silicone cooking utensils, let’s take a look at what silicone is and are silicone cooking utensils safe in the first place.

What is Silicone?

To understand how silicone cooking utensils may affect your cooking, it is important to understand what silicone itself is, as well as its properties.

Silicone is most often confused with silicon, but it is important to know that they are different substances with different properties. Silicon is a hard, dark-grey chemical element, which is often used to make solar cells and electronic chips. Silicones are compounds containing silicon, hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen, and have very different chemical and physical properties.

Silicones are heat resistant polymers that are either liquid or rubber-like, and are used in lubricants, adhesives, medicine, and many other products, but we’ll focus on kitchen items. The flexible yet strong material displays several useful properties, including low thermal conductivity, low toxicity, and electrical insulation. This makes it a suitable replacement for many common kitchen utensils.

Silicone Cookware

Being a non-toxic, low-taint material, silicone can safely come into contact with food, and is becoming increasingly popular for the manufacturing of kitchen utensils. It’s also used as an insulator, particularly in heat-resistant pots and containers. However, it is more conductive of heat than its less dense, fiber-based counterparts.

Silicone is also used in molds for ice, chocolates, and baked foods like muffins and cookies, and many reusable mats used on baking sheets and non-stick bakeware are made from silicone. Other items such as egg boilers, steamers, lids, and potholders are also silicone-based.

Do Silicone Utensils Pose Health Risks?

Perhaps the biggest drawback to silicone cooking utensils is not the material itself, but the general population’s skepticism. Many people are under the impression that silicone utensils come with the risk of poisoning their food, with some reports of silicone oils or dyes oozing out of overheated silicone cookware popping up on Internet posts and forums, as well as reports of lingering odors from repeated washings.

Unfortunately, silicone’s use in the kitchen is relatively new, so there has not been much research into its safety for use with food. In 1979, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) concluded that silicone dioxides, which are the basic elements in silicone cookware, were recognized as safe to use, even when used with food.

The first silicone cookware, which was silicone spatulas, appeared on store shelves only a decade later, and the FDA did not conduct any follow-up studies to determine whether or not silicone is able to leach out of cookware, and thus contaminate food.

Health Canada, Canada’s health agency, insists that food-grade silicone does not contaminate food or drinks, or produce fumes that may be hazardous, and thus is safe to use in the kitchen.

Not all silicone is produced in the same way. Some manufacturers add fillers to their silicone products to reduce costs. There is a simple way to identify these filtered products, however: by pinching and twisting a flat surface of the product. If the area turns white, the product contains filler, whereas pure silicone’s color does not change when twisted.

Are Silicone Cooking Utensils Safe

Cleaning And Maintaining Silicone Cookware

Many people report a kind of grease or oil persisting on their silicone cookware and utensils after washing, particularly in a dishwashing machine. A simple way to combat this is to use a grease-cutting dish soap. “What is a grease-cutting dish soap?” I hear you ask.

It lifts and separates grease, oil, and grime by breaking down and suspending the substances in water so that they can be quickly washed away, and works best with a non-abrasive sponge. It is designed to remove hard to clean stains, particularly found on silicone bakeware.

To remove tough and persistent stains, heat up your silicone utensils and bakeware before you clean them. It’s recommended that your oven be preheated to 350°F, or 177°C, and, once preheated, put the silicone utensils in the oven for 10  minutes. This will heat the stains, making them easier to clean away using the dish soap mentioned previously.

Final Thoughts

It’s safe to say that silicone utensils and kitchen items are safe to use if you are a careful consumer and take the necessary steps to keep your silicone products in good condition. They can also be beneficial in the long run, due to their durability and versatility. To put it simply, there’s no reason you shouldn’t use silicone in your kitchen. Not only are they long-lasting, but they will not cost you an arm and a leg to purchase.

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