As I dig deeper into the zero-waste /less waste movement, I discovered that silicone baking mat is a great alternative to parchment paper and aluminum foil.
In this post, I’ll share why we use silicone baking mat at home (we started in March 2019) in the hope that it will also give you some idea on how to slowly reduce waste in your household.
What’s Wrong With Parchment Paper and Aluminum Foil?
Parchment paper also known as baking paper is cellulose-based and has been treated or coated to get the non-stick and heat-resistant properties.
Parchment paper is generally safe for baking and cooking, as what I know of. But further reading led me to the fact that there are actually 2 types of parchment paper, the bleached and the unbleached.
The bleached one is color white and may contain dioxin, a highly toxic pollutant that is a by-product of the bleaching process. This toxin might leach when exposed to high temperatures.
The unbleached one is color brown and this is the safe one. Arggg, what a piece of information! Our parchment paper in the past had always been white, and the present, too! 🙁
Aluminum is the third most abundant element on earth, after oxygen and silicon. It is found in small amounts in the air, water, and in our food.
Health Line has written a detailed article about aluminum foil and if it’s safe to use in cooking.
To sum it up, aluminum is naturally occurring in most foods, including fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, grains and dairy products.
And it is also ingested through medications (with high aluminum content) like antacids.
The amount of aluminum we ingest through food and medication is not a problem because only a tiny amount of the ingested aluminum is being absorbed by the body. The rest is being excreted in the urine or feces.
Therefore, it is said that the small amount of aluminum we ingest through food is considered safe.
However, cooking with aluminum foil may increase the aluminum content in foods since it might leach aluminum into the foods we are cooking.
Thus, the regular use of aluminum foil in cooking might be harmful to our health.
Health Line further said that too much aluminum in our diet might cause potential health risks such as Alzheimer’s disease and inflammatory bowel disease.
It is said that a high level of aluminum was found in people with Alzheimer’s.
Despite all these, there are still no studies that have proven a concrete link between aluminum and the diseases mentioned.
But it’s always better to be on the side of caution by avoiding the use of aluminum foil in cooking.
Aside from the potential health risks, aluminum foil is more difficult to recycle compared to aluminum cans.
According to The Aluminum Association, aluminum is one of the most recycled and most recyclable materials in the market; and that nearly 75 percent of all aluminum produced in the U.S. is still in use as of today.
But despite the fact, TreeHugger said that aluminum is more difficult to recycle compared to aluminum cans because oftentimes aluminum foil is covered in food and most recycling centers don’t accept items contaminated with food or grease because they can contaminate other recyclables during the recycling process.
That is why it is suggested that we clean first the aluminum foil before tossing it into the recycling bin to avoid contaminating other recyclables.
And it’s also suggested that we make a big ball of aluminum foil (about 2 inches in diameter) before finally throwing it to the bin because smaller balls of aluminum foil might just get caught in the machinery during the recycling process.
Arggg, I am so guilty of this! I just throw the aluminum foil even if it’s very dirty and without making a bigger ball, neither. 🙁
Benefits of Silicone Baking Mat
1. Environment-friendly. Switching to a silicone baking mat will surely make your kitchen greener by saving a lot of parchment papers and aluminum foils from going into the landfill.
2. Budget-friendly. Though the upfront cost is more compared to the price of the individual pack of parchment paper and aluminum foil, it’s a money saver in the long run because it can be used over and over again. According to published articles, it can be used up to 3000 times with proper cleaning and care.
3. Multi-purpose. Aside from using it in baking and cooking, silicone baking mat can be used in many other ways.
Others use it to protect their work station while working with glues and other messy materials and to protect their floors when their kids are playing with nail polish or clays.
My husband once tried to use it in kneading the pizza dough. He usually just knead the dough on the kitchen counter and then move the dough to the oven tray.
But sometimes, the dough is crumbly and it falls apart when transferring.
Forming the dough with the silicone baking mat is now a breeze because he can easily carry the baking mat to the tray without deforming the dough.
And it makes for easy cleaning since no more food debris sticking into the tray (we don’t line our tray with parchment paper or aluminum foil when making pizza, thus the sticking).
We don’t usually line our tray when cooking fish, meat, and vegetables in the oven.
But after my husband discovered that it’s good in making pizza dough, we now use it to line our tray, and cleaning the tray has been a breeze ever since.
Here’s a list of what others are using their silicone baking mat for:
- Lining a tray in roasting vegetables in the oven
- Making fudge
- Freezing fruit for smoothies
- Drizzling chocolate (to keep counters clean)
- Baking bread without a bread pan
- Covering a bowl with dough for rising
4. Easy to clean. Because of its non-stick property, cleaning is so easy, no soaking and scrubbing necessary. I clean ours with a bit of soap and warm water and let it air dry.
What Is Silicone Baking Mat?
Silicone is a synthetic rubber that contains bonded silicon(a natural element that is very abundant in sand and rock) and oxygen.
Some baking mats are made completely of food-grade silicone. But the majority of high-quality silicone baking mats are made in addition with fiberglass.
According to foodal.com, fiberglass is a composite material that actually consists of numerous extremely fine fibers of glass, which can be manipulated and strengthened by finely weaving it.
As a result, the combination of high-quality silicone and fiberglass can withstand extreme temperatures, making a product heat-resistant, flexible, non-grease, and can be reused many times with no damage. It’s also safe for the oven and freezer.
Is It Safe?
Food-grade, high-quality silicone is generally considered safe and non-toxic. The Government of Canada has written an article about the safe use of cookware and stated :
“Cookware made from food-grade silicone has become popular in recent years because it is colorful, non-stick, stain-resistant, hard-wearing, cools quickly, and tolerates extremes of temperature. There are no known health hazards associated with the use of silicone cookware. Silicone rubber does not react with food or beverages or produce any hazardous fumes. “
Guidelines And Precautions For The Safety Of Silicone Baking Mat
Even if silicone baking mat is known to be generally safe, but there are also people who doubt its safety.
Here are some guidelines and precautions that I found in using silicone baking mat to ensure its safety:
Buy from a known and reputable manufacturer. Since silicone baking mat is getting popular, several manufacturers are already using fillers to save on the production cost.
That is why we are advised to investigate and research first before finally making a purchase to ensure that the silicone baking mat we are going to purchase is made of high-quality, food-grade silicone.
Never use knives or sharp objects. We should avoid using knives and sharp objects at all costs while handling a silicone baking mat.
We should never try to cut a baking mat to fit into our baking tray. Because a cut (unintentional or intentional) may expose the fiberglass inside, which could be a potential health hazard.
Never expose it to super high temperature. The melting point of silicone is approximately 500°F/ 260°C. But to be on the side of safety, we are advised not to expose baking mats to temperature over 400°F/ 204°C.
And we should not put it directly into a heat source like an oven rack, stovetop, hotplate, grill, or directly under a broiler.
Exposure to extreme heat will melt and destroy the baking mat.
Never use it on its own. Due to its flexible nature, it needs a sturdy material for support to avoid food from sliding out. It should always be used with a baking tray or a sheet pan.
I am one of those who believe that silicone baking mat is safe for baking and cooking as long as I follow the safety guidelines and precautions.
And I am happy that I made the switch in March 2019.
But despite the switch, we still have a box of bleached parchment paper and a box of aluminum foil at home, argggg!
My husband bought a box of each without my knowledge in one of his trips to the grocery store when I was still recovering with my repeat cesarean in December 2019. 🙁
I put them in the pantry out of sight and only use them very seldom, mostly in wrapping foods for taking on the go.
Are you already using a silicone baking mat in your home? If yes, what made you switch? If not yet, would you give it a try?
Feel free to share your opinions or questions in the comment section below.