Several years ago, kitchenware products containing silicone started appearing on the market, and today it’s fairly ubiquitous in the kitchen, used to make handles grippy and heat-resistant, to make flexible bakeware and steamers; collapsible colanders; to improve the functionality of rolling pins; and to coat utensils so that they won’t scratch a bowl or pan. But what exactly is silicone?
Silicone rubber is an inert synthetic elastomer that contains bonded silicon, along with carbon, oxygen and hydrogen. It’s become such a common material in the kitchen (as well as many other industries, from automotive to electronics) because of its remarkable properties. It is not expensive, and can easily be molded, pressed or extruded in an extremely energy-efficient way, and it cures quickly so that the manufacturing process can be speedy and productive. It can be made into a rainbow of opaque and translucent colors. When made into household gods, it does not have an odor or taste, it’s hypoallergenic, easy to clean, resistant to both extremely high (usually up to 500˚F) and extremely low (below 0˚F) temperatures, it’s flexible but durable, and it’s flame-resistant.
Is it safe to use? An article by Dr. Andrew Weil says that silicone seems to be safe, and that it won’t react with ingredients and none of the chemicals used to make it will leach into foods, since it is an inert substance.
Just make sure that the product you buy is pure silicone: if you twist and stretch it, it should not reveal streaks of white, which could indicate fillers.