What do silicone breast implants have to do with cooking? Well, the stuff you hear about in the news, leaking out of celebrity breast implants is the same stuff which makes silicone bakeware malleable.
There are vast differences between silicone used for cooking and industrial silicone rubber. There are dangers when heating industrial silicone, in that it “off gases” ammonia. This has not proved to be an issue for silicone used in cookware generally, though I would recommend staying away from cheaper brands for fear of less stringent safety standards. I would also stick within the recommended heat guidelines, as overheating is likely to result in the breakdown of the material. However, to overheat silicone is generally beyond the range of a domestic oven. Lab tests on silicone are at 600 degrees and above.
As an element, silicone is generally considered to be inert. Silicone rubber is a synthetic rubber made from silicone and oxygen and sometimes with added “fillers”. Fillers can be anything from quartz to aluminium silicate. It is these fillers which people worry about. There are concerns that they may leech from the silicone rubber and that they are not specified on the product. The best quality silicone bakeware has little or no filler material.
The way to tell if your silicone bakeware has any fillers is to stretch or fold the silicone. If white marks appear where you stress the material, then it contains a significant amount of filler.
So, Is Silicone Safe?
No published tests have shown silicone not to be safe in cookware. but there are still a large number of people who choose to avoid it, much as they do Teflon, or raw aluminium. Many people have commented that the taste of their food is tainted by the silicone, or that strange smells are given off when it is cooked with. Some even say they are made physically sick by the smells and chemical tastes given off. I have to say this is not my experience with the CKS silicone products that I use, but everyone must judge for themselves.
Do you use silicone tools and bakeware? What are your concerns about materials used in cookware?