Is Cooking with Silicone Toxic?

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Silicone cookware and utensils have been around for quite some time. There are affordable and readily available. However, some people believe silicone is toxic and shouldn’t be used as cookware. Let’s discuss whether or not silicone cookware is toxic and detrimental to human health.

Is Silicone Toxic?

According to the FDA, silicone is safe and completely non-toxic. There is nothing in silicone that can leach into food. However, some companies add plastics and other chemicals to silicone to cut costs, which is probably where this chain of thought began.

Before purchasing silicone cookware, ensure it is made of genuine silicone and is 100% food-grade. Don’t use silicone cookware or utensils unless they are approved for food use.

What is Silicone?

Silicone is mostly made of sand. However, the sand at the beach is silicon dioxide, aka silica. Silica is a mixture of silicon and oxygen, and it is used in making silicone. Silicon and silicone are often mistaken for one another, but they are not the same.

Silicon is a naturally occurring element in the periodic table. Silicone, on the other hand, is artificially made, but its base element is silicon. Silicone also contains elements like hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon. Silicon isn’t found in the solid state. Therefore, silica is used to make silicone.

To transform silica into silicone, sand or quartz are heated at extremely high temperatures. When heated, the silicon separates from silica. After cooling down, silicon is turned into a fine powder. Methyl chloride is then mixed with this powder, and the mixture is again heated.

Later on, some chemicals are added to the mixture, resulting in silicone formation. Contrary to popular belief, silicone doesn’t contain BPA or similar toxic chemicals. BPA stands for Bisphenol A, a chemical compound made after the condensation of phenol and acetone.

Benefits of Using Silicone Cookware

Silicone is a better alternative to plastic in several ways. Here are some benefits of using silicone cookware, especially if you aren’t worried about the plastic’s toxicity.

  • Silicone is heat resistant, and it can sustain heat better than plastic and other materials like wood and metal. Moreover, cookware made of 100% silicone doesn’t melt at high temperatures, and it can be moved from the refrigerator to the oven without cracking.
  • Silicone is flexible and bendable, which makes cooking a lot easier.
  • It is waterproof and non-stick. Even without using a lot of oil, water will flow off it easily. The non-stick properties of silicone make it easy to clean, unlike plastic and other materials.
  • It is non-porous and doesn’t leach out chemicals. Materials like plastic and Teflon contain chemicals that are harmful to human health.
  • The non-porous nature of silicone makes it a stainless alternative to other materials.

Does It Affect Food?

As discussed above, silicone is non-porous, and it doesn’t affect the food you’re eating. You must remember, though, that most silicone products are not approved for heating above 425 degrees, so make sure not to reach that mark.

However, there aren’t too many studies on the impact of silicone on food. If you aren’t too sure about silicone cookware, you can use ceramic, stainless steel, glass, and cast iron utensils.

Does Silicone Stink?

Sometimes, silicone cookware exudes a strange smell, even when it is new and unused. The smell is a sign that it isn’t 100% genuine silicone, and the manufacturer has tampered with it by adding chemicals. When you purchase silicone utensils and cookware, make sure to check for a pungent and plastic-like smell.

However, it is not uncommon for silicone to smell a little bad after being used for a long time. Because of repetitive use, oil and soap particles can stick to it, thus causing a pungent smell. To eliminate the stale stench, turn your oven to 300 degrees, and place the silicone utensil in it for 20 minutes. The smell will go away.

Can you use silicone cookware

Is it Eco-Friendly?

Unlike plastic, silicone is more eco-friendly. The reason being plastic is made of non-renewable items like petroleum. Silicone, on the other hand, is made of sand and quartz, which are abundant resources. Moreover, silicone is less harmful to marine life.

With time, silicone breaks into larger pieces, making it difficult for fish and aquatic animals to ingest it. Sadly, silicone isn’t biodegradable, but on the bright side, it is recyclable.   

Downsides of Using Silicone

Sure, silicone is better than plastic, but it has some downsides too.

  • As discussed above, silicone is non-biodegradable. It is made after a lengthy process, and it contains hydrocarbons. Furthermore, these hydrocarbons are made of non-renewable resources, which means that silicone has a substantial carbon footprint.
  • Silicone is recyclable, but it shouldn’t end up in a recycling bin. It must be recycled in separate facilities that aren’t easily available. Therefore, people don’t recycle silicone and throw it in the garbage after it has been used for too long.
  • There isn’t too much research on silicone. However, the FDA deems it safe for food use. It will take some more research and studies to prove its non-toxicity.

Caring for Silicone

Silicone is easy to clean and care for. It is also dishwasher safe, and its non-stick properties make it easy to wash away food particles and oil. Before cleaning your silicone cookware, check the brand’s recommendations. While some are hand-washed, others need heating, and the temperatures may vary.