Long found almost exclusively in professional kitchens, the non stick silicone baking mat is now more and more to be found in the common household kitchen. Durable and multi-use, these pan liners have revolutionized baking.
Food-encrusted cookie sheets, greasy-grimy chicken pan bottoms, cake-coated edges of cup cake trays: these are a common occurrence without a non stick baking mat. And we dare not mention the stack of pans soaking for hours by the edge of the sink. A non stick silicone cooking mat can make all such sights a thing of the past.
Another aspect of this “baking mat revolution” is the savings involved. There is no need to place disposable papers on baking sheets any more. The silicone non stick mats are reusable, and they last for years and years.
Finally, there is a health-related side benefit in this revolution. With a silicon non stick mat on your baking sheet, you will have no need to put butter or oil or margarine on it.
Silicone is an amazing modern product that possesses the following qualities: high heat-resistance, high cold resistance, high conductivity of heat, low toxicity, low oxidation risk, low chemical reactivity risk. It also repels water and is not a conducive environment for micro organisms to grow on.
How do such molecular traits as these produce practical benefits in the culinary world? First, silicone (food grade silicone) is safe to eat off of because it is non toxic. Also it is tough and durable and can be exposed repeatedly to both extremely high and extremely low temperatures without damaging the material. It will not rot (like wood). It will not rust (like many other metals will).
It is not likely to be damaged by chemical reactions when in contact with various foods, soaps and cleaning products. It transfers heat well (conducts it), making it a good surface to cook on. It will not promote the growth of fungus or bacteria since micro organisms find no sustenance from it.
It repels water so that water will not sit on it like on wood, and it will thus dry fast. And it is cleaned easily since it does not stick well to food products.
Silicone mats generally have a fiberglass substrate (one thing silicone will adhere to). Some have the fiberglass section in between two layers of silicone. Some have no fiberglass at all. The more fiberglass the non stick mat has, the stronger it will be (but it will also tend to increase the cost).
Those with no fiberglass at all will be floppier, less sturdy. They will be cheaper and good enough for such purposes as catching spillage in a microwave oven. Some have also found the thinner, silicone-only baking mats to produce a crispier cookie. This may be true, but without fiberglass the mat may not do as good a job at keeping things from sticking to it and may be a tad bit harder to clean.
Those non stick mats with the most fiberglass will cost perhaps twice as much as the usual mats. They will be higher grade and tough, but the purchase of a large number of them would be cost-prohibitive for those on a small budget. Such a top-of-the-line non stick baking mat, however, might be the best choice for professional cooks or for one who will be doing a large amount of baking at home and yet not need more than a couple of mats.
The usual grade baking mat will cost perhaps ten or fifteen dollars and will be sufficient for most people’s needs. It will do all the high-end mats will do. If it does not do it all quite as well, it still does it “well enough.” A middle-of-the-line, $10-$15, fiberglass non stick silicone baking mat would seem to be the best choice for the average consumer.
Besides strength and cost, there exists the obvious consideration of which pan you plan to use the mat with. Silicone mats come in many shapes and sizes and are designed to fit standard sizes of baking sheets, cake molds, and other items. (Be aware that there are even silicone products that fit nicely into cup cake and muffin pans.)
You should think of exactly what you will be using the oven mat to bake and exactly which pan or pans you will put it on. Make sure it fits as tightly as possible to avoid having to clean areas of the baking sheet (or other pan) not covered by the silicon non stick mat. If you use a mat in your microwave, be sure it is not too big to fit inside the microwave.
If planning to purchase multiple masts, consider buying a bake ware set. Some sets include two or three mats of different sizes as well as silicone serving spoons and such like accessories. Finally, you should also check to see if the mat has a warranty and, if so, for how long it will last.
Non stick silicone baking mats are an excellent product that no kitchen should be without. They make it easier for all of us to bake perfect or near-perfect baked goods (even if we are not particularly gifted in the culinary arts). The purchase of several baking mats can be a substantial investment of fifty dollars or more, so it is good to take forethought as to which mats will best suit your particular needs.
Another reason to be careful in choosing the right product is that the product itself is likely to be with you for years to come. It will not be likely to break, retain shapes bent to, nor to tear, burn, rust, mold, etc., and hopefully you will not misplace it. And so it will behoove you to make a right choice the first time. It is hoped that the above suggestions will prove helpful in that regard.