No matter whether it’s a chilly winter afternoon, a cool spring morning, or a crisp fall day, it’s always baking season. But which bakeware should you use for those deliciously baked treats – silicone or metal? Does one bake faster than the other? Which one is easier? And is silicone really safe to use? Read on to answer these questions and find out if baking in silicone molds vs metal makes a difference.
Is Silicone or Metal Better For Baking?
Silicone bakeware has become a rising star in the baking world, with many bakers turning to it for its flexibility and ease of cleaning. These super-flexible, malleable molds are easy to peel back, allowing for baked goods to be easily released, banishing the threat of ruining a beautiful baked good by it sticking, breaking, or crumbling. But are these colorful pieces on par with their metal counterparts?
Well, that depends on what you’re baking. Silicone molds possess a host of benefits, but there are certain scenarios in which metal may be better. Metal is better at conducting heat than silicone, so silicone molds are best used with lighter, more delicate treats. However, silicone molds can be used for larger projects – you may just have to adjust the temperature and bake time.
Baking Time: Silicone vs Metal
Baking in silicone takes longer than baking in metal. Why? Silicone, like glass, is an insulator rather than a conductor. This means baking occurs slower in silicone molds, hence baking time and even temperature may need to be altered.
As most recipes will assume you’re using metal bakeware, you may need to adjust your temperature and bake time when using silicone molds. When using silicone, you may wish to reduce the temperature by 25ºF (10ºC) and/or cook for 5 to 10 minutes longer – thicker batters will need longer than thinner batters or lighter cakes like sponge cake. This makes silicone ideal for lighter baking such as light cakes, muffins or quick bread.
Pros and Cons of Baking in Silicone
There is a bundle of reasons to bake with silicone. Silicone molds are durable, flexible, and versatile. In addition to being dishwasher safe, they also transition from oven to microwave, and to freezer with ease. Small, brightly colored silicone molds can also be used as serving cups at parties, reducing the need for messy papers and liners – think tiny desserts such as cupcakes or bite-sized fudge!
Here’s a quick list of why using silicone bakeware is a great option in multiple baking scenarios.
- Flexibility: Silicone is a super flexible material, making them easy to use and easy to release your baked goods. No more crying over stuck cake!
- Durable: Silicone is a durable material. Both stain and odor-resistant, you won’t have to worry about it absorbing smells or discoloration anytime soon.
- Easy to Wash: Silicone molds are naturally nonstick, and therefore easier to clean. Either hand wash or toss in the dishwasher – the choice is yours!
- Versatile: The versatility of silicone is truly admirable. It can transition from oven to fridge or freezer, to microwave with ease. That means that the darling silicone candy mold you bought for making chocolates can also be used for ice cubes as well!
- Less Waste: Using silicone cupcake molds or a silicone baking mat can save on wasteful paper cupcake liners and parchment paper. You’re welcome, environment.
- Variety: Last, but definitely not least, there are so many varieties, shapes, sizes, and colors when it comes to silicone molds. These adorable, bright pops of color are the perfect inspiration for crafting new baked treats for parties, special events, and more!
Still, silicone, like any bakeware choice, comes with a few drawbacks.
- Flexibility: That’s right – silicone’s greatest strength can also be its downfall! Watch out for silicone molds folding in on themselves. Also, the malleability of silicone molds makes them easy to spill when moving or placing them inside a hot oven. Always place your silicone molds on a metal baking sheet before filling them with batter. This will increase stability and reduce any chances of spillage.
Tip: Additionally, never use a knife with silicone molds – they should release easily enough on their own – and do not wash alongside sharp utensils. Silicone molds can rip, tear, or be punctured in these situations.
- Bake Time: Yes, due to silicone being a bit of a poor heat conductor, you may need to extend the bake time and/or lower the baking temperature. This can require some experimentation to perfect.
- Temperature Limitations: Silicone does possess temperature limits. It is ideal for cooking at temperatures of 400ºF and below. It cannot take the open flame and it should never be placed directly on a stovetop.
- Learning Curve: Silicone can be ever so slightly temperamental. Due to it being an insulator rather than a conductor, it might not bake as evenly as metal pans. There may be a gentle learning curve for new users, and experimentation may be required to alter bake temps and times for your favorite tried and true recipes.
Take a look at how easy it is to bake in silicone molds!
Pros and Cons of Baking in Metal
Unfortunately, not all metal bakeware is equal. Darker pans will absorb more heat and may cause the exterior to bake too quickly resulting in cake doming. Nonstick coatings can wear down and scratch over time. Some metal is dishwasher safe; others recommend hand washing only. Here are some upsides and downsides on the most popular metal bakewares.
Aluminum pans are a great choice because they distribute heat more evenly resulting in even browning, are relatively inexpensive and resist rust – although it is recommended to hand wash them as non-stick finishes can break down in the dishwasher. Aluminum, however, is a soft metal that can be prone to warping. Durability is not a strong feature.
Stainless steel and aluminized steel are other options. Stainless steel is dishwasher safe, although it may not conduct heat as well as aluminum. Aluminized steel is more expensive, but a great compromise. Combining the durability of steel with the conductivity of aluminum, aluminized steel is long-lasting and offers a great bake result, though handwashing will be needed due to its aluminum coating.
Then there’s the heavy-duty cast-iron option for those who like getting a workout in while they cook. These somewhat cumbersome pans are dense and hold onto heat for much longer, which can result in over-browning but is great for creating crispy crusts for treats like cornbread.
Silicone vs Aluminum Baking Pans
Although aluminum pans are touted for their even heat distribution and inexpensive quality, they lack durability and aren’t dishwasher-safe. Aluminum is a soft metal that can easily warp. Silicone, by contrast, is quite durable and dishwasher safe but can be lacking in even heat distribution – occasionally resulting in the need to adjust bake time and temperature.
Is Baking in Silicone Safe?
The FDA cleared silicon dioxides, the main elements of silicone cookware, in 1979, determining it to be food safe. Health Canada also agreed that there were no known health hazards associated with silicone cookware. But if you’re feeling extra cautious, make sure your silicone bakeware is labeled as food grade on the packaging. Like any product on the market, there will be high-quality and lower-quality versions out there.
As recounted via The New York Times, there is a quick test to check for quality silicone: try pinching, stretching, or twisting the mold. Pure silicone should not change color, but if you see white streaks or a white-ish coloring, it may mean there are plastic fillers and the product is not pure silicone. Therefore it may not be suitable for baking.
Additionally, different manufacturers will have different recommendations for maximum temperatures for their specific pieces of silicone bakeware. Always adhere to these individual heat limits, which generally range from 420ºF to 480ºF – or for simplicity’s sake – keep to the general rule of only using silicone bakeware at temperatures 400ºF and below. Few cake, cookie, or muffin recipes call for baking above this temperature at any rate.
Is Silicone or Metal Easier to Bake in?
Most bakers agree baking in silicone may require some practice just like adopting any new skill set does. So, if you’re new to using silicone and baking for an important event, like say – a cake for your parents’ 30th wedding anniversary – maybe don’t try a silicone mold if it’s your first time. Instead, opt for the time-tested method that feels most comfortable for you. If you do want to learn a thing or two about how to use silicone molds, take a look here.
In summary, there are numerous pros and cons when it comes to silicone or metal bakeware. Silicone has been determined safe and is a durable, inexpensive, and versatile option. Metal bakeware is a classic choice and preferable for beginners.
Overall, the baked item itself may determine which bakeware is most suitable for your needs. Silicone is a good pick for lighter-colored cakes, muffins, and bread. Metal is optimal for darker cakes, cookies, brownies, and tarts, as well as muffins and bread – although with a little recipe tweaking in regards to time and temperature, silicone can be adopted for many of these projects as well.
But guess what? You’ll never know which one you prefer until you try both. So give the silicone a shot and get baking – the options are truly endless!