- What’s the Difference Between a Silicone Baking Mat vs Parchment Paper?
- Silicone Baking Mats
- Parchment Paper
- The Final Breakdown
You’ve just been admiring your well-stocked kitchen, furnished with all the trapping of an accomplished baker. You’ve got parchment paper in your drawers, silicone baking mats in the cupboards, and rows upon rows of baking sheets stored away. But have you ever caught yourself wondering if you can use parchment paper and silicone baking mats interchangeably? Or is one perhaps better?
In the battle of parchment paper vs the silicone baking mat, who wins? As with most baking tools, each has their strengths, weaknesses, and ideal situations for each to be used within.
If you want to find out which one to use, a silicone baking mat vs parchment paper, keep reading!
What’s the Difference Between a Silicone Baking Mat vs Parchment Paper?
First off, let’s look at our materials. What is parchment paper actually made of? Parchment paper, very simply, is paper that has been given a thin coating of silicone. A silicone baking mat, by contrast, is much thicker and is made with food-grade silicone sometimes combined with fiberglass mesh. This thickness helps with insulation, making sure the food doesn’t get too much direct heat.
As a result, silicone baking mats help with even heat distribution and assuring delicate items don’t over-brown or burn. Parchment paper works similarly, ensuring even cooking and protecting the food from sticking or burning, just to a lesser degree due to its thinner quality. But which should you use when? Let’s compare the two, exploring the benefits and drawbacks of each of these nonstick helpers.
Silicone Baking Mats
There are a whole host of strengths and weaknesses when comparing silicone baking mats to parchment paper. Let’s start with the pluses.
What are some of the strengths of silicone baking mats? Oh, let us count the ways!
Silicone baking mats are substantially thicker than parchment paper – this means you won’t need to worry about paper shifting or curling up as you move your goodies from counter to oven. That’s right, no more flapping parchment paper sticking to your items! Silicone mats lay perfectly flat and stay that way.
If you try out silicone for no other reason, try it for the sake of the planet. Quality silicone baking mats can be used up to 3,000 times before needing to be replaced. Even the hardiest parchment paper can’t come close to that.
Although those initial silicone mats may be more expensive than a box of parchment paper, you’ll be saving money in the long run as well as valuable resources – parchment paper is made from trees after all!
There are few surfaces that can compete with silicone when it comes to its nonstick abilities. No greasing, no spraying – just place and bake (or pipe and peel, or roll and cut, etc). Even the stickiest, tackiest substances will fail to stick to these magical mats. Parchment paper, on the other hand, will often need greasing, as it’s not as nonstick.
Because of silicone’s nonstick abilities and lack of need for greasing or spraying, it makes it a breeze to clean. Wash with warm water and soap soon after using for the best results, allow to dry, and then roll up and put away until next needed!
Calling them “baking” mats may actually be a bit of a misnomer because these silicone wonders can be used in far more places than the oven. They make amazing work surfaces for kneading bread or rolling out cookie dough. Additionally, silicone mats are great surfaces for drizzling, glazing or crafting delicate cake toppings like tempered chocolate garnishes.
So what’s the catch? Well, there are a few downsides when it comes to baking mats vs parchment paper.
Silicone baking mats cannot be cut to size, so multiple sizes needed will be needed to fit all your baking sheets and pans. You can offset this cost by buying a multipack that comes with several sizes, or just starting with one mat and building your collection over time.
Can Be Punctured
Silicone mats may be versatile, but they’re not indestructible. Silicone can be punctured if used with sharp utensils. These nonstick mats should never be used as a surface for cutting or chopping – always choose a cutting board instead. Slicing and puncturing will affect the integrity of your silicone baking mat, altering its effectiveness and making it more likely to rip and tear with future use.
Because silicone baking mats are so very nonstick, they can cause overspreading in certain cookies. This can sometimes result in thinner, crispier cookies which can be flat or over browned. Cookies baked on surfaces other than silicone will generally spread more slowly allowing for more rise.
Various brands and manufacturers will stipulate different heat limits for each of their own silicone baking mats, but they often range from 420°F to 480°F. Silpat, a very popular brand of silicone baking mat, can be used at temperatures up to 500°F.
Silicone baking mats should never be used at temperatures higher than those listed as the max temperature and should never be used under a broiler.
So we’ve heard silicone’s side of the story. But when should the average chef reach for parchment paper over silicone?
There are multiple upsides to using parchment paper vs the silicone mat. Here we present some of its top benefits.
Because parchment paper is thinner, it’s actually better for browning. The thickness of silicone mats minimizes heat distribution, which is less desirable when you want browning on the bottom like with roasted vegetables. Parchment paper has a solid advantage here.
Another benefit of parchment paper is its ability to be cut to the precise size needed. No searching for the correct size mat for that particular baking sheet – just cut, grease, and bake.
Parchment paper is both thin and flexible in addition to being water-resistant, which makes it ideal for steaming. Cooking in parchment packets, or en papillote, is a simple and easy way to steam fish and veggies while locking in flavor and moisture. Parchment paper can also be used to make a DIY piping bag. Silicone mats are far too thick for these purposes.
Where does parchment paper fall short?
Most parchment paper will come with individual heat limits that vary according to the manufacturer (often between 420°F to 450°F). If not adhered to, the paper can darken and turn brittle.
Often Needs Cooking Spray
Another downside to parchment paper is that it’s not completely nonstick – many bakers recommend spraying or greasing for best results. That means an extra step as well as an extra item on your grocery list.
Less Sturdy/Curls Up
Due to the thinner nature of parchment paper, it has a tendency to annoyingly curl up and can potentially shift on the pan when being moved. Use with caution – tilt your baking sheet too much and the parchment paper (along with all your baked or unbaked treats) will slide right onto the kitchen floor.
Although there are compostable versions out there, most parchment paper is used once or twice and ends up in the kitchen bin. This isn’t terribly sustainable from an environmental perspective, especially if you’re an avid baker who bakes multiple times a week.
The Final Breakdown
It’s time for the crowning comparison – when should you use parchment paper and when should you use a silicone baking mat?
When To Use Parchment Paper
Ultimately, it’s best to use parchment paper for anything that requires browning or steaming. Items cooked on parchment paper will receive more direct heat due to its thinner quality. As a result, parchment paper is great for roasting veggies or cooking savory meals in parchment packets.
Some baking experts also find certain cookies are also best baked on parchment paper, especially if you like puffy centers. Silicone encourages spread which can result in thinner cookies with certain doughs while parchment paper prevents cookies from spreading too much.
When To Use a Silicone Baking Mat
Silicone baking mats are perfect for anything that you want to protect from over-browning or uneven cooking. Tuiles, meringues, and wafers will be much easier with the use of a silicone mat. Even old, dark pans can be used again with the help of a silicone baking mat to aid in even heat distribution.
Making hot confections like caramel or ultra-sticky candies? Opt for a silicon baking mat in these scenarios as well, since melted sugar can fuse to parchment paper and be a real hassle to peel off.
In summary, parchment paper and baking mats may be similar, but they’re not completely interchangeable. Parchment paper is better for tasks where flexibility is key such as making piping bags or parchment packets for steaming. Silicone mats, however, reduce browning and sticking, making them great for fussy pastries and sticky treats. Their sturdy thickness also makes them ideal for use as a work surface.
And when it comes to cookies, it’s really a matter of preference. Both cookies baked on silicone mats and parchment paper have less spreading and more consistent browning than those baked on cookie sheets alone. In this case, the choice is yours!