Question from S. T.
Why do you recommend silicone baking mats? Isn’t cooking parchment safer?
Cooking parchment also called parchment paper, kitchen parchment, greaseproof paper and cooking paper is a sheet of paper impregnated with silicone, which makes the paper grease- and moisture-resistant as well as relatively heat-resistant. It is commonly used to eliminate the need to grease baking pans–allowing, for example, repeated batches of cookies to be baked without regreasing the pans–and it can also be folded to make moisture-proof packages in which foods can cooked or steamed.
Parchment is made with bleached white and unbleached brown paper. Since the bleached paper might contain toxic dioxin, it’s better to use the unbleached parchment paper if you use it.
Silicone baking sheets are a sheet of silicone that can be reused over and over again.
Silcone is safe to use for baking and cooking, whether impregnated in paper or in a sheet by itself. Silicones are made chemically by creating a “backbone” of silicon from common sand, the same stuff from which glass is made and oxygen molecules, a combination that does not occur in nature. Then various other synthetic molecules are added branching off of the main silicon-oxygen line to create hundreds of different silicones that range from liquids to rubbery solids. Though this is a completely manmade product, it is completely inert and will not transfer to foods (more at Q&A: Is silicone cookware safe?).
I use both silicone baking sheets and parchment paper. I use my silicone baking sheets to line pans whenever I bake something which might stick. They have saved much time, effort and water from clean-up, and are much safer overall than using baking pans with other non-stick surfaces. I use parchment paper now only when I want to specifically use the cooking technique of baking in parchment, as when I make a recipe such as Fruits Baked in Parchment, or as a substitute for waxed paper waxed paper is covered with paraffin, a petrochemical wax.
The advantage I see to using silicone baking sheets over parchment is that they can be reused up to 2000 times. Though the mats cost more than parchment paper, there is a great savings overall. A box of unbleached parchment paper costs $5 and a silicone baking sheet costs $20, but a box of unbleached parchment paper will cover only 32 baking sheets, and a silicone baking mat will cover 2000 baking sheets. It would cost $310 to buy enough parchment paper to replace one silicone baking mat.