Silicone bakeware is available for any baking need in various sizes, shapes, colors and prices. Perhaps you’ve wondered: Is silicone safe? Is it worth the money spent? Is it better than traditional bakeware?

Silicone bakeware is made from a synthetic polymer created from a mixture of silicon, a naturally occurring element on the earth’s crust, combined with carbon and/or oxygen to create a rubber-like substance, according to Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. The rubber-like substance can be shaped into any desired shape during manufacturing.

The FDA has approved silicone as a food safe substance and it is generally considered inert and will not leach into foods. Silicone bakeware is rated safe for temperatures below freezing and up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit (always check the manufacturer’s specs). Good quality silicone should not emit any odor or discolor with use. Lower quality silicone may contain fillers or additives which may cause odor during baking and discolor over time.

Silicone bakeware is durable, non-stick and quite flexible. A wide variety of silicone products are available for the kitchen beyond bakeware. Potholders, trivets, spatulas, whisks and other utensils, collapsible mixing bowls and strainers, ice cube trays, rolling pins and mats and much more have become commonplace.

Silicone baking pan liners provide a non-stick surface for baking sheets and jelly roll pans making for quick and easy cleanup. It can go directly from the oven to the freezer or vice versa; is microwave and dishwasher safe; and easy to clean. Since silicone is naturally non-stick no additional oil or grease calories are needed to prep the mold. However, a small spritz of cooking oil could be helpful with the more decorative molds with sharp corners or intricate designs.

Another special feature of silicone is that it’s a great insulator. This means that it both cooks evenly and also cools down quickly. While metal or glass bakeware retain heat, silicone bakeware cool enough to handle within minutes after removal from the oven. Silicone bakeware can go straight from oven to table allowing the molds to be a serving dish, too. They can also be used for non-baked foods that require molding or even arts and crafts projects.

Silicone bakeware should always be used in conjunction with a firm surface like a cookie sheet to prevent burns and flipping baked goods to the floor. In most cases, baking and cooling time is the same as for traditional bakeware. While quite durable, beware of sharp objects and direct heat; a knife will cut through silicone and direct heat will melt it.

While silicone bakeware offers some distinct advantages and tradeoffs over the traditional alternatives, the question still remains: are they for you? Check with family and friends who are using silicone pieces and see what they prefer. You may find that some products are simply made better in a traditional pan; others are better in silicone. For example, you may like using silicone muffin cups due to their ease of cleaning.

Linda Robbins, CDN, is assistant director and nutrition educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Herkimer County.