Once you have been immersed in the world of baking, you may notice recipes calling for silicone baking mats to line sheet pans. What happened to using foil? What about parchment paper? Does just buttering a sheet pan no longer cut it?
Silicone baking mats are popping up everywhere, and the more you bake, the more likely you are to debate buying one. So the big question is, are silicone baking mats worth it? Are they really the magical tool they claim to be?
What Are Silicone Baking Mats?
Silicone baking mats are sheets that are made of silicone (obvious, I know) that is usually webbed with fiberglass strands to keep the pad sturdy. They are flexible and bendable and are primarily used to cover sheet pans. These magic mats are not new in the world of baking, in fact, pastry chefs have been using them for decades. These sheets replace parchment paper or foil in baking. The mat is simply laid on a sheet tray (cookie sheet vs baking sheet) and then cookies, pastries or anything are baked on top of them. Seems straightforward enough. Now let’s look at the benefits.
Silicone mats are reusable and when I say reusable, I mean they can be used thousands of times before ever showing wear. This means you do not have to buy parchment paper, pan grease or foil! Never again! Use the same silicone baking mat again and again for anything you are baking on a tray. While it is recommended by some companies to replace your mats annually, as a professional baker I can say that I have had silicone mats last multiple years. Durability and saving money- that’s one win for the silicone mat!
Easy to Clean
Silicone mats take literally seconds to clean. The amazing non stick surface makes burned on pieces just slide right off. You could probably even get away with washing these without a sponge! A quick rinse and they are almost spotless (I do recommend using soap however to make sure they are grease free for your next baking project). You can even put a silicone baking mat in the dishwasher for an even easier cleaning method.
If you put a silicone mat on top of a sheet tray to bake, when you lift the mat off, the sheet tray will most likely still be clean underneath. So not only is the silicone mat itself easy to clean but you will also save time as you won’t have to scrub sheet trays! I think this is definitely another victory for the silicone mat!
Bye Bye Burned Bottoms
Using a silicone mat makes it a lot harder for the bottom of a cookie or pastry to burn. Rather than sitting directly on hot metal, cookies and pastries are nestled on the silicone which acts as a barrier for the direct heat of the sheet pan. This means it will take a lot longer for the bottom of a cookie to get overly brown or black (if you tend to forget about cookies in the oven, this is especially great for you!). Parchment paper sheets have this same effect so if you enjoy the burn barrier of parchment, the same will be true of silicone mats!
Dough Loves Silicone
If you have ever rolled dough out and found it completely stuck to a counter top, then you may want to look into a silicone mat. If you have ever been kneading dough and had that same sticky problem, there is another reason for you to turn to these magic mats. Silicone mats aren’t just for baking– you can also knead or roll dough on the mat and not have to worry about the dough sticking. They are stick free! While you should still always use a liberal amount of flour when kneading or rolling dough, a silicone mat almost guarantees that there will be no sticking. That in itself is a miracle and baking disaster averted!
While many silicone baking mats are uniform in their appearance (most are a tan or clear color and you can see through the mat to the fiberglass grid inside), many also have little bonus features printed right one them. The Super Kitchen mat, for example, has consecutive circles in the center which are measured and labeled so you can easily roll a pie crust to the exact size you need (though here are a few ideas if you end up with leftover pie crust!). The Cook Time brand not only has a large circle but also small circles and a ruler printed on the mat so you can make sure all your cookies and pastries are the same size. Pretty cool little feature that you won’t find on a piece of parchment paper.
If you have a convection oven or have ever baked using forced air, you know that parchment paper frequently blows around in the oven. The corner of the paper can get stuck to a cookie and then bake right into the dough- not tasty! Silicone mats are heavier and slightly sticky so they adhere to the baking sheet much better. Yes this benefit only applies to those cooking with convection ovens but it is worth noting as parchment flying all over the oven is a serious problem.
Candy and Other Hot Things
Most silicone baking mats can withstand heats up to 475 degrees F which is perfect for throwing in a high temperature oven and pouring molten hot candy on to. The non stick surface works just as well in these situations which will delight any candy maker who has gotten their creations stuck to a sheet pan- they won’t stick on a silicone baking mat! Gotta love a material that doesn’t melt and is easy to peel off of candy and baked goods.
Not Just Baking
Silicone baking mats aren’t just for baked goods and pastries. In fact, you can use a silicone mat for anything that you put in the oven. Bake fish on a silicone mat or roast a whole chicken. If it goes on a sheet pan, it can go on a silicone mat. All of the easy clean up, non-stick benefits still apply when cooking savory foods!
Right now, silicone mats are looking like a true gift to the baking world, so what are the downsides? For one, you can’t use any sharp objects (aka a knife) on a silicone mat. The mats do pierce easily and a simple cut can permanently damage a mat. Simple solution to that though: don’t cut on top of a silicone baking mat. Problem solved.
Silicone mats can be a little pricey initially, especially the high end brands like Silpat, which is one of the original silicone baking mat companies and made in France (bakers love anything French as they are an authority on baking). However, the investment will pay for itself when you no longer have to buy parchment paper or foil.
Silicone mats are a baker’s best friend. They are easy to use, versatile and make baking and cleaning so pleasurable. Once you start using your silicone baking mat, I guarantee you will never look back. So many upsides with very few downsides makes me think you should go buy one right away. You should also check out our other essential tools for a beginner baker. Time to see firsthand why the professionals all use silicone baking mats!