For generations, bakers had two methods to keep foods from sticking to their baking sheets. One was to grease the pan, the other was parchment paper. Both methods worked but both had major drawbacks. Greasing a baking sheet was messy. You ended up with sheets that always had an oily sheen, foods baked on the greased sheet will often over brown on the bottom and your oven could start smoking a bit.
Parchment paper works well to keep foods from sticking but it can be very clumsy to handle. It comes in rolls and you have to fold back the edges of the parchment to get it to lie flat on your cookie sheet. Cost is a big factor as well, a roll of parchment paper can cost $10 and you can only use each sheet once.
Welcome Silicone Baking Mats
Silicone baking mats appeared in 1982 under the brand name Silpat. Originally from France, the mats became wildly popular as bakers worldwide discovered how well they worked with almost any type of baking that required greased sheets. Food didn’t stick to the baking sheet, cookies crisped better and the mats could be reused easily.
Clean up also became easier. No longer did bakers have to soak their baking sheets in an effort to get grease off of them. The sheets were pristine after baking and the silicone mats could be cleaned simply by wiping them clean with warm soapy water. Many bakers today will toss their silicone mats in the dishwasher, although some dishwasher detergent is too harsh for the mats.
Reuse, Reuse, Reuse And Then Eventually Replace
Silicone baking mats can last for quite a while, it will depend on how often you use them. Most manufacturers recommend that you replace your mats after one year or 40 uses. That means that you will have used them almost once a week, which sounds like heavy use. After a while, the mat will no longer be sticky (that’s what holds it in place on the cookie sheet) and may start to discolor and become thin.
There are some downsides to silicone baking mats. You do have to replace them and a set of two will cost between $10-$20 for a pair. Sharp instruments will damage the surface, making the mat worthless. Steel utensils should never be used with a silicone mat, they can easily slice the surface. If you are baking cookies that should have a very crisp, browned bottom you may not want to use a mat. Cookies will crisp just fine but you won’t get a browned cookie bottom.
Silicone baking sheets can also be used for other cooking purposes. Roasting vegetables and meats can become much easier when using a sheet, they won’t stick to the baking sheet, even if slightly burned. You will want to keep mats used for baking desserts separate from those used for meats and vegetables.
Experienced bakers everywhere have known about silicone mats for years and have been singing their praises. They are inexpensive and do a wonderful job when it comes to baking.