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Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Lars Klove for The New York Times

Hot Stuff
Published: January 10, 2007

SILICONE kitchen tools have been lending a playful, psychedelic air to kitchens across the country, especially those where stark, sophisticated stainless steel had been the coin of the realm. The new tools appear in colors from electric green and royal purple to sweetheart pink and terra cotta and come in every shape imaginable.

Until about a decade ago, Americans knew silicone, a synthetic rubber, mainly from Silly Putty and, more controversially, from breast implants. But in recent years cooks have been deluged with silicone spatulas, cake pans, muffin tins, potholders, colanders and ties.

Clearly, the designers are having a ball. And so are the manufacturers and retailers of housewares. According to HomeWorld Business, a magazine that serves the housewares industry, silicone products make up about 7 percent of the bakeware business. Sales of silicone bakeware for 2006 are expected to exceed 2.7 million units, up from 365,000 units in 2001, according to the magazine.

What’s less clear is whether these products are as revolutionary in their use as they are in their appearance.

After four days in the kitchen — ovens blasting, water boiling, microwave beeping — I have clear ideas about which pieces of silicone belong in my kitchen and which do not, even if I were starting from scratch. There were plenty of disappointments, but a lot of treats.

Let’s immediately dispense with a common myth about silicone baking pans, and a reason many people say they buy them: that they are nonstick and do not require greasing.

Those who once believed this can tell you about partial layers of cake left behind and about muffin tops in hand and muffin bottoms left in the cup. Stick resistant is a better description.

Michael Karyo, owner of SiliconeZone, which makes silicone cookware, agreed. “If any silicone manufacturer says you never have to grease a pan, no matter, they are not telling you the truth,” he said.

Despite many magical qualities, silicone is not Teflon. (In light of some questions about Teflon’s safety, this can be seen as a plus.) It is also not all things to all people: like glass and aluminum, stainless steel and cast iron, it is the best choice for some tasks in the kitchen and not for others. Used as a potholder or as a baking surface for cookies, it has no equal. Used to peel garlic or to squeeze lemons, it is unclear why anyone would bother.

The universally appealing qualities of silicone are its heat resistance; its flexibility, which allows you to fold it, flatten it and squish it into a drawer; its ease of washing; and its ability to go from oven or microwave to refrigerator, freezer, dishwasher (in most cases) and sometimes even to the dinner table, cutting down on the number and kinds of containers you need.

Jen's mom bought me a silicone pot holder. It can do some amazing things. like flip a turkey. But it isn't exactly a precision instrument.

I bought my sister silicone bakeware because she does a lot of it. The best stuff seems to be the flat sheets and the sil pats.

posted by Steve @ 1:13:00 AM

1:13:00 AM

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