People are, and should be, particular about the kind of utensil they use to cook their food. Healthy eating, after all, depends on a lot of factors, and cookware is one of the most important considerations.
You must have noticed that in recent times, silicone kitchenware, like spatulas, spoons, brush, stretch, moulds and tongs, have gained popularity and preference over plastic, wood, stainless steel and aluminum. Silicone utensils are said to be flexible and durable; they won’t scratch your pots and pans.
Lakshita Jain, a certified clinical dietician, lecturer, diabetes educator, meat technologist, and the founder of NUTR, tells indianexpress.com that silicone is a synthetic (rubber) that contains “bonded silicon and oxygen and, in some cases, carbon”. People often think of silicone to be plastic. Silicone comes from silica or sand quartz. Instead of carbon, the “main ingredient of silicone is silicon”.
Jain explains that silicon is derived from silica, and silicon doesn’t exist by itself. “To achieve this, silica, a mineral quartz that is abundant in sand, is heated by up to 1800˚C. The resulting silicon is cooled and ground until it becomes a fine powder.”
According to her, silicone products in the industry use ordinary silica gel, and food-grade silica gel is used in products that are in contact with our food.
There are two ways to judge the quality:
1. Smell: Ordinary silicone has a strong odour. Though some food-grade silica gels also have a little odour, they are automatically eliminated after a period of time and are safe for use.
2. Touch: Food grade silica gel has good toughness and elasticity. It is not easy to permanently change shape by pulling. Ordinary silicone products are easily deformed and rough to the touch.
Benefits of silicone utensils:
* Low cost
* Silicone kitchenware can withstand high temperatures of up to 428˚F or 220˚C. It is great for steaming and steam baking.
* They are flexible. Even with sudden temperature changes, they barely expand or contract. This is why silicone bakeware can go from the freezer to the oven without cracking.
* Silicone cooking utensils are stain-resistant. They don’t retain odours or colours.
* Are safe for kids.
* Silicone cooking utensils are non-corrosive and long lasting.
“Silicone is non-biodegradable, but is more environmentally-friendly than plastic. Plastic is less durable than silicone so they get replaced more often, causing more waste,” says the dietician.
Jain suggests only using silicone spatulas for working with cool foods, such as dips and batters. For hot foods, metal, wood, or bamboo spoons, spatulas, and other utensils are best.
– Cast iron: Cast iron cookware is versatile, robust, and a great investment.
– Ceramic: It is toxin-free and as good as non-stick. It is lightweight, heat resistant and easy to clean.
– Carbon steel: They have excellent heat distribution for easy grilling, searing, and browning of foods on the stovetop (including induction), camping stove, barbecue, or in the oven.
“Choose high quality silicone kitchenware — they are a great alternative to non-stick muffin pans and cake tins. They can be reused, and are excellent for oil-free or low-fat cooking. You don’t have to grease the cookware before use. But if you can buy cast iron, buy it as a substitute for silicone,” she concludes.