What's the Deal with Silpat?

We've been talking about baking a lot lately, so I thought I'd hit on those funny, cool, orange baking mats. If you bake, you may have run across a product called Silpat®. So, what the heck is it and why would you use one?

Silpat is a silicone baking mat that can be used to line your baking sheet. In effect, they are nonstick baking sheets. They are made of a fiberglass mesh which is wrapped in silicone. The fiberglass mesh offers even heating and the food-safe silicone is extremely nonstick. Some people (including lots of professional bakers) swear by them.

So, what's the low-down on using them?

Here are a few things to know about using Silpats:

  • They work at a pretty wide range of temperatures - from about -40F to 480F degrees.
  • You place it on your baking sheet (with the words facing up). No greasing or spraying. And then you place the item you are baking directly on the Silpat and bake.
  • It is a little sticky or tacky - and so it stays in place.
  • It can be reused thousands of times.
  • They DO add a layer of insulation to your pans, so give your cookie recipes an extra minute or two.
    • Especially keep that in mind if you usually use an insulated sheet. You may want to go with just a regular baking sheet.
    • And your cookies might not get too crispy on the bottom because of that extra insulation.
  • If you are using the Silpat to make cookies (a great choice!) they will have a tendency to spread out more during baking. The nonstick silicone offers practically no resistance and so the dough expands outward more than you might be used to. 
  • The mats are flexible and can be rolled up for storage. Never fold 'em. It's not good for the mesh.
  • They come in various sizes for various sized baking sheets - including ones for toaster ovens and microwaves.
  • Be careful about using metal tools with the Silpat. You could tear the silicone and expose the fiberglass (which, unless you like eating little bits of fiberglass, you probably don’t want!)
  • They clean up really easily. Silpat’s manufacturer, Sasa Demarle, Inc. says: “Wipe the Silpat with a damp, soft sponge, then rinse with clean water. Shake to remove excess water and dry in open air. A weak solution of detergent or soap may be used if needed. Note: the oily feeling after washing is normal, as is discoloration.

OK, ok. I admit it they are not particularly cheap (usually about $25) - but can be used over and over again. If you bake a lot, they could definitely pay for themselves.

Thinking Beyond The Cookie

Silpat is so great for (and primarily designed for) baking, it’s easy to forget other tasks that the Silpat can be used for. Here are a few ideas: 

  • Use it on your counter - rolling out dough
  • Roasting veggies (although  you might have a little bit harder clean-up)
  • Freezing fruits or other individual items. (After all - they are good down to -40F!)  

So, am I sucker if I don't use Silpat?

No, no, no. There are definitely alternatives. The main alternative (and one you probably should use almost every time if you don’t use a Silpat) is good old-fashioned parchment paper. It comes in a roll and you can find it just about anywhere.

There is also pre-cut baking parchment paper. These might be a little harder to find, and of course cost a little more. But, they are easy to find online or at your neighborhood cooking store. 

It might give you a little comfort to know that some people like the parchment paper even better. It can be cut to the exact size you need. It is easily disposable (so no clean up). They can (sometimes) even be used a few times. So, what the heck, let the Silpat vs. parchment debate rage on!

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Do YOU use a Silpat? What’s your experience been? Good? Bad? Would you buy it again? What else do you use it for besides baking?