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Ask G: Bendy bakeware

Is silicone bakeware safer and greener to use than Teflon non-stick?

I've heard that silicone bakeware is a safer, greener alternative to Teflon non-stick bakeware. How green is silicone bakeware?
- Charmaine Newman, Brunswick West, Vic.

Bendy bakeware

Credit: sxc.hu

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‘Teflon’ or polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), used as a non-stick cookware coating, has had some bad press over the years. Carcinogenic perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is used in its manufacture, plus the high temperatures sometimes used in cooking can cause the pyrolysis (chemical decomposition) of PTFE to produce gases that are toxic to humans and animals. In fact, pet birds have been known to die from ‘polymer fume flu’ in homes that use PTFE cookware at inappropriately high temperatures.

Bright, colourful and bendy silicone bakeware has been promoted as a green alternative in recent years. Silicone rubbers are made from polymers made up of silicon-oxygen-silicon units. Siliconoxygen bonds are typically strong, making silicone rubber pretty much chemically non-reactive – they don’t react with food and don’t produce harmful fumes. As well as tolerating high temperatures, silicone can withstand ozone and UV degradation that can weaken carbon-based (natural) rubber.

All in all, silicone cookware sounds promising, but remember that it’s still in its early days, so the scientific research on it is limited.

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