Silicone-infused Kitchen

by Laura on January 17, 2009

in Tools

Through the years, I have seen a lot of trendy kitchenware products presented at trade shows. Oftentimes I’ve wondered how they could have even made it past the boardroom. I’ve had enough practice that I can spot a gimmick a mile away — and often cringe at the time and energy that is put into a product that is going to be as short-lived as the trend it was created to fulfill. (I do have to admit, I had one of those defrosting trays in my kitchen for many years – never really sure if they worked or if I just kept it around for so long because I had convinced myself that it was a ‘miracle’ product.) Because my kitchen has always been on the small side, I have always been careful as to which products I really need, which ones will truly be useful, and which ones might be a bit frivolous. When silicone kitchen accessories hit the U.S. consumer market several years ago, I thought, “Wow, this is good.” Silicone initially made its way into the U.S. kitchen with the must-have Silpat liner. This liner, which chefs have used for years, is made of a combination of fiberglass and silicone, and turns any pan into a nonstick surface (www.demarleusa.com). Its success in the consumer world led the way for more silicone products to be introduced. Today silicone has permeated almost every aspect of the kitchenware industry, and is on everything from gadgets to oven mitts, to trivets, spatulas and more. The main benefits of silicone in the kitchen are that it is heat resistant to upwards of 600 degrees Fahrenheit and is non porous – two important attributes when it comes to the kitchen. Take the potholder as an example. Traditionally made of fabric, the potholder doesn’t always keep our hand safe from the heat, gets dirty, and needs to be replaced on a frequent basis. On the other hand, the silicone potholders (and oven mitts) are much more durable and useful.

They can withstand the heat that a typical cloth potholder or oven mitt might not. As an added benefit, the silicone potholder is slip resistant and waterproof. And, if it is a coordinated kitchen look you’re going for, these potholders are available in a variety of colors. Lamson & Goodnow’s HotSpot is flexible and easy to grasp, and come in a wide array of fun colors including transparent colors or even novelty designs such as snowflakes, snowmen or hearts. (www.lamsonsharp.com) On the Oven Mitt end, there are a couple versions out there including the iSi ORKA oven mitt and the SiliconeZone version which offers left- and right-handed mitts. The silicone oven mitt is perfect for a variety of tasks – including reaching into a pot of boiling water to grab a lobster. But, if lobster isn’t a frequent item on your menu, the mitt is useful when reaching into the oven or even the barbecue. Heck, it is also pretty handy if you need to reach into the fireplace to quickly adjust a log or place a new one on the fire – just keep in mind that it is heat resistant to about 600 degrees F How a silicone product performs is dependent upon several factors such as the thickness of the silicone as well as its grade. Because silicone has become so popular, there are a lot of products out there to choose from. Some silicone products are made using bulk fillers – which is cheaper than using all silicone. They aren’t as effective, though. A quick test someone once showed me that will help determine if fillers are used is to bend it in half- If the color remains solid, then there are no fillers. (If you bend a red baking pan, for example, and you can see some white – then fillers are used). I haven’t used silicone for baking too often, simply because I have found success with my metal pans, and I don’t want to experiment with results in the silicone baking. When using silicone for baking keep in mind that the form is floppier than a metal pan, so it will take some time to get used to placing the pan in the oven without spilling the batter.

Additionally, when using silicone for baking, there won’t be a browning effect – so, if that’s what you’re looking for, you might be disappointed. However, if you’re frosting a cake then the browning doesn’t matter. Some kitchen tools that I have found indispensable include the spatula. The nonporous nature of silicone comes in handy especially when stirring tomato sauce. The silicone won’t discolor, and since it is heat resistant, you can use the silicone spatula in a pot of sauce or even to cook up scrambled eggs. Also handy is the stainless steel kitchen tongs that have silicone on the ends. Now available from Cuisipro, the silicone is on the grabbing portion of the tongs, making them great for grabbing slippery foods – such as lasagna, and are perfect for use all the time because the silicone end keeps it from scratching the bottom of pots and pans. They are colorful too – and come in yellow, red, blue, orange and frosted tips. (www.cuisipro.com) Another great silicone product from Lamson is thefoodloop – it is a silicone trussing tool that replaces kitchen string (or toothpicks) when cooking. I don’t use it very often, but when I need it, thefoodloop is very handy to have around. One of my favorites – especially for the kids to use is the SillyBowl – a small bowl made of silicone. Beyond using it for the kids, the Silly Bowl is perfect for serving spreads, dips, or sauces – especially at an outdoor barbecue. (www.lamsonsharp.com). The Sili Gourmet Measuring cups and spoons (from William Bounds Ltd.) come in very handy. They are color-coded cups and spoons that have stainless steel handles that are easy to grip (even when hands are wet).  The cups and spoons are color coded so you can easily grab the correct cup/spoon size when needed. Making them even more functional is the flat bottom design so that they sit securely on the counter when filled without spilling. The cups can be used for cooking functions such as melting butter, and are ideal for measuring sticky ingredients such as peanut butter, (www.wmboundsltd.com).

I still have on hand an old basting brush my great grandmother made with goose feathers. I don’t use it, but remember my mother and grandmother using them to spread melted butter all the time. Mine sits on a shelf in the kitchen and when I glance at it I cringe as to all the yuck that has accumulated on it. That’s what makes the silicone basting brushes my friends. The silicone bristles make them easy to clean, and there is never any leftover residue from past use. Many companies have them available, iSi has a silicone baster that allows you to store the basting liquid – butter or glaze – in the handle. With a soft squeeze, the liquid is dispersed into the bristles for basting. They also have a small ‘Squid” baster that draws up pan juices by suction into the reservoir, allowing you to then brush them on (www.isinorthamerica.com). Kuhn Rikon has a 8 ½ inch long Silicone Brush that has a version that is perfect for basting in the oven or for the barbecue. The non-shedding brush is heat safe to 500 degrees F and doesn’t absorb flavors. It is easy to clean in the dishwasher or by hand. Best of all, it retails for around $7. (www.kuhnrikon.com). As I mentioned before, I’ve had some relatively small kitchens, so bulky cookware and accessories are always an issue. A recent introduction from SiliconeZone is the answer to at least one of my dilemmas – the Flexible Silicone Strainers/Colanders. This tool collapses into a flat piece for easy storage. Beyond its ability to store flat, the strainer makes clean-up of starchy foods (such as potatoes and pasta) a breeze. (www.siliconezoneusa.com).

One other great SiliconeZone find is the Universal Easy Lid. There is no organization to our plastic container cabinet, and it is made even worse by the fact that we allow Nicole and Grayson to open it and grab a plastic cup or bowl for snack-time. (It also serves as a mild diversion when I need to get something done in the kitchen). The Universal Easy Lid eliminates the time I spend looking for the right lid to fit a container. Now I can store a bean salad, leftovers, or whatever in a bigger bowl and plop on one off these lids. It includes a 12.5-inch, 10.5-inch, 8-inch and 6-inch size, so it fits nearly every bowl we have. It also provides a vacuum seal to melamine, glass, metal or ceramic bowls. I also use the lid as a splatter guard on the stove. (www.siliconezone.com). That’s about it from me today – I’m off to cooking in my silicone-infused kitchen. Until next time, enjoy your time with Food and the Family.

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