The silicone mold vs. metal mold debate is a never-ending one. It has been around for decades and will exist for decades to come.
Both molds are commonly used, along with glass and ceramic molds for baking. However, silicone and metal are the most common ones.
This article explains everything you need to know about baking in silicone and metal molds.
Silicone Molds vs. Metal Molds: Major Features Compared
Silicone Molds: Silicone is a poor heat conductor, which heats up slowly and evenly. This can benefit delicate bakes like custards or cheesecakes that require a gentle and uniform heat. It can, however, make it challenging to achieve a crispy or browned finish on items like bread or muffins, as silicone doesn’t hold onto heat in the same way that metal does.
Metal Molds: Metal, particularly aluminum, is an excellent heat conductor. It heats up and cools down quickly, allowing for a better ‘oven spring’ (the rapid rise you get from cakes and bread early in the baking process). This is particularly desirable when baking goods that require a crispy exterior, such as crusty bread or a bundt cake.
Durability and Maintenance
Silicone Molds: Silicone molds are flexible, practically unbreakable, and have a non-stick surface, making them easy to clean. They are also dishwasher-safe, adding to the ease of maintenance. However, their flexibility can be a disadvantage when handling liquid or semi-liquid batter, which may lead to spillage or shape distortion.
Metal Molds: Metal molds, especially steel ones, are extremely durable and can withstand high temperatures. However, they require more maintenance as they can rust if not dried properly. Non-stick versions can lose their coating over time and may require greasing and/or lining.
Silicone Molds: Silicone’s flexibility lends itself to various intricate shapes and sizes, making it ideal for detailed and novelty cake designs. They can also be used in the microwave and freezer and are oven-safe, offering more versatility for different cooking techniques.
Metal Molds: While metal pans are more traditional and may not offer the same variety of intricate designs as silicone, they are highly versatile when baking different types of goods. They can handle everything from cookies and brownies to pies and bread. However, they are typically not recommended for use in the microwave.
Silicone Molds: Silicone is made from silica found in sand, a plentiful natural resource. It is reusable and long-lasting, but it’s important to note that it can take a very long time to degrade in the environment after disposal. Currently, recycling options for silicone are limited.
Metal Molds: Most metal baking molds are recyclable, and their long lifespan can make them a sustainable choice. As with silicone, the production process can have environmental impacts, but the recyclability of metal molds is a definite advantage.
Silicone Molds: Given its insulating nature, silicone may require a longer baking time than its metal counterparts. Recipes that recommend metal molds may need adjustments for silicone molds. For instance, if a muffin recipe asks for 20 minutes in a metal mold, you may need to extend it to 22-25 minutes in a silicone mold. Keep an eye out for doneness cues mentioned in the recipe (like a golden brown color or a toothpick coming out clean) rather than strictly following the time.
Metal Molds: Due to their excellent heat conductivity, metal molds typically follow the standard baking times in recipes. They provide quick and even heating, often resulting in shorter bake times than silicone molds. Again, it’s essential to keep an eye on your bake, as overly quick heating can sometimes lead to burnt bottoms.
Ease of Use
Silicone Molds: The flexibility of silicone molds makes it easy to de-mold baked goods by simply pushing them out from the bottom. They also have a natural non-stick quality, so you rarely need to grease or line them. However, this same flexibility can make them unstable when filled with batter, so placing them on a sturdy baking sheet is often helpful before filling and baking.
Metal Molds: Metal molds, especially those with a non-stick coating, can also be quite easy to use but might require grease, flour, or parchment paper to ensure easy removal of your baked goods. Their rigidity can be a plus when handling heavier doughs or batters, but removing baked goods, especially from intricately shaped pans, can be more challenging than silicone.
Silicone Molds vs. Metal Molds: Pros & Cons
- Heat Resistant: Can withstand a wide range of temperatures, from the freezer to the oven
- Non-Stick: The flexibility of silicone allows for the easy removal of baked goods
- Durable: Practically unbreakable and dishwasher-safe for easy cleaning
- Versatile Shapes: Available in many intricate and novelty designs
- Poor Heat Conductivity: May result in longer baking times and less browning
- Lack of Stability: Flexibility can cause spillage or shape distortion with liquid batter
- Difficult to Recycle: While durable and long-lasting, silicone can take a long time to degrade, and recycling options are limited
- May Retain Smell: Silicone molds can absorb odors and flavors, especially when used for strong-flavored foods
- Excellent Heat Conductivity: Provides quicker and more even heating, leading to shorter bake times
- Durability: Metal molds, especially those made of steel, can withstand high temperatures and are hard to break
- Great for Browning: Achieve a crispy or browned finish on items like bread or muffins
- Recyclable: Most metal baking molds can be recycled at the end of their lifespan
- Requires More Maintenance: Can rust if not dried properly, and non-stick versions can lose their coating over time
- Risk of Over-Baking: Quick heating can sometimes lead to burnt bottoms if not monitored closely
- Limited Shapes: May not offer the same variety of intricate designs as silicone
- Not Microwave-Safe: Typically, metal molds are not recommended for use in the microwave
Silicone Baking Mold Tips
- Use a Baking Sheet for Stability: Since silicone molds are flexible, placing them on a rigid baking sheet before filling and baking to avoid spills is a good idea.
- Monitor Baking Time: Silicone molds heat more slowly, so you might need to extend the baking time in your recipes. Check for doneness with a toothpick or touch rather than just by time.
- Avoid Sharp Objects: Never use a knife or other sharp tool in a silicone mold, as it can puncture or cut the material, reducing lifespan.
- Cool Before Removing: Allow your bake to cool in the silicone mold before demolding to ensure it maintains its shape.
- Clean Thoroughly: Wash silicone molds thoroughly after each use to prevent residue buildup and avoid smell retention.
Metal Bakeware Tips
- Prep Your Pan: Depending on the type of metal bakeware and the recipe, you might need to grease, flour, or line the pan with parchment paper to ensure your baked goods release easily.
- Watch the Clock: Metal pans heat up quickly, so be careful not to overbake. Start checking for doneness a few minutes earlier than the recipe suggests.
- Handle with Care: Metal bakeware can get very hot, so always use oven mitts when handling.
- Dry After Washing: To prevent rusting, always thoroughly dry your metal bakeware immediately after washing.
- Avoid Abrasive Cleaners: To preserve the surface of metal bakeware, especially non-stick versions, avoid using abrasive sponges or cleaners. Stick to soft sponges and gentle dish soap.
Other Types of Bakeware
Glass bakeware is excellent for dishes that need to go from oven to table, as it retains heat well and can be attractive. It is also non-reactive, so it’s safe to use with acidic foods. However, glass can shatter if subjected to sudden temperature changes, so care must be taken.
Ceramic bakeware, like glass, retains heat well and can be visually appealing. It is perfect for dishes that need slow, even heat, like casseroles. However, ceramic can be more prone to cracking or breaking than other types of bakeware.
Cast iron pans are incredibly durable and provide excellent heat retention, making them ideal for certain baked goods like cornbread or pies. They can be heavy and require more maintenance to prevent rust and keep them seasoned.
Ceramic bakeware is especially good for bread, pizzas, and pies. It retains and distributes heat evenly, leading to a crispy crust. Like cast iron, stoneware requires special care for cleaning and maintenance.
Copper pans are highly responsive to changes in temperature, making them a favorite for precision cooking. However, they are often lined with tin or stainless steel as acidic foods can react with copper. They are typically more expensive and require more maintenance.
Final Words: Which is Better for Baking: Silicone or Metal?
Deciding between silicone and metal bakeware largely depends on the type of baking you plan to do, and each material has its own distinct advantages. Silicone’s non-stick properties, durability, and design variety make it ideal for intricate or delicate bakes.
On the other hand, metal’s superior heat conductivity and ability to achieve a crispy or browned finish make it a preferred choice for items like breads or muffins. Both types have their place in the kitchen, and having a mix of both can be beneficial to cater to different baking needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it medically safe to bake in silicone?
Yes, silicone is medically safe to bake with. It is a non-toxic material that doesn’t react with food or beverages or produce hazardous fumes. However, it’s important to ensure that you’re using food-grade silicone, as there can be variations in quality.
What is the maximum temperature for silicone and metal bakeware?
The maximum temperature for silicone bakeware is around 428-446°F (220-230°C), but it can vary by manufacturer. Metal bakeware, especially steel or aluminum, can withstand higher temperatures, often up to 500°F (260°C) or more.
Does silicone bakeware retain the food odor?
Silicone bakeware can absorb odors and flavors, especially for strong-flavored foods. However, this can usually be remedied with a thorough cleaning and airing.
How long does silicone and metal bakeware last?
Both silicone and metal bakeware can last for many years with proper care. Silicone is practically unbreakable and can withstand repeated use, while metal pans if kept dry and properly maintained, can also serve for a long time, though non-stick coatings may wear over time.
When to use silicone over metal for baking?
Silicone is particularly useful for delicate, intricate, or novelty bakes. It’s also an excellent choice for recipes that require gentle and even heat, like custards or cheesecakes, and when easy demolding is desired due to its flexibility and non-stick properties.
When to use metal over silicone for baking?
Metal bakeware is better for items that require a crispy or browned finish, like breads or muffins. It’s also ideal for recipes that need a quick, even heat, or ‘oven spring,’ like cakes. Metal’s rigidity is advantageous for heavier doughs or batters requiring stability.