Does a great job with chewy cookies and skin-on salmon.
For crisp cookies, it’s a disaster, and it's hard to keep it from developing a permanent greasy film.
Effective as a nonstick pan liner, but its uses are pretty limited.
The Silpat story begins in 1965, when a French baker named M. Guy Demarle devised nonstick silicone bread forms for other pro bakers. Demarle’s company, Sasa Demarle Inc., went on to create the first Silpat silicone baking mats. Silpats were innovative because bakers and pastry chefs would no longer have to grease their pans. And because bakers could do away with disposable parchment-paper pan liners, Silpats reduced waste. Silpats became popular with American home bakers in the 1990s. With all the developments in nonstick bakeware since then, are Silpat mats still a good investment? We decided to take a second look.
Silpat mats come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from the octagonal microwave mat to the full-size sheet pan liner. We tested the U.S. Half Size Baking Mat (the most useful size for home bakers). It measures 11 5/8 inches wide and 16 1/2 inches deep, and fits 13-by-18-inch pans. Like all Silpat mats, it’s made of fiberglass mesh and food-grade silicone. It’s microwave friendly, and depending on maintenance and care, each mat is good for 2,000 to 3,000 uses, according to the manufacturer.
We put our Silpat through four tests. We baked spritz cookies; made frico (a.k.a. Parmesan crisps); baked more cookies (chocolate chip, macadamia nut, and oat); and—to test a savory application—baked skin-on salmon fillets.
Spritz cookies: Our cookies released from the Silpat very easily and had nicely browned bottoms, but the texture was tough and chewy. On a comparison test with a naked baking sheet, the cookies also released just fine and were perfectly crisp and tender.
Frico: We made these cheese crisps by mounding spoonfuls of finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano on the Silpat and baking at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for six to seven minutes. They were easy to remove from the Silpat with a fork, a metal spatula, a rubber spatula, and even tongs. The texture, however, was chewy and unappealing (pictured above, left). On a naked baking sheet, they needed to be removed with a flat metal spatula, but once cooled, they were deliciously crisp (above, right), the way they’re supposed to be.
Chocolate chip, macadamia, and oat cookies: We baked these at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 to 14 minutes. On the Silpat, the cookies released fine and were chewy like they were supposed to be, but they were a bit pale (pictured above, top). The pan for our non-Silpat test was lined with parchment. The cookies released fine, and were also chewy, but there was better browning on the tops and bottoms (above, bottom).
Skin-on salmon fillets: We drizzled these with olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and baked skin-side down at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 to 14 minutes. On the Silpat there was absolutely no sticking, not even the skin, and the fish was very moist. For the non-Silpat test, we covered our baking sheet with foil. The skin stuck horribly and the salmon had a drier texture than the Silpat version. One drawback with the Silpat, though: It smelled fishy even after washing. If you plan to bake fish this way, you’ll want to keep a dedicated seafood mat.
To sum up: If you bake with a Silpat, it's true that your food won't stick, and you won't have to buy baker’s parchment. Naturally you‘ll have to wash your Silpat. Even after washing, we’ve found that it develops a perpetual sticky film (Silpat acknowledges as much, and says that's normal) that attracts lint, crumbs, and dust during storage. In other words, even though the Silpat is nonstick, it does require maintenance, and it doesn’t give the best results in every baking situation.
Photos by Chris Rochelle