Tuesday Tips - The silicone vs bamboo debate
If you’re looking for an environment-friendly option, bamboo will emerge as the best option. It’s 100% biodegradable and even compostable. As long as the utensil is produced without using harmful chemicals, those made of bamboo help in reducing plastic waste.
Aside from that, bamboo utensils are stain and odor resistant. You will not worry about dipping it to boiling water because it will not melt or sustain damages. Bamboo utensils are also easy to clean, thanks to its natural antibacterial properties. You can also use this on non-stick cooking pans since the bamboo material will not ruin the food you’re cooking.
Another thing that makes bamboo utensils a good choice is its attractive look. It has a natural wood grain finish that doesn’t require artificial coloring.
However, bamboo utensils aren’t one without some downsides. As compared to silicone, bamboo utensils could be more expensive. Also, it will soon reach the end of its lifespan faster than some silicone options.
Nevertheless, this small issue will always be overcome by the fact that it’s a greener choice.
Which is better?
In the end, both bamboo and silicone utensils can co-exist in your kitchen. Both can complement each other’s functions. Besides, replacing some of your silicone utensils with bamboo is already a big stride in reducing your plastic waste. It doesn’t have to be a total boycott of the silicone material since both have its uses.
Silicone or Wood: Which Is Right for You?
How do you usually clean your kitchenware?
If you don’t have a dishwasher at home or you don’t use it all that often, you can go for wooden utensils, as they can only be cleaned by hand, with soapy water. Readers who avoid hand-cleaning kitchenware in the sink at all costs might be better off buying dishwasher-safe silicone utensils.
Do you bake often (or intend to get into baking)?
The silicone scraper spatula is a baker’s best friend. With it, you can fold ingredients into batters, creams, and doughs, then scrape them out from the bowl altogether.
Suppose you don’t use the oven that often, and you typically find yourself smashing burgers, grilling steak, and browning mushrooms on the stovetop and the outside grill. You’ll probably get more utility out of wooden utensils.
What kind of food do you mostly cook?
Rigid and stiff, wooden utensils are best for non-delicate foods like steaks, chops, and burgers. Soft and flexible, silicone utensils slip under the most delicate of foods, like eggs, fish fillets, and pancakes, without tearing them apart into pieces.
How much of an issue is sustainability for you?
Silicone utensils are generally recyclable. But, since wood is a renewable resource, especially when sourced from sustainable growers, there’s no doubt that their wooden counterparts are the more eco-friendly option.
Why use silicone utensils?
Although bamboo utensils have a lot of perks, it doesn’t mean that silicone options are useless. It still has a big role to play in the kitchen and in specific cooking tasks.
Many modern silicone utensils nowadays have very high heat resistance. Some can endure up to 600F, which can give bamboo utensils are run for its money. Also, silicone utensils can be mold in almost any shape imaginable. Such pieces are a big hit for baking and other cooking tasks that require specific tools.
Some silicone utensils are also flexible, which makes cooking and serving food easier. It’s also the top choice for baking since it allows users to mix ingredients properly.
Many silicone utensils can last for years. Just make sure that you’re purchasing from a reputable brand.
Just like bamboo utensils, silicone has its downsides. First of all, it’s notorious for staining, especially after many years of use. We personally experience this and it can be a pain to remove the smudge off the material. Such stains make the silicone utensil look dirty or even unappealing to use.
Aside from that, you have to be very careful with the item you’re purchasing. Since silicone is a synthetic material, some shady manufacturers market silicone products infused with harsh chemicals. This can have off-gassing and poisonous substances that will contaminate your food.
Silicone is a non-toxic, heat-resistant, and long-lasting alternative to plastic. So it’s no wonder that it’s so popular as a material for bakeware and utensils!
Contrary to what most people think, silicone is capable of withstanding high heat. Most silicone utensils are heat-resistant up to 600°F (315°C), and won’t melt if they come into contact with the hot sides of your frying pan or pot.
At high heat, silicone is chemically stable. Utensils made of it won’t leach chemicals or emit fumes during cooking, even if you use them to flip a sizzling steak in a scorching-hot cast iron skillet.
Pros of Silicone Utensils
Without a doubt, the most significant advantage of silicone utensils is that they’re flexible. Good silicone spatulas will flex enough to comfortably slip under bull’s-eye eggs, fish fillets, and pancakes without mangling them or tearing them apart into pieces.
Silicone utensils also double up as the best tools for baking. Their flexibility makes them highly useful for tasks like scooping out melted chocolate from a pot, scraping honey from measuring cups, and folding ingredients into doughs, batters, whipped creams, or frozen yogurts.
Silicone utensils are an excellent choice for both non-stick or enameled-cast-iron cooking. Just like their wooden counterparts, they are gentle to your cookware so that they won’t scratch Teflon coatings or chip porcelain enamel, rendering expensive cookware pieces unusable.
Compared to wood, silicone spoons, spatulas, and tongs are more sanitary and easier to maintain. They won’t pick up color and catch smell, and they can safely be cleaned in the dishwasher (unless they have wood handles).
Cons of Silicone Utensils
Silicone utensils get cut up by the blades of your chopper or food processor if you use them to scrape chopped foods from the bowl. So you’ll have to replace them fairly often if that’s one of the things you need them for.
Scraping up the fond from a skillet is hard-to-impossible with silicone spatulas. This is why they’re not practical to use with “stickier” cookware such as stainless steel frying pans, anodized aluminum skillets, and baking sheets without a non-stick coating.
Good silicone spatulas can be hard to find. There are just way too many cheap, multi-piece silicone spatulas out there that bend and twist like floppy noodles, are not as heat-resistant as their manufacturers claim, and disassemble into pieces always at the worst possible moments.
Check out our entire silicone line at https://www.naturalhomebrands.com/collections/i-am-silicone
Though silicone is recyclable, it can be challenging to find a recycling site nearby that accepts silicone utensils.
What to Look for When Buying
What to look for in a silicone utensil
Silicone utensils can be single-piece or multi-piece.
Don’t fall for silicone utensils with wooden handles. Usually, they’re not dishwasher-safe and are not as long-lasting. So you kind of end up paying more money for less utility.
When it comes to spatulas and spoons, you’re looking for the right balance between hardness or flexibility of the heads.
You don’t want your silicone utensils as rigid as wood; it defies the purpose of having them in the first place. But you also don’t want them floppy, bendy, and pretty much useless.
As a general rule of thumb, you want your silicone utensils to have the flexibility of a high-end stainless-steel fish spatula.
Where to use bamboo utensils
Bamboo utensils are very versatile options. You can use it on your regular meals, on family gatherings, and more. The following are some of the excellent uses of bamboo utensils:
On your kid’s lunchbox. Instead of giving your child plastic utensils, you can introduce bamboo options. This is also a great way to make them aware of reducing wastes.
Your meals at work. Instead of borrowing utensils in your office’s pantry, you can pack a pair of bamboo spoon and fork instead. These are lighter than metal spoons.
At your next party. Instead of the usual metal utensils, you can switch to bamboo the next time you host a party at home. You can also use it as a special spoon for desserts.
Telling if the oil is hot. One of the unique uses of bamboo spoons is telling if the oil is already hot enough. Simply dip a portion of the spoon to the oil. If bubbles form on it, your oil is hot enough for cooking.
Wooden utensils look lovely. Not only will they assist you with stirring sauces, soups, and stews or flipping over burgers and steak in your daily cooking, but they’ll also decorate your kitchen by sitting around when not in use.
If you cook with a non-stick frying pan or enameled cast iron skillet, they won’t scratch Teflon coatings nor chip porcelain enamels. If you use stainless steel cookware, a wooden spatula is the best tool to help you release the fond when you’re deglazing the pan.
“Fond” is a term for the browned bits and pieces of food stuck to the bottom of your pan once you’re done cooking. If you “deglaze” the pan by adding an alcoholic liquid, like beer or white wine, while it’s still hot, you can make the most delicious pan sauce for your steak or chops.
Pros of Wooden Utensils
Unlike metal utensils, wooden spoons and spatulas won’t react to acidic foods—imparting a metallic taste to them and leaching aluminum, iron, chrome, and/or nickel into them.
Don’t rush to dismiss this as some sort of urban legend, even if you’re skeptical. One study found that stainless steel cookware was a significant source of metals released into foods during cooking. The longer the simmering time, the greater the amount of dietary metals leached.
Unlike some plastic and most silicone utensils, with the exception of heat-resistant silicone, wooden spoons and spatulas won’t melt when they come into contact with the hot edges of your frying pan.
Wooden utensils are the most eco-friendly choice of tools for your kitchen. Wood is considered a renewable resource; additional trees can be grown to replace any that have been cut down. It’s also recyclable and biodegradable.
Cons of Wooden Utensils
They’re thick and stiff, and you can easily mangle eggs or break fish fillets into pieces when using them. For some foods, you’re simply better off using stainless steel or silicone spatulas
Wood will pick up color and catch smell from any food you’re stirring, scraping, lifting, or flipping with it. If you’re not careful, tonight’s pan-fried chicken breasts can end up tasting and smelling like yesterday’s browned salmon fillets.
Wooden spoons, spatulas, and tongs can only be cleaned by hand and should never go in the dishwasher. Exposed to the heat and moisture of the washing cycles for enough time, wood will swell up, splinter, and ultimately break.
What to Look For When Buying
What to look for in a wooden utensil
Cheap wooden utensils are likely to be made of softwood like pine. Avoid them and go for those made of hardwood, like olive tree, bamboo, beech, or maple, instead.
What’s the difference (and does it matter, really)?
Softwood is pale in color and less dense. Though it’s cheap, it also picks up color and catches smell from your food too much, too quickly when used for cooking. It’s also susceptible to splintering and breaking.
Depending on the variety of wood we’re talking about, hardwoods are yellowish to dark brown. They feel heavy for their weight and are more pricey, but are more practical to use for cooking and will last significantly longer than their softwood counterparts.
Generally speaking, it’s good to have a flat and a slotted spatula in your kitchen.
One will help you smash burgers Shake Shack-style; the other lets liquids and fats drip off when you’re using it to fish poached eggs out the pot or collect fried chicken wings from your Dutch oven.
Look for a handle that’s comfortable to hold and not overly long. Utensils should feel like natural extensions of your arms—not awkward, bulky tools that distract you from cooking.
When it comes to wooden utensils, you’re better off buying a set of the same type and quality of wood than hunting for a spatula, spoon, and set of tongs separately.
It’s best to get it from a reputable brand whose quality control (and warranty if you come across manufacturing defects) you can trust.
Check out our entire bamboo line at https://www.naturalhomebrands.com/collections/bamboo-1
And (my personal favorite) Olive wood at https://www.naturalhomebrands.com/collections/i-am-olive-wood
Both bamboo and silicone utensils are useful in the kitchen. You can swap some of your old silicone utensils to new bamboo options for a change. It will spruce up your cutlery while reducing plastic waste in your own small ways.
- Carole Zellers