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Originally published January 24, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified January 25, 2007 at 4:00 PM

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Putting colorful silicone products to the test

With so many silicone kitchen products on the market, it can be difficult for consumers to choose what's best for their needs. Here are some of...

Seattle Times Food staff

With so many silicone kitchen products on the market, it can be difficult for consumers to choose what's best for their needs. Here are some of the products that I've tested in the Seattle Times Test Kitchen and in my own home:

Bakeware

The Sil-pin rolling pin is one heavy-duty tool that makes light work of rolling dough. The nonstick surface releases from pastry easily, and stainless-steel ball bearings make rolling a simple task. Because silicone gathers static electricity, the pin should be cleaned with a damp cloth or warm soapy water each time it's used. It carries a $50 price tag, but it's worth the investment for those who bake a lot.

Pair the rolling pin with a rolling mat from SiliconeZone or King Arthur Flour. Its nonstick surface reduces the amount of flour needed to keep the dough from sticking, and the round dimensions printed on the mat simplify rolling dough to the correct pan size. Mats are around $29.

Baking sheet liners such as the popular Silpat product do away with the need for parchment paper and keep cookie sheets clean. Cookies slide right off, and the liners can be reused immediately. Prices range from $20 to $25.

The range of baking dishes includes loaf pans, bundt pans, madeline pans, cupcake pans and molds. Although silicone pans don't brown baked good as well as metal or glass does, they are easy to clean. Grease and flour the pans if a recipe calls for it, even though the manufacturer's directions tell you otherwise. Companies such as SiliconeZone have strengthened the sides of deeper pans so they hold their shapes when heavy batters are added. Prices range from $20 to $27.

Say goodbye to those tiny brush hairs left behind by natural bristle pastry and basting brushes. The silicone brushes hold their shape, don't absorb odors and are easy to clean. The most recent models have plenty of thin, flexible bristles that hold liquid well. Prices range from $4 to $8.

Other kitchen products

Spatulas come in all sizes, shapes and colors. These multipurpose utensils can be used for folding cake batters to stirring hot tomato sauces. Because they're odor- and stain-resistant, even curry sauces can be rinsed away easily. Prices range from $8 to $10.

Metal whisks can damage even tough, fired-enamel saucepans over time, so the emergence of silicone-coated whisks may save consumers from costly repairs. Whisks from Cuisipro combine the strength of stainless steel with the scratch-resistant surface of silicone. The rubber coating, however, will prevent cream or egg whites from reaching frothy peaks. Prices for whisks range from $15 to $20.

Silicone cord ties manufactured by The Food Loop are an ingenious kitchen tool. The box of four 15-inch ties is packaged in a dishwasher-safe mesh bag for easy cleaning. The cords can replace string when tying roasts or stuffed pork tenderloins, as well as bunches of asparagus before steaming. The product is $15.

Flexible lids store flatly, eliminating all those bulky metal items that fall out of the cupboard each time it's opened. Some companies advertise their solid lids as splatter screens, but without some openings in the rubber, the food will steam instead of fry. The lids are oven- and microwave-safe. Prices range from $13 to $23.

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Collapsible strainers and colanders, both large and small, are great for kitchens with limited space. Some of the latest models have stands that fold under for flat storage. Prices range from $8.25 for mini strainers to $18 for larger colanders with stands.

At first glance, the flexible, nonskid cutting mats that are color-coded to food usage may seem frivolous. How much time does it take, after all, to stop and thoroughly clean a cutting board when switching from prepping chicken to chopping vegetables? But I've found these to be indispensable for safe, quick cooking. They're dishwasher-safe, so cleanup is a breeze. A package of four color-coded mats from SiliconeZone is around $10.

How often have you dipped a cloth oven mitt into bubbling tomato sauce and goopy cheese when removing lasagna from the oven? With silicone oven mitts, the mess can be washed off and the mitts used right away, or they can be put into the dishwasher for a more thorough cleaning. Hot pads or counter covers from HotSpot stay clean with a quick wash in soapy water. They're great for small apartment kitchens with limited counter space for setting hot pans. Mitts range from $12 to $20, hot pads from $8 to $14.

Fresh Cut salad knives from Zyliss are sold in bright colors such as red, orange, yellow and lime. The serrated blade is sturdy and will cut through bar cookies and bread easily. And lettuce doesn't react to silicone like it does to metals, so the greens stay green when chopped. The knives are $4.

When you're talking ice, it's hip to be square. Flexible ice-cube trays form perfect shapes for sophisticated cocktails. Personally, I found it difficult to extract the ice cubes from the trays with frozen fingers. Some of the fun kid shapes, such as fish, stars and moons, are easier to unmold. A set of two trays from Tovolo ranges in price from $10 to $13.35.

Tongs with silicone tips are meant for nonstick cookware, but the thickness of the tips makes it difficult to get under the food and grip it. The tips get slippery, and I've had several hot-oil splatter mishaps when sautéing chicken breasts. My advice is to save the $13 and stick with metal tongs.

There's a wide variety of products at local kitchen shops, and several Web sites are good sources for armchair shopping. Here are a few to check out: amazon.com; chefscatalog.com; kingarthurflour.com; surlatable.com.

CeCe Sullivan: csullivan@seattletimes.com

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