Sticky situation

Test Kitchen

March 01, 2006|By KATE SHATZKIN AND JOANNAH HILL | KATE SHATZKIN AND JOANNAH HILL,SUN REPORTERS

We were intrigued with the new silicone baking pans. They come in fun, bright colors. They're flexible and foldable. And they're advertised as the vessels you'll almost never have to grease, with easy release and no-hassle cleanup.

But Cook's Illustrated magazine recently took a dim view of this bakeware, calling the pans "the most useless things to appear in the kitchen since salad shooters." A test was in order.

We baked with three types of silicone pans - a square pan, a muffin pan and a deep bundt pan - by three different makers, and compared the results with brownies, bundt cake and muffins from our favorite metal pans. The overall conclusion: We'll stick to metal.

The brownies we baked in the square pan looked and tasted about the same as the version baked with metal. But the pecan molasses bundt cake we baked in silicone had both an overcooked crust and a mushy center, while the same cake in metal rose higher and baked evenly. And the silicone pans gave off a rubbery smell during baking.

We found the pans unwieldy to handle when full of batter. The metal rack that came with a KitchenAid muffin pan eliminated that problem; placing the pans on a cookie sheet also helps.

Cleanup wasn't much speedier than with our metal pans. We had to push the muffins out. Then again, we had followed the instructions on the label. For "perfect release," we had to grease the silicone muffin pan with nonstick spray after all.

kate.shatzkin@baltsun.com

joannah.hill@baltsun.com

CHEFMATE SILICONE 9-INCH SQUARE PAN, $7.99 -- This pan produced the best results of the three. Brownies had a texture and taste indistinguishable from the batch baked in metal. A strange rubber smell came from the oven the first time we used the silicone pan, but that didn't affect the brownies.

The label on the pan - which offered little instruction - said it was "nonstick," so we didn't grease it. When we lifted the batter-filled pan, it bent into a U-shape; a cookie sheet would have helped to move it into the oven.

While we couldn't dump the brownies out in one big square, we could cut them easily. They left a little residue, though, so we still had to scrub a bit. Available at Target.

KITCHENAID SILICONE BAKEWARE 12-CUP MUFFIN PAN WITH NONSTICK SLED, $29.99 -- The "sled," a removable wire rack that fit around the muffin pan to help slide it in and out of the oven, was the best thing about this pan. It's also handy for cooling.

But the blueberry muffins we baked in this pan didn't stand up to their metal-baked brethren. They tasted fine, but didn't rise as high or brown as nicely as those from the conventional pan. They were oddly pale - especially on the bottoms, which also were slightly soggy.

The instructions that came with the KitchenAid pan told us to use nonstick spray, so we did - but the muffins still didn't just pop out. It was hard to shake them out when we turned the pan over because the mold was so floppy, so we ended up pushing them out. But they didn't stick.

Available at Bed, Bath & Beyond and amazon.com.

LE CREUSET 12-CUP DEEP SAVARIN MOLD, $24.95 -- We were most disappointed with this bright orange deep bundt mold - especially because its label was so enthusiastic. It claimed we'd save energy by being able to cook at lower temperatures (without offering any guidance on how to do this); that we could use shorter cooking times and expect no-stick, easy cleanup.

But when we baked the pecan molasses bundt cake for the same amount of time and at the same temperature as we used for the metal pan, the center of the cake wasn't done. It still seemed a little wet when we took the cake out of the oven 17 minutes later.

The crust, however, looked burned. The color was uneven, compared with the uniform look of the other bundt. When we cut into the silicone-baked cake, we could see that the center hadn't finished cooking - so we didn't try to taste it.

At least the cake unmolded easily, and we didn't have to grease the pan. Cleanup was a breeze. Available at cooking.com.

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