This article is a part of CNN Underscored’s Earth Week, a weeklong focus on our planet and ways to celebrate and preserve it. We’ll be featuring tips on how to live more sustainably, products to help you spend more time in nature and exclusive deals all week, so check in every morning to see what’s new and be sure to subscribe to the CNN Underscored newsletter to see it all.
Look, there comes a time in every person’s life when they catch themselves transformed into a full-fledged adult. It happens, oftentimes, without warning: One day you’re closing down a bar with the sunrise, the next you’re swapping tips with your bestie about the ideal ways to keep your dishwasher clean.
My personal reckoning came when I found myself unable to stop singing the praises of silicone baking mats. I can’t recommend them enough, and with that, I’ve come to accept that I’m no longer in my prime.
Once you start using silicone baking mats, you’ll wonder how you ever cooked without them.
These mats are available in plenty of different brands, colors, shapes and sizes, but the MMmat Silicone Baking Mats in orange are the very product I’ve been using for the past two years. I store them folded in half with my cutting boards and would guess that I use them at least five times a week.
So what’s so great about these flimsy little things? I’d say their biggest benefit is that they render single-use tinfoil and parchment paper nearly useless. Before these mats, I’d tear off a new piece of aluminum foil almost every time I’d put something in the oven. From leftover pizza to uncooked salmon to cookie dough to veggies drizzled in olive oil, every food would get a fresh sheet of foil to separate it from the baking sheet.
While I’m sure baking sheets are meant to be cleaned regularly, this isn’t something that happens with reliable certainty in my household. Our sheets are rife with burn stains and sometimes sticky with an oily residue even after a cleanse in the dishwasher. Cooking with the silicone baking mats, which — praise the powers that be — are dishwasher-safe, makes me confident that whatever food I’m making will not be contaminated by what’s left on the sheet. I can also be sure the mats will keep the baking sheet itself from getting dirtied.
The silicone sheets can withstand oven temperatures up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and are safe in the freezer too. They are truly nonstick and incredibly easy to wipe clean. I haven’t tried this move yet, but some reviewers say they use the sheets to line their refrigerators — they’d definitely keep in place — to keep everything spotless.
Buying something new is rarely the best option when it comes to practicing sustainability. But these, I believe, are worth the purchase because they so drastically cut down the need for single-use sheet liners.
Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve had mine for two years now, and I see them lasting for many more to come. One way to ensure they last is to avoid cutting directly on top of them, since it’d be possible for a sharp knife to slice into the silicone and eventually tear a hole.
While tossing away foil is hardly our biggest environmental offense in the kitchen (and actually, aluminum foil is recyclable in many municipalities if you do it correctly), these reusable sheets are a win in our book when it comes to making small changes to cut down on waste.