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For cookies and tuiles, silicone baking mats are as good as parchment—and sometimes better.
Silicone baking mats are reusable alternatives to parchment paper: Pop one into a baking sheet and you instantly have a nonstick baking surface that you can use, wash, and reuse. Made of silicone embedded with heat-conducting fiberglass or nylon fiber mesh, these nonstick mats were originally intended for use in restaurant kitchens. But since they've become increasingly popular with home cooks over the past decade, we decided it was time for a fresh look. We bought five mats priced from $8.99 to $24.39, including our former winner, the DeMarle Silpat U.S. Half-Size Non-Stick Silicone Baking Mat. We pitted the mats against our favorite parchment paper, King Arthur Flour Parchment Paper 100 Half-Sheets, using them to bake multiple batches of tuile cigars, sugar cookies, and chocolate chip cookies. We also tested them against an unlined rimmed baking sheet, roasting potatoes and salmon.
The mats certainly have advantages over parchment paper. They're easy to slip into a baking sheet, and their comparative weight (60 to 117 grams) helps them stay put better than even our favorite parchment sheets (4 grams). This comes in handy when you're working with melted chocolate or caramel or need to spread out clingy batters such as the one for our Tuile Cigars. With the occasional exception of the lightest-weight mat, we never had to worry about the offset spatula pulling the mat up, as sometimes happens with parchment. And because these mats usually sit flat, they produced tuiles with perfectly smooth undersides—not always the case with parchment, under which air bubbles can form, resulting in wrinkles or seams in the finished tuiles. (We've also found that creased or curled parchment can affect the appearance of cookies and cakes.)
Better still, the mats have all the nonstick benefits of parchment—and then some. This made it a breeze to remove cookies and skin-on salmon fillets (in contrast, salmon cooked on a bare baking sheet sometimes stuck, requiring us to scrape it off). In fact, the mats' nonstick surfaces are so slick that they repel fat, which pooled around and under our roasted potatoes and ensured that they browned more evenly than they did on the bare baking sheet. One thing to note: Because the mats are so slick, some types of cookies spread out more on them; for example, chocolate chip cookies baked on the mats were about ¼ inch wider than those cooked on parchment, and their edges browned more deeply, resulting in a slightly crispier final product.
The mats were all durable and performed similarly, regardless of manufacturing differences or exact composition. Our preferences boiled down to size and ease of cleanup. All the mats could be used with our favorite rimmed baking sheet, which measures 16½ by 11½ inches, but one was a bit too small (reducing the usable surface area) and another was a bit too long, so cookies placed near the short ends of it took on the mat's upward curve. Three mats fit the baking sheet perfectly, and of those, we preferred the two slightly heavier ones (each weighing more than 100 grams), as they stayed put better.
Choosing between these top two mats came down to cleanup: We preferred the model that was dishwasher-safe. Over time, all the mats in our testing accumulated some residual fats and oils, just as their manufacturers said they would. They also retained odors. After we used the mats to roast salmon, they smelled distinctly of fish in the oven when used to bake sugar cookies; the cookies themselves also tasted faintly fishy to a few testers. Mats that were dishwasher-safe generally felt cleaner and less sticky, and they had less-pronounced odors.
If you bake a lot and like the idea of a reusable mat or prefer not to fuss with parchment, a silicone baking mat might be a nice addition to your kitchen. Our previous winner, the DeMarle Silpat U.S. Half-Size Non-Stick Silicone Baking Mat ($22.35), is still our favorite. This mat performs beautifully, fits perfectly in a baking sheet, and is dishwasher-safe.
We tested five silicone baking mats priced from $8.99 to $24.39, pitting them against our favorite parchment paper, King Arthur Flour Parchment Paper 100 Half-Sheets, and our favorite baking sheet, the Nordic Ware Baker's Half Sheet. We made tuile cigars and multiple batches of cookies (both sugar and chocolate chip) and roasted potatoes and salmon. We also washed the mats according to manufacturer instructions. We evaluated the mats on performance and ease of use. All models were purchased online, and they appear in order of preference.
Performance: We evaluated how well and consistently the mats baked the cookies and roasted the potatoes and salmon.
Ease of Use: We evaluated how easily the mats fit in our winning baking sheet, how stable they were within the sheet, and how well they resisted odors and grease buildup.
This mat—the gold standard in many restaurant kitchens—produced beautifully browned food and made it truly easy to remove baked goods and roasted foods. But it proved its value with a couple of simple details: It fit perfectly in our favorite baking sheet, stayed put thanks to its heavier weight, and was dishwasher-safe, reducing the buildup of residual oils and odors.
This mat performed identically to our winner and fit our baking sheet equally well. But it wasn't dishwasher-safe, so more grease built up and residual odors were stronger and more noticeable in later baked goods.
Like our winner, this inexpensive mat made great cookies, potatoes, and salmon. It fit nicely in a baking sheet and was dishwasher-safe, which helped minimize grease buildup and odor retention. But at nearly half the weight of the other models, it was less stable in the baking sheet, making for slightly trickier tuile construction.
This mat made great food and released it effortlessly, but it was a little undersized, limiting its usable area and leaving a border of bare baking sheet. Also, it had to be washed by hand, so grease built up over time and residual odors were stronger than with dishwasher-safe mats.
The largest mat in our lineup, this model mostly did a good job of baking, roasting, and releasing food, and it was dishwasher-safe, which helped reduce odor and grease retention. But it was a bit too long for our baking sheet, making cookies whose ends curved upward as much as the mat did.