If I was allowed to bring only one kitchen tool to a desert island (assuming that desert island had ovens and sheet pans), it would probably be my trusty silicone mat (I use Silpat). I finally invested in one a few years ago, and ever since it has stood by me through countless nutty caramels and toffees, off-the-cuff granolas, and even a roasted fish or two, giving me confidence that I'll never have to deal with sticky, burned bits.
However, recently my Silpat has begun to look (and smell) a bit, well, funky. But silicone mats aren't super cheap, and I stubbornly refuse to invest in a new one. So, of course, I turned to our hotline to find out the best ways to clean a silicone mat to make it as fresh as the first day I used it. Here's what they said:
First, a bit of scientific background on why your silicon mats get funky with time:
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Silpats (and other silicone mats, duh) are made of silicone, which is why they're so nonstick. As they heat up in the oven, the silicone molecules expand, absorbing the oils (and, consequently, some residual flavors and fragrances) of whatever you're cooking. After they cool down, it's very difficult to remove the oils from the mat; that's why they can become covered in an unpleasant, oily sheen. Thankfully, we've got a few trusted cleaning methods that will have your silicone mat looking (and smelling) new:
Longtime community member MrVittles gave what the hotline voted as the best answer: Scrub your dirty silicone mat with a paste made of warm water and baking soda, let it sit for ten minutes, then rinse. Voila! Fresh and clean.
Food52 co-founder Amanda Hesser recommends soaking your silicone mat in hot water dosed with the juice of a few lemons to give it a deep refresh.
User passifloraedulis got scientific: Warm the silicon mat up in the oven first, so that the silicone molecules can expand and secrete the flavored, smelly oils. Then, while the mat is hot, immediately plunge it into a bath of warm water and white vinegar (or lemon juice). It should emerge smelling like new!
So next time you use your silicone mat to cook some oily (and delicious!) mackerel, don't forget to clean it right—you don't want your next batch of brittle tasting fishy.
How do you get rid of oily residue or lingering odors on your silicone mat? Share your cleaning tricks (or Silpat woes) in the comments!