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There are various reusable baking/parchment paper substitutes on the market now, and a quick trawl through Aliexpress reveals at least three kinds:

  • Cloth, reinforced with fiberglass (very cheap, from $1)
  • Silpat-style mixed silicone and fiberglass mats (from $4)
  • "Pyramid/fat reducing" silicone mats with a textured surface (from $4)

Is there a meaningful difference between the cloth and the silicone types? The textured/pyramid ones obviously won't be much good for baking anything where you want a flat surface.

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    I would personally avoid fiberglass if it isn't sealed into something. if it breaks into fibers, it is not good. I've only seen it used for insulation and such, not for food uses. The silpat-style ones are the closest replacement to parchment paper, as they can be used for cookies and such, but they add insulation under the cookies which can throw off your baking times and how fast things set before the top gets too dark. – Joe May 15 '17 at 16:49
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    @DebbieM. : yes, the fiberglass is sealed within the silicone. No fibers are on the outside of the mat, so they won't shed into your food (unless it gets damaged). What user110084 mentioned is typical for 'composite' structures (fibers of glass, carbon, or kevlar fixed in epoxy) ... I've done both pre-preg and dry, of all three of those, and there is no way in hell I'd ever use that near food. (we were building car parts) – Joe May 16 '17 at 1:36
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    In my experience the straight up flat silicone sheets are the way to go. Cloth is ok but you get what you pay for. I had uneven baking and some sticking. I've had 2 silicone sheets for 2 years now that are easy to clean and have been through at least 50-60+ bakes with no sign of wear. – kettultim May 18 '17 at 8:40
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    What are you trying to use the mats for? Is this just about having them on hand and trying to determine your best option, or do you have something in mind to use them for? The best option could change depending on what you're baking. – JennieK_NS May 19 '17 at 11:50
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    @WayfaringStranger : when don't use fiberglass reinforced silicone. I think I've seen plain silicone mats, but they're going to be less durable. Or just use parchment paper. – Joe May 19 '17 at 14:26
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The key difference from my perspective is cleaning. Silicone is the easiest material in my kitchen to scrub clean, with the possible exception of stainless steel. Cloth is very far down the list.

Also, depending on the texture of the cloth, more food will almost certainly stick to the cloth, unless it's sealed with something, in which case what is it sealed with? And how is it sealing the fiberglass in?

I use the kind with a thin grid of fibers inside the silicone. It adds more stability and lets the overall thickness be thinner for better heat transmission, compared to a plain silicone silpat. As long as I don't use it as a cutting board, the fiberglass stays safely inside. It does add a very slight grid texture to the bottom of loaves, but it's barely noticeable and doesn't look bad at all.

The pyramid kind, which would reduce food contact and increase drainage and airflow, sounds like it would be good for specific applications, but not something I'd make a batch of cookies on.

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