The Downside of All Those Silicone Spatulas


There's a problem with these spatulas.

One of the things that I loved about reading Julia Child’s Memoir, “My Life In France” is her descriptions of her cookware. By her own admission, she was quite the kitchen gadget fiend, and outfitted her kitchen with professional equipment long before kitchenware companies marketed “professional” lines to home chefs. But what really struck me was how durable all her equipment was – her copper pots, giant stone mortar and pestle, and sturdy whisks were meant to last a lifetime.

By comparison, a lot of the stuff in my kitchen is plastic. Spatulas? Plastic. Cutting boards? Plastic. Plates? Plastic (well, melamine). For awhile I had plastic mixing bowls, although I upgraded to those nesting glass ones. Even my new food processor (which I love with the fire of a thousand suns) has a large plastic ring in the lid that allows it to latch closed.

And don’t get me wrong, I love me my silicone spatulas. But especially now that I don’t have a dishwasher, I’ve realized that there’s a big downside to plastic – it smells.

Like, it really smells.

Whenever I chop garlic on one of my plastic cutting boards, no matter how hard I scrub them, they always smell faintly of garlic. My silicone spatulas have a vaguely savory, garlicky smell, borne of stirring various tomato sauces and stir fries. My flat silicone spatula I use for flipping eggs smells . . . well, like eggs. And my Tupperware smells like soap – I’ve actually had to throw some of it away because it made my food taste soapy.

The smell thing is a huge problem for baking – like, if you’re chopping tomatoes on a garlicky cutting board, it’s not the end of the world – but if you’re chopping chocolate or strawberries it’s a big problem. Once I made a vanilla custard that had an “off” savory flavor – it took me awhile, but I realized the culprit was my spatula. Before rolling out pastry, I always sniff my cutting board to make sure that it doesn’t smell strange. And the one time I made a garlicky sauce in the food processor, I had to wash the lid a couple times in the hottest water I could before that plastic implement in the lid stopped smelling like garlic.

So far I’ve dealt with the plastic problem by trying to have separate plastic tools for my pastry and baking, but I always worry that something will leak through and I’ll end up with an off-tasting frosting. The food processor lid is especially worrisome, since I don’t really want to have to buy a separate lid just for processing savory stuff.

I know that plastics are the future and everything – but sometimes I wonder if they’re just creating a whole other set of problems to deal with. Especially for us bakers without dishwashers.

Does anyone else have this problem?



  1. I don’t think my palette is as finely tuned as yours so I have not noticed this. but now I am worried about my guests.

    • moderndomestic said

      Really? You’ve never sliced, say, fruit on a cutting board and noticed that it tasted like garlic? To be fair, plastic doesn’t just have this problem – wood does too. Growing up we had a wood butcher block counter that I couldn’t slice chop fruit on, because it picked up the garlic taste.

      • I can’t say I have noticed. I did grow up in a house where absolutely everything had either garlic or vanilla in it. But I think I would notice if an apple tasted like garlic. Once upon a time before I was way too busy I actually tried to reserve my chopping boards for different things. Even then I think I cut the garlic on the same one as the fruit.

  2. katy said

    I have never noticed this. Have you tried soaking the offending plastic in vinegar (cheap white distilled would do)? Then rinse well? Vinegar both disinfects & is supposed to remove smells. I find the smell of the vinegar itself dissipates within a few minutes. I do most of my cleaning with dilluted vinegar & castille soap mixture.

    Although, I may be like previous commenter & just not have as fine of palette as you!

    • moderndomestic said

      No – that’s a great tip. Thanks!

  3. k8 said

    I flatly refuse plastic anymore. I threw away all my tupperware and invested in glass pyrex storage bowls for this very reason. The spatulas, I’ve learned to live with. Soak them in lemon juice after garlicy or onion-y exploits. Everything else is metal or wooden.

  4. Alice said

    I’m a fan of wooden spoons, which don’t seem to retain smells like that. Maybe for the cutting boards you could dedicate one to savories like garlic and onions. I think I’m going to do that when I get around to buying a second cutting board. I definitely need to start replacing tupperware with pyrex too, but it’s not in my budget right now, sadly.

  5. Bonnie said

    For the food processor lid, boil a big pot of water, dump it in the sink with a little soap and let it soak for a while. This should duplicate the temps of the dishwasher.
    Tupperware has finally come out with a line that does not stair or retain odors. You saw it when you were here. Downside, more expensive and does not seem to go on sale often.

    • moderndomestic said

      That’s a good idea. Although, when I’m making a big dinner, I use my food processor multiple times for multiple dishes, and I can’t do that, say, for five or six washes.

  6. Jill MacDougall, PhD said

    Plastics contain chemicals that contaminate foods. Plastics are made from petrochemicals (gasoline based products) that can leave residues in our foods that alter hormones and become carcinogenic. This is worsened when these plastics are heated as in microwaving. I’m not sure how much plastic is in the silicone products, but I believe there is some, which your blog pretty much confirms, because of the absorption of smell. I use wood and stainless steel as much as possible.

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