I purchased a set of mats many years ago when I saw a box on clearance at Wal Mart. I figured for a couple bucks I would give them a try. I have 2 sizes, one that fits a cookie sheet and one that is about half the size that I have never used.
How does it work? Laying on a baking sheet, it prevents the food from sticking to the pan. It also prevents the bottom of cookies from keeping dark.
Is it multi purpose? You can use it as a surface to work on, such as when kneading dough. however, it should not be used as a cutting board.
How much does it cost? Silpat (starting at $20) is the name that started it all, they have been around for years. Wilton has their version for around $10. Other brands can go as high as $60 for a mat.
How do brands and features differ? A big part of it is simply brand recognition. Warranties can differ as well. Depending on the ones you find, they may have measurements marked on the edges. This can be very helpful if using a recipe that tends to spread and you need to ensure proper placement. All mats should be washed by hand and not placed into the dishwasher.
How much space does it require? Rolled up, most will be 13 inches long. Since they are soft they can be squished into tight spaces and several can be rolled up together. Another option is to lay them on your cookie sheets.
Will I actually use it? How often do you bake? Once you get into the habit of pulling the mats out, you will use them.
If you have silicone mats, do you use them very often?