Pastry Brushes

Published February 1, 2010. From Cook's Country.

We basted, painted, and sniffed to see if our past winner still had what it takes.

Overview:

A few years ago, we recommended our favorite pastry brush for its ability to handle a range of tasks, from spreading thick barbecue sauce to delicately painting egg wash on pastry. We chose eight new pastry brushes, both natural and silicone, and went back into the kitchen to see if any came close.

We tested these models on a variety of tasks: painting runny egg wash on dumplings (folds and crevices included), basting grilled chicken with barbecue sauce, oiling a hot pan, and brushing crumbs from a cake before frosting it. Brushes with thin silicone bristles had advantages, reaching difficult crannies and spreading egg wash easily, but they struggled to pick up heavier barbecue sauce, which slid right off. Silicone models with substantial bristles lapped up thick sauces but handled delicate pastry like a bull in a china shop. Natural boar’s-hair brushes whisked away loose cake crumbs, but that’s all they were good for. As soon as anything wet and heavy hit, bristles clumped. When brushing a hot pan, they shriveled, blackened,… read more

A few years ago, we recommended our favorite pastry brush for its ability to handle a range of tasks, from spreading thick barbecue sauce to delicately painting egg wash on pastry. We chose eight new pastry brushes, both natural and silicone, and went back into the kitchen to see if any came close.

We tested these models on a variety of tasks: painting runny egg wash on dumplings (folds and crevices included), basting grilled chicken with barbecue sauce, oiling a hot pan, and brushing crumbs from a cake before frosting it. Brushes with thin silicone bristles had advantages, reaching difficult crannies and spreading egg wash easily, but they struggled to pick up heavier barbecue sauce, which slid right off. Silicone models with substantial bristles lapped up thick sauces but handled delicate pastry like a bull in a china shop. Natural boar’s-hair brushes whisked away loose cake crumbs, but that’s all they were good for. As soon as anything wet and heavy hit, bristles clumped. When brushing a hot pan, they shriveled, blackened, and broke. (Silicone bristles handled heat with aplomb.)

A good pastry brush has a comfortable handle that’s easy to control at all angles. In our testing, metal handles became slippery when splashed with butter or egg wash. Flat wood and cumbersome plastic handles were less comfortable to use than slimmer, rounded wood and textured nonslip silicone handles. The collars (called ferrules) that surround bristles are important, too: On silicone models they are a single molded piece of silicone, a design that prevents bristles from falling out or food from falling in. But natural boar-bristle brushes are bound by separate ferrules, which often leave strands behind and create a trap for food. Innovative bristles on two models we tested featured perforated center flaps that worked like a child’s bubble wand to hold liquid—but buyer beware: One pastry brush had a stiff central flap that resembled a net, trapping all sauces and never letting go. A better option is the flap on our winner, which separated into three parts, flexing to release liquid. Finally, all the models lay flat except our winning brush—its gently tilted head lifted bristles off the countertop, and this angle also helped us maneuver around pastry corners and chicken wings.

After each test, we ran the brushes through the dishwasher and sniffed. Boar bristles held scents longest (especially after garlic butter), but surprisingly, even some silicone models resisted coming clean. No one wants cake to taste like garlic bread, so this was a major sticking point. Only three silicone brushes were scent-free.

Although manufacturers have released many new models since our last testing, after exhaustive brushing, basting, heat, and smell tests, our original winner once again proved that it has all the right stuff. Its angled head, comfortable handle, light weight, and innovative perforated flaps helped it excel at every task we threw at it. This brush can handle heavy basting and delicate brushing with equal aplomb.

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  • Product Tested

    Results Key:

    Good ★ ★ ★ Fair ★ ★ Poor
  • Prices are subject to change.
  • Highly Recommended - Winner

    OXO Good Grips Silicone Pastry Brush

    This light, maneuverable brush features perforated flaps in the bristles that hold liquid like a bubble wand. It easily trapped watery egg wash, was delicate enough to paint pastry without damage, and brushed barbecue sauce evenly and thickly. Its handle felt comfortable and secure; the angled head helped reach tight spots and kept sauce off the counter when we set it down.

    • Crumbs ★★★
    • Design ★★★
    • Egg Wash ★★★
    • Smell Test ★★★
    • Barbecue Sauce ★★★

    $6.99

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Recommended

    Kaiserflex Large Basting/Pastry Brush

    Thin, flexible bristles delicately painted egg wash without tearing pastry, spread softened butter evenly on baguettes, and painted hot oil on pans. But heavy barbecue sauce dripped off slightly too much, and the metal handle was somewhat awkward to grasp.

    • Crumbs ★★★
    • Design ★★
    • Egg Wash ★★★
    • Smell Test ★★★
    • Barbecue Sauce ★★

    $10

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Recommended with Reservations

    Mario Batali Italian Kitchen Silicone Pastry Brush

    This brush’s big bristles spread barbecue sauce like a champ but struggled to paint egg wash evenly on pastry and tore crumbs from delicate cake. The handle felt comfortable and sturdy in our hands. Great for barbecue sauce.

    • Crumbs ★★
    • Design ★★★
    • Egg Wash
    • Smell Test ★★
    • Barbecue Sauce ★★★

    $7.99

  • Recommended with Reservations

    OXO Good Grips Pastry Brush

    Modeled like our winner, it’s no surprise this brush got top marks in design and comfort. But its natural boar bristles curled and burned in the heat, held smells, and clumped with barbecue sauce.

    • Crumbs ★★★
    • Design ★★★
    • Egg Wash ★★★
    • Smell Test
    • Barbecue Sauce

    $6.99

  • Not Recommended

    Ateco Flat Pastry Brush

    This natural bristle brush is a true pastry brush, gently brushing away crumbs. Its silicone collar held bristles tightly. But keep it away from heat and heavier basting jobs.

    • Crumbs ★★★
    • Design ★★
    • Egg Wash ★★★
    • Smell Test
    • Barbecue Sauce

    $4.10

  • Not Recommended

    Cuisinart Silicone Basting Brush

    The flat, wide plastic handle was awkward and slippery, but this brush maneuvered adequately around pastry folds, and wiped away cake crumbs like a gentle breeze. We had trouble applying barbecue sauce on chicken—its bristles couldn’t convey enough sauce.

    • Crumbs ★★★
    • Design
    • Egg Wash ★★
    • Smell Test ★★★
    • Barbecue Sauce

    $7.99

  • Not Recommended

    Original Kaiser Backform Wooden Pastry Brushes

    These bristles are built like cheap paintbrushes with flat wood handles and metal ferrules, and their performance was weak. These brushes spread oil and egg wash fairly easily, but barely picked up liquid and lacked the bulk to spread barbecue sauce. Their sole strong point, due to the featherweight design, was in brushing cake crumbs.

    • Crumbs ★★★
    • Design
    • Egg Wash ★★
    • Smell Test
    • Barbecue Sauce

    $8 for set of 2

  • Not Recommended

    DKB Household USA/Zyliss Silicone Basting Brush

    Like the top-ranked OXO, this brush has a perforated flap inside the bristles. But whereas OXO has three flaps, it has one stiff flap that struggled to hold egg wash and oil but wouldn’t let go of barbecue sauce. Consequently, pastry became dripping wet, while chicken was barely coated.

    • Crumbs ★★
    • Design
    • Egg Wash
    • Smell Test
    • Barbecue Sauce

    $10

  • Not Recommended

    All-Clad Pastry Brush

    At this price, we expected top-notch performance, but this brush failed every test. The bulky bristles began shedding after the first use. They picked up barbecue sauce and softened butter but refused to release them, and they curled and browned to a crisp in the heat.

    • Crumbs
    • Design
    • Egg Wash
    • Smell Test
    • Barbecue Sauce

    $21.95

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