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Everybody loves those flaky, golden-brown hues specific to freshly baked pie crust, but you don't get that effect without a little help from a certain kitchen tool. To get beautiful color, sealed edges, and a shiny finish, reach for the pastry brush. A longtime staple of commercial kitchens, the humble pastry brush, also known as a basting brush, is carving its spot in home kitchens, too.
Made of many materials, the classic natural bristle variety preferred by professionals has much to offer, ensuring adequate liquid gathers to make a uniform egg wash or facilitate an even layer of nappage over fruit tarts. There's also silicone, nylon, boar hair, and Teflon, as well as small, angled, and round options with wooden, plastic, and metal handles—each with its own advantage.
Here are the best pastry brushes.
Best Silicone: Consevisen Silicone Basting Brush
Heat resistant up to 446 degrees Fahrenheit
Silicone does not grab liquids
A color-coded set makes designating pastry brushes for various tasks easy with no danger of cross-contamination. The set of four is heat resistant up to 446 degrees Fahrenheit, comes with a convenient drawstring bag for storage and is crafted from FDA-approved silicone.
The advantage of silicone is the bristles do not break or shed, a common complaint with natural bristles. They're also versatile. They easily segue to barbecue basting brushes, too—the essential tool used to spread glaze on roasting turkeys and layer thick marinades.
The drawback of this model is that it's not good on delicate pastries and often can't absorb enough liquid to provide an even egg wash. That said, the high heat capacity makes it great for sugar work. When finished, you can pop these in the dishwasher, making for easy cleanup.
Handle: Steel covered in silicone | Bristles: Silicone | Sizes Included: (1) 10.2 inches, (3) 8.2 inches
Best With Natural Bristles: Winco Pastry Brush
Offers maximum coverage
Hand wash only
Sometimes sheds bristles
When you think of a pastry brush, this classic model is probably what comes to mind. The Winco Pastry Brush has natural boar hair bristles and a thick varnished wood handle that sits comfortably in the hand.
The flat, paintbrush-style shape offers maximum coverage for tasks, like applying egg wash, buttering a pan, or soaking a cake in simple syrup. The soft bristles are densely populated across the brush, but are loose enough to make sure you're grabbing the greatest volume of liquid. This is the brush you want for delicate pastries or sealing pie crusts.
Handle: Wooden with metal ferrule | Bristles: Natural boar hair | Sizes Available: 1 inch, 1.5 inches, 2 inches, 2.5 inches, 3 inches, 4 inches
Best Nylon: Royal Industries Nylon Bristle Pastry Brush
Flexible, but little shedding
Wide base covers surface well
Hand wash only
If shedding bristles is what keeps you from a natural bristle pastry brush, this nylon model is a solid choice. Royal Industries' nylon pastry brush sits in the sweet spot between natural hair and silicone—it isn't as stiff as silicone and dispenses liquids better, but also does not shed like natural bristles.
A nylon bristle brush also offers more heat resistance than a natural bristle model, which makes it a great addition to candy-making tools. The Royal Industries model holds a fair amount of liquid, too, so it's useful for buttering phyllo dough for projects like baklava or oiling bread before it hits the oven. The plastic handle is easy to grip, and the larger size tackles bigger jobs, like basting meats. For best results, rinse your bristles right after using and hand wash with warm, soapy water.
Handle: Plastic | Bristles: Nylon | Sizes Available: 1 inch, 2 inches, 4 inches
Best Teflon: Carlisle Round Brush With High Heat Bristles
Withstands high heat
Does not shed bristles
Not good for delicate pastries
Teflon provides the most durable bristle material choice, but with durability comes some disadvantages in the pastry brush arena. The Carlisle Round Pastry Brush is adept for cleaning hot appliances, like waffle irons or panini grills, with its high heat tolerance and is a wise choice for brushing down boiling sugar from the sides of pots. The bristles are made to withstand temperatures up to 500 degrees, and the handle stays cool to the touch with its polypropylene construction.
Though it's not the right choice for delicate pastries or brushing soft doughs, it's a good choice for buttering and basting pans or spreading thick caramel in the bottom of flan. It also doubles as a cleaning implement for those stubborn pieces of food stuck in your mixer or errant grounds in your coffee maker. It even has a convenient handle loop for easy hanging.
Handle: Polypropylene | Bristles: Teflon | Size: 1 inch
Best Round: Jamie Oliver Pastry Brush
Good for detail work
Ergonomic handle design
Hand wash only
Bristles may shed
When you have small pastries to glaze, a cake to decorate, or really any fine detail work, a round brush is a worthy tool for the job. On the contrary, they're not the best choice for delicate doughs, as the shape tends to put on more direct pressure, which can cause tearing.
This model is quite elegant with its acacia wood handle and natural boar hair bristles. Plus, who wouldn't want a piece of Jamie Oliver’s gorgeous collection? As a working chef and food activist, he understands the power of good tools and backs them with a 25-year guarantee.
The handle on this brush has a curved design for a comfortable grip and is tipped with teal silicone (it comes in gray, as well) with a hole for hanging, which makes for convenient storage. A sturdy choice, the Jamie Oliver Pastry Brush makes quick work of egg washing buttermilk biscuits and mopping barbecue sauce on a rack of ribs.
Handle: Acacia wood | Bristles: Natural boar hair | Size: 2 inches
Best Small: Williams Sonoma Walnut Pastry Brush
Natural bristle material
Good for detail work
Hand wash only
The smooth walnut handle on this Williams Sonoma pastry brush provides a firm, yet comfortable grip for brushing a little cream over hand pie edges for the ultimate seal. The natural boar bristles provide soft, thorough brushing on even your most delicate pastries, and the compact size lends itself to tasks a bigger model does not, like removing bits of citrus peel from your zester or egg-washing diminutive ravioli.
The other advantage of this brush is that it fits small hands well. The slightly rounded paintbrush-style handle is easy to maneuver and control. Like other natural bristle models, hand washing with warm, soapy water is best to preserve its beauty and utility.
Handle: Walnut | Bristles: Natural boar hair | Sizes Available: 1 inch, 1.5 inches
Best Angled: Oxo Good Grips 1.5-Inch Pastry Brush
Angled head prevents dripping
Bristles don't touch countertop when set down
Bristles may shed
Oxo is a brand known for its affordable, durable products. This pastry brush is no exception with its slip-resistant, grippy handle angled for maximum comfort and sealed base that keeps food and liquid from accumulating and causing bacterial growth.
Beyond the intuitive design of the handle, the head is smartly crafted, as well. The natural boar bristles are pliable and hold enough liquid for basting large batches of turnovers, and the angled head keeps the brush elevated serving a two-fold advantage: bristles do not touch the countertop, even when the brush is set down, and drips on the countertop are a thing of the past, which means less mess. It's also dishwasher safe.
Handle: Plastic | Bristles: Natural boar hair | Size: 1.5 inches
The Winco Pastry Brush (view at Amazon) is a top choice because of its pliable natural bristles, flat shape for maximum liquid absorption, and comfortable grip. If you're looking for a brush that won't shed and is dishwasher safe, go for the Consevisen Silicone Basting Brush set (view at Amazon). The sturdy silicone bristles are unbreakable and easy to color code, keep cross contamination at bay.
What to Look for in a Pastry Brush
Bristles play a large part in how effective a pastry brush is in picking up and spreading liquids on your baked goods. You want bristles pliable for even coverage, but do not damage your delicate pastries. Stiffer bristles can tear paper-thin phyllo dough, while very soft bristles are hard to control and may grab too much liquid. There are four materials most pastry brushes are made from, and each has its niche spot in pastry prep.
This natural bristle is by far the preferred material for professional chefs. They absorb liquids well and are supple enough to smoothly glaze any pastry, yet dense enough to soak a cake in syrup. They work well whether the liquid is thick and viscous or thin and runny, and drippage is almost non-existent. The disadvantage of this material is the possibility of bristle shedding over time, and most must be hand washed.
Bristles made of nylon offer the pliability of natural brushes without the danger of shedding, but they do not hold liquid as well. Nylon is adept at spreading thicker liquids, like glazes or barbecue sauces, but can be stiffer than natural bristles, causing the brush to tear delicate pastries. They do hold liquid better than silicone and are a nice compromise if you want something that does not shed, but allows better absorption.
There's a lot to love about silicone brushes, though they are much better for basting meats than brushing pastries. Silicone is usually high heat-resistant, odor-resistant, and dishwasher safe. Typically, silicone models have larger bristles and less of them than the other materials, which causes thinner liquids to drip right off. They're agile with thicker sauces and marinades, and can often be used while grilling or roasting at high heat. The bristles are secure and will not shed into your food.
Another high heat option, Teflon works well when greasing or cleaning hot appliances. Teflon bristles are extremely durable, but their stiffness is a detriment to fragile pastry work. Usually, they don't have as many bristles as nylon or natural material models, so liquids do not hold as well. They're tough enough to clean your waffle iron, but aren't exactly great for spreading a delicate chocolate glaze on a torte.
Pastry brush handles come in three materials: wood, some version of plastic, and metal.
Wood handles offer a firm grip and are often found with natural bristle brushes. Look for a grip that will sit comfortably in your hand, and be sure to think about the job. If you're grilling and basting, a longer handle is needed, but for buttering delicate puff pastry, shorter handles offer more precision. Wood handles usually aren't dishwasher safe.
Plastic handles generally accompany nylon or silicone bristles and offer the convenience of being dishwasher safe. The other advantage of plastic handles is that they're usually grippier than other choices. Bristles on these types of handles are often molded into the handle, which eliminates issues with bacterial growth, and they tend to be longer lasting than other models.
Less common are brushes with metal handles. They tend to be more expensive and are slippery to grip.
Choosing the right tool for the job means taking into account the size. Bristles under 2 inches tend to provide the best combination of coverage and versatility. Longer bristles offer the ability to reach all the crevices on pastries, such as fruit tarts, but can be hard to maneuver when a more delicate touch is necessary. Shorter bristles lack the swoosh factor of their larger counterparts and cover less area, but can aid in detail work and are the right choice for smaller pastries or doughs.
In addition to bristle length, an important consideration is density of brush head. More bristles means it can grab more liquid, keeping reloads less frequent.
How do you clean a pastry brush?
The first thing to do is read your manufacturer instructions. Beyond that, it becomes about the bristles you chose. Silicone models generally need a quick rinse to remove thick liquids, but then go to the dishwasher. Natural and most nylon models need more care. If you opt for boar hair bristles, a quick soak in lemon juice and dish soap will break up any accumulated liquid. Then, hand wash and dry them for maximum durability. Nylon is slightly less labor intensive. A quick hand wash in warm, soapy water should do the trick. Debris left on brushes can harden or turn rancid, so be sure to wash your brushes after each use.
When should you replace your pastry brush?
Again, this depends on your model. It's easy to tell when a natural bristle brush needs to be replaced—if it's shedding, it's time. If your brush smells even after washing, it's time for a new brush. Odors and stains can accumulate, and you don’t want to impart that to your pastries.
As far as silicone and nylon go, they last longer, but can become stained or even melt if you're using them repeatedly in high-heat situations. Look for degradation of the bristles to know if it's time for a new brush.
What else can a pastry brush be used for?
Before we even get into the versatility conversation, be sure to designate your brushes for the tasks you use them for to prevent cross contamination. Don’t brush egg wash on a pie with the same brush you used to bast barbecue sauce on a rack of ribs.
Beyond preventing cross contamination, there are a number of tasks you can accomplish with a pastry brush. Sealing dough edges, applying egg wash, decorating cakes, greasing pans, and glazing are the most common baking tasks, but here are a few lesser-known jobs the pastry brush is up to: removing extra seasoning on proteins, brushing excess flour from your work area or pans, removing citrus peel from zesters, cleaning errant coffee grounds from grinders or makers, and soaking cakes with syrups.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Carrie Honaker is a food writer who has sampled many of the pastry brush options, from natural bristle to silicone. As a restaurateur and avid home cook, she knows the importance of finding the right tool for the right job. She loves her Winco Pastry Brush for its supple bristles and ability to get just the right amount of nappage on her fruit tarts. She also keeps her Consevisen Silicone Brushes for basting guava barbecue sauce on racks of ribs and applying pomegranate glaze to Thanksgiving turkey. Her work has appeared in many publications, including Bon Appetit, Allrecipes, and Wine Enthusiast.