Experienced bakers and pastry chefs know that the secret to the beautiful golden-brown pie crust is the egg wash. 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, has a place in home kitchens, too.
Pastry brushes come in a variety of styles and materials, including boar bristle, silicone and nylon. Sarah Kieffer, founder of The Vanilla Bean Blog and author of "100 Cookies," says that she prefers a natural bristle brush because it holds whatever liquid she’s using (egg wash, cream, water) better and brushes on more evenly; silicone tends to drip quickly off the bristles and can cause a slight mess. Kate McDermott, James Beard-nominated author of "Art of Pie" and "Pie Camp" also uses a boar bristle brush that she gets from a hardware store, but mostly to brush off extra flour. She prefers to use a silicone brush when applying liquid, referring to it as her “sloshy brush.”
We tested numerous popular brushes to find the best pastry brushes out there.
OXO Good Grips 1.5-Inch Pastry Brush
Soft grip is easy to hold
Angled head prevents bristles from touching countertop
Bristles can sometimes shed
OXO is a brand known for its affordable, durable products. This pastry brush is no exception with its slip-resistant, grippy handle that is designed for maximum comfort. In addition, the sealed base 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 with thick bristles that hold enough liquid for basting large batches of cherry turnovers but are not so thick that the brush is stiff, ruining delicate pastry designs. The angled head keeps the brush elevated so bristles do not touch the countertop, even when we set the brush down during testing. The slight angle also means brushing harder-to-reach areas, like the edges, nooks and crannies of an Instagram-worthy woven pie crust is easier to do. Best of all, it's dishwasher safe, unlike a lot of natural hair bristle brushes.
Price at time of publish: $17
Handle: Plastic | Bristles: Natural boar hair | Size: 1.5 x 8.5 inches
"It is comfortable in your hand, has nice touches like the angled head, and is dishwasher safe. Best pastry brush I tested for all these reasons."
Best Natural Bristles
Tezzorio Set of 2 Pastry Brushes
Nylon ferrules won’t rust
Set of two different sizes
Bristles can sometimes shed
These reasonably priced set of two pastry brushes are made with thick natural boar hair which hold a lot of liquid and brushes evenly when tested. The ferrules, which is the part that holds the bristles to the handle, is made of plastic nylon, which resists water and doesn’t rust or tarnish, and issue with brushes that use a cheap metal ferrule.
The thick varnished wooden handle feels good in your hands. 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 aren’t overly dense, which means it won’t tear the dough or the crust as you brush delicate pastries or seal pie crusts.
Price at time of publish: $16 per set
Handle: Wood with nylon ferrules | Bristles: Natural boar hair | Size: 1 x 7.75 inches, 1.5 x 8 inches
"The Tezzorio brushes have nice soft bristles that are the right amount of density, and the wooden handle is comfortable in the hand."
OXO Good Grips Silicone Basting and Pastry Brush
Center hole bristles help hold liquid
Soft grip is easy to hold
Silicone doesn’t hold as much liquid as boar bristle
Not good for delicate or detail work
OXO makes the best overall brush with its natural bristle brush with an angled handle, so it’s no surprise that its silicone brush is the best silicone brush we tested. Like the natural bristle brush, the silicone counterpart comes with a soft, easy-to-grip handle and an angled head that allows you easily brush your food, whether it’s a pastry before you place it in the oven or barbecue ribs on a grill.
The silicone is heat resistant and won’t shed hairs like a natural bristle brush is prone to do. It’s also easier to clean than natural hair brushes. But silicone doesn’t retain liquid as well as boar bristle, which is its biggest disadvantage. During testing, we found that OXO tries to remedy this with the center part of the brush, which consists of a row of flat bristles with holes in it. These center bristles help hold liquid, and it definitely helps, as this held more liquid than other silicone brushes we tested, though nowhere close to what a natural brush will hold. Still, if you want an easy-to-clean silicone brush that is heat resistant and feels good in your hand, this is the one for you.
Price at time of publish: $11
Handle: Plastic | Bristles: Silicone | Size: 1.5 x 8 inches
Carlisle Sparta Galaxy Nylon Pastry Brush
One piece handle easy to clean
Bristles don’t fall out
Bristles retain fluid
Not dishwasher safe
Not heat resistant
If you are tired of picking natural bristle hair off your pastries, but find your silicone brush doesn’t hold enough liquid, a nylon brush might be your best bet. The Carlisle Galaxy Nylon Pastry Brush is made of one piece of plastic with the nylon bristles epoxy set into the handle itself. The nylon bristles are durable and won’t fall out, unlike boar hair bristles. The thin nylon bristles also hold and retain liquid in a similar manner to boar hair and are way more effective in brushing egg wash and liquids than a silicone brush.
Keep in mind that nylon brushes have stiffer bristles though. If you are doing delicate pastry work or are a little more aggressive in brushing, you might damage or tear your dough. The nylon brush is also not heat resistant like natural hair or silicone, so don’t brush over a hot open flame as they might melt. But if you’re looking for the clean-up convenience of a silicone brush with the brushing capabilities of a natural hair brush, the Carlisle pastry brush is a great choice.
Price at time of publish: $10
Handle: Plastic | Bristles: Nylon | Size: 1.5 x 6.75 inches
Winco Round Pastry and Basting Brush
Round brush holds a lot of liquid
Round shape is good for detail work
Bristles are medium soft and not too stiff
Longer brush is harder to store
Winco’s round 1-inch brush is an ideal brush for detailed pastry work, or for making large batches of pastries. The rounded end of the brush fits into the small, crimped corners of a pie crust and the medium-soft bristles are just the right firmness to push the egg wash exactly where you want it to go, without disrupting or ruining your design. The bristle density is a nice balance of thick enough to hold a lot of liquid (more than a flat brush) but not so thick that it makes the bristles too stiff.
Our tester confirms that the handle is long, which is good for brushing while cooking and keeping your hand away from the heat. The downside is the brush is a little harder to store, as it takes up more space in the kitchen cabinet. But if storage isn’t an issue or you want a round pastry brush, the Winco is a great option.
Price at time of publish: $10
Handle: Wood with plastic ferrule | Bristles: Boar hair | Size: 1 x 11.75 inches
Williams Sonoma Walnut Pastry Brush
Small handle allows for good detail work
Natural bristles hold lots of liquid
Wooden handle comfortable to hold
Hand wash only
The smooth walnut handle on this Williams Sonoma pastry brush not only looks handsome but provides a firm, yet comfortable grip for brushing a little cream over a hand pie's edges for the ultimate seal. The natural boar bristles provide soft, thorough brushing on even your most delicate pastries, and the compact size makes storage easy in your kitchen cabinet as well as allows for detailed work making sure to brush the inside of crimped edges of a pie or tart.
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.
Price at time of publish: $15
Handle: Wood with metal ferrule | Bristles: Natural boar hair | Size: 1 x 8 inches
Best Plastic Handle
Carlisle Sparta Meteor Basting Brush
Handle hook keeps brush from falling into bowl
Thick bristles hold lots of liquid
One piece handle is easy to clean
Large handle and hook take up more storage space
Wide brush makes delicate brushwork difficult
Carlisle’s Sparta Meteor pastry brush has a plastic handle, with the bristles set directly in the handle, for easy clean up. The thick dense bristles hold a lot of liquid but the medium soft hairs means brushing coverage is even and doesn’t damage the dough. The best part of the Sparta Meteor is the built-in hook on the handle. Hook it over the edge of the bowl that holds your egg wash (or other liquid) and your brush won’t fall into the bowl and is easy to grab.
The thicker and wider brush does make delicate detail work more difficult. But that means it also holds more liquid, which is great if you are making a lot of pastries at once, like individual hand pies or turnovers. Less dipping into the liquid egg wash as often means less time in the kitchen doing prep work.
Price at time of publish: $17
Handle: Plastic | Bristles: Natural boar hair | Size: 2 x 9.75 inches
The OXO Good Grips 1.5-Inch Pastry Brush is our top choice for pastry brushes. It has all the advantages of a natural boar-hair brush, with the design detail of an angled head and the added bonus of being dishwasher safe. The silicone bristles of the OXO Good Grips Silicone Basting and Pastry Brush are very versatile and can withstand high heat, though they may not be as gentle on delicate doughs at natural bristles.
How We Tested
We sent these products to be tested in the home kitchen of Irvin Lin. Irvin spent weeks working with the pastry brushes, brushing egg wash on pie dough, puff pastry, and phyllo dough as well as testing the nylon and silicone brushes with marinades and sauces. He tested for durability, shedding of bristles, how comfortable the brush was in the hand, ease of cleaning, and how well they held and brushed liquid. Afterward, he rated each brush on its Design, Performance, Durability, and Overall Value.
Other Options We Tested
- M Kitchen World Silicone Pastry Brush: This is a good quality silicone brush that has an internal grid bristle that helps hold liquid fairly well, for a silicone brush. However, the handle felt thin and cheap, which made the brush feel uncomfortable in the hand.
- Winco Pastry Brush: This natural boar hair brush is a workhorse in the kitchen with a nice thick bristle head and medium-soft bristle. But it initially shed bristles more than others, and the metal ferrule might tarnish or rust over a period of time.
- Consevisen Silicone Basting Brush: This silicone brush set has a thin, soft-grip handle which made it comfortable in the hand. The longer handle is also nice for brushing marinades onto hot food. But the bristles themselves are soft and thin, which did not hold very much liquid at all.
- Royal Industries Nylon Bristle Pastry Brush: This nylon brush is a little too big and wide, which damaged delicate dough. The thicker bristle head also makes it a little more difficult to wash the bristles, which defeated the purpose of a nylon brush.
- Ateco Pastry Brush 1 1/16-Inch Round: This is a great round brush, with a nice rounded tapered edge on the bristle head. However, the bristles are just slightly more dense and stiff than the Winco round brush, making it more difficult to use for detail work. It also initially shed some bristles which wasn’t ideal.
What to Look for When Buying 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 three 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.
Silicone brushes have thicker silicone bristles and are 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. Look for silicone brushes that have a flat inner bristle that has holes in it. These inside bristles help to hold the liquid more than the thin bristles.
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. When considering a wooden handle, look for a grip that will sit comfortably in your hand and be sure to think about how you will use it. 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 offer the convenience of being easier to clean and are often, but not always, 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. But denser bristles often lead to a stiffer brush as well, so it can be a tradeoff.
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.
Silicone and nylon tend to last longer than natural boar hair, but they can become stained or even melt if you're using them repeatedly in high-heat situations. Look at the degradation of the bristles to know when 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, brushing cake crumbs off of cake layers 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?
Irvin Lin tested and updated this roundup. He is a cookbook author of "Marbled, Swirled, and Layered" and an ongoing contributor to The Spruce Eats and Simply Recipes. He runs his own blog Eat the Love and is a professional recipe developer and writer. He is a multiple blue-ribbon-winning pie baker that loves his pastry brushes.
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. Her work has appeared in many publications, including Bon Appetit, Allrecipes, and Wine Enthusiast.