Best Pastry Brushes

Updated October 2020
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Buying guide for best pastry brushes

If you love to bake, you need the right equipment, from the apron to the stand mixer to the measuring cups. And if you like to make golden croissants, glazed fruit tarts, and fluffy biscuits dripping with hot butter, you need a pastry brush.

Brushes are handy tools composed of tightly gathered bristles set into a handle. For bakers, there are brushes for scrubbing your work surface, bench brushes for sweeping excess flour off your work area, and pastry and basting brushes for applying liquid, such as a glaze, to food. It seems like a simple device, but there are some things to know before you buy. Some pastry brushes are better for applying an egg wash, others for greasing pans, still others for slathering glaze on a ham, and some that shouldn’t be used on delicate croissants. You’ll find pastry brushes in several sizes, with plastic, wooden, or metal handles, and different types of bristles.

Not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered. Our buying guide to pastry brushes will sweep away any confusion and get you ready for your next culinary adventure. We’ve also included several of our favorites to make your choice even easier.

Egg wash made only with yolks is too thick to spread evenly and could darken your pastry to the point of appearing overbaked. Thin the yolks with a little milk and some salt to boost the shine. Let the egg wash sit in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight to give the salt time to break down and thin the mixture.

Key considerations

Bristles

You want a pastry brush that has soft bristles that hold onto liquids, don’t drip, spread liquids evenly, and won’t damage fragile foods like paper-thin phyllo dough. Bristles that are too stiff can tear delicate pastry, while bristles that are too soft are harder to control. You also want a brush that doesn’t shed lots of bristles in your food.

Boar bristles: Natural boar bristle brushes have long been the preferred tools for professionals. They come in sizes from 1/2 to 4 inches wide, with all types of handles. Sterilized, soft, and flexible, they retain their qualities over time. These natural, highly absorbent bristles hold liquids well without dripping to spread thin washes. If you need precision, look for a brush that tapers toward the tip. The sealed base (in the ferrule) of the brush keeps liquids out so bacteria can’t grow. Boar bristles resist heat well enough that you can brush butter in a hot pan without the bristles getting singed or burned.

On the downside, cheaper brushes can shed bristles into food. You must also hand-wash natural bristle brushes. Do not put them in the dishwasher.

Nylon (or polyamide) bristles: These bristles are bleached, tough, and heat resistant to 300°F. You’ll find flat brushes of 1 1/2 to 3 inches wide with plastic handles. This type of brush is good for spreading thicker liquids over a larger area. Nylon can be as good as boar if there are lots of bristles that taper toward the tip and they aren’t too stiff. Nylon bristles aren’t as likely to fall out. These brushes are very inexpensive.

On the downside, a nylon pastry brush with too few bristles won’t hold liquids well, and a brush with bristles that are too stiff can tear fragile pastry dough.

Silicone bristles: You’ll find these brushes with wooden or plastic handles. These pliable bristles are heat resistant to as high as 600°F. Silicone bristles are positioned and tapered to hold liquids well and not damage delicate pastries. These brushes are well suited to spreading thick liquids over large areas and basting or glazing meats. Those with longer handles will enable you to reach into a hot oven or grill without burning your fingers. The bristles are fastened to a detachable head that comes off for easy cleaning in the dishwasher. Silicone brushes resist stains and odors and stand up to a lot of use and many washings. The bristles won’t shed onto food.

On the downside, you probably won’t want to use a brush with silicone bristles on delicate pastry dough.

Teflon bristles: You’ll find these bristles on pastry-style brushes. They are delicate and similar to boar bristles in some ways. They are heat resistant up to 500°F and good for spreading oil on a waffle iron or panini pan — as well as cleaning these hot appliances.

On the downside, they don’t have as many tightly packed bristles, so they don’t hold onto liquids the way some other bristles do. Because they are tough enough to also clean waffle irons, a Teflon brush would be too rough on fragile pastry dough.

Handle

You’ll find pastry brushes with wood, plastic, and metal handles of varying lengths.

Wood: Classic boar-bristle pastry brushes have wooden handles. Wood is sturdy and comfortable to grip. Some handles are flat, like on the brushes you’d use to paint a wall; others are round. Look for a brush that has a nice balance in your hand and a length sufficient for your intended purposes. A shorter handle of 7 inches or so is fine for coating phyllo pastry with butter, but you’d want a longer handle for basting foods on a hot grill.

Plastic: Some consider pastry brushes with plastic handles (regardless of the bristles) to be more sanitary because the bristles are molded directly into the handle with epoxy, eliminating the hard-to-clean spaces where bacteria can grow. Plastic is durable and long-lasting. Many plastic brushes with nylon or silicone bristles are dishwasher safe, but you should always hand-wash a boar-bristle brush, regardless of the handle material.

Metal: You’ll find a few pastry brushes with stainless steel handles and silicone or boar bristles that are 1 to 2 inches wide. These brushes are the priciest, but they aren’t necessarily any better than brushes with wooden or plastic handles.

Shape and size

Flat pastry brushes resemble small paintbrushes and can have any kind of bristles. They range in width from about 1 to 4 inches. These are good, everyday pastry brushes for applying glaze, egg wash, or butter to foods or greasing pans and molds. The handle length ranges from about 5 to 12 inches.

Round pastry brushes resemble fatter, larger versions of the round brush you might use to paint watercolors. These brushes work well on smaller pastries or for more detailed glazing or decorating tasks, but they shouldn’t be used on very soft foods, such as proofed croissants, because they could damage the dough. Small, round brushes are better for precision work, such as applying an egg wash to the crimped edges of a piecrust. Large brushes are better if you’re working on larger areas, such as covering pizza dough with sauce or basting ribs.

Uses

Once you have a pastry brush, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it. This versatile tool has myriad uses.

Applying egg wash: An egg wash can be made from whole eggs, yolks, or whites, beaten with water, milk, or cream. The mixture is brushed on soft breads and rolls, puff pastry items, and croissants before baking to give them a golden color and beautiful shine. Egg wash is also used as an edible glue, for example to hold sliced almonds or poppy seeds on top of sweet bread during baking.

Sealing edges: Any dough you crimp together, such as piecrust, dumplings, ravioli, and empanadas, can benefit from a brush of water to help the edges stick.

Brushing melted butter: It would be hard to name a food that doesn’t benefit from butter! The right pastry brush can apply melted butter to fragile layers of phyllo dough without tearing it.

Securing decorations: Brush a wash, syrup, or icing on cookies to hold decorator’s sugar or sprinkles.

Greasing pans: A round pastry brush easily gets into the corners of pans and the creases and crevices in intricate molds.

Glazing cakes: You can use a pastry brush to sweep crumbs off cake layers before frosting, as well as to apply a simple syrup to the layers.

Adjusting seasoning: Accidentally pour too much dry rub on your steaks? You can use a pastry brush dipped in water to remove the excess seasoning.

Basting meats: A stiff pastry brush is great for glazing a ham, basting a turkey, or coating a steak with marinade. Note that if you use a pastry brush for basting meats, you should not also use it for baking and pastries unless you want your croissants to taste like Thanksgiving dinner!

Accessories

Apron: ALIPOBO Professional Chef’s Apron
If you’re making bakery-quality treats, you want to look the part. This adjustable pin-striped unisex apron protects your clothes and provides plenty of pocket space for small items you need to keep nearby. The fade-proof polycotton fabric is machine washable, and the price can’t be beat.

Stand mixer: KitchenAid Artisan Series 5-Quart Stand Mixer
With ten speeds, a 325-watt motor, tilt head, flat beater, wire whip, dough hook, and a bowl that can mix batter for over 100 cookies at a time, there is no recipe you can’t conquer. The Power Hub fits attachments like a food grinder or pasta maker (sold separately). This attractive, powerful mixer comes in 20 colors, too.

Pie dish: Farberware Baker’s Advantage Pie Dish
Delicious sweet and savory pies deserve a beautiful dish, and this 9.5-inch teal ceramic deep dish fits the bill. The easy-to-clean glazed ceramic is safe for use in the oven, microwave, and freezer and helps ensure your beautiful piecrusts brown evenly every time

"Another way to apply egg wash is with a spray bottle, a method common in European bakeries since the 1960s. It’s fast, produces a smooth, even application, and poses less risk of damaging delicate dough."
STAFF
BestReviews

Pastry brush prices

Regardless of the type of pastry brush you buy — boar bristle, nylon, or silicone, long-handled or short-handled, flat or round, 1/2 inch or 4 inches wide — you won’t pay more than $20 for it. There are some from restaurant supply companies that sell for less than a dollar each, but most are in the $7 to $14 range.

If you go through pastry brushes quickly, you’re teaching a class, or you’ve recruited an army of helpers for a charity bake sale, you can buy pastry brushes in bulk from restaurant suppliers, such as 12 wood-handled, 2-inch-wide boar brushes for about $135, which works out to a bit over $11 each.

Did you know?
Genuine puff pastry is made up of layers of dough and layers of butter folded and rolled out several times. The result is 729 layers of very light, crisp, and delicate pastry separated by thin layers of butter.
STAFF
BestReviews

Tips

  • Know when to replace your pastry brush. If lots of boar bristles are shedding into your food, it’s time for a new brush! Plastic and other materials can melt, stain, or break and limit the functionality of the brush. If you don’t clean your brush well after each use, particularly if you’re using oils, the gunk left in the bristles can turn rancid, resulting in an unpleasant taste and odor that can end up in your food. If your pastry brush (of whatever type) still smells after you’ve washed it, buy a new brush.
  • Explore the many uses of your pastry brush. Brush an egg wash on loaves of brioche before baking. Grease the bottom of pie pans. Brush a sweet glaze onto muffins. Brush syrup into cake layers. Brush excess flour off your work surface. Seal the edges of ravioli with water. Coat fruit tarts with hot glaze. Brush melted butter onto crostini.
  • Color-code your pastry brushes. If you cook and bake a lot, you’ll want a dedicated pastry brush for each task. Make them easily identifiable by getting different colors, such as a natural boar bristle brush for pastry, a red silicone brush for basting meats, and a white nylon brush for making candy. These brushes are so inexpensive it won’t break the budget to keep a few on hand.
  • Try different brushes. Some people swear by traditional boar bristles while others are solidly in the silicone camp. Silicone is definitely easier to clean, but the right shape of boar bristle brush is perfectly suited to working with delicate pastry.
A hook or hole in the handle of your pastry brush is a nice touch if you hang your baking tools on a rack for storage. It also makes it easier to hang the brush to dry after cleaning.

FAQ

Q. Can I use a regular paintbrush if I don’t have a pastry brush?
A.
There doesn’t seem to be much difference between the two at first glance, and you might be able to buy a paintbrush for less (though there are some very inexpensive pastry brushes out there). Like pastry brushes, there are paintbrushes of better and lesser quality. It’s unlikely that a paintbrush you pick up at the discount store is made of food-grade materials, so you wouldn’t want to use it to spread melted butter or anything else hot.

Cheap paintbrushes also shed more than your Angora cat, not something you want in your pȃte à choux! Paintbrushes can also be too stiff for the work you’re trying to do, and they could tear, stretch, or otherwise damage your dough. It also might be difficult to fully clean grease or food out of a paintbrush. If you’re really in a pinch, you might want to use a (clean, unused) paintbrush that you can just throw away after you finish your baking project. But if you bake a lot, investing in a dedicated pastry brush won’t blow the budget.
 

Q. How do I wash a boar bristle brush that has a wooden handle?
A.
Try to clean the brush as soon after you use it as possible so the glaze or grease doesn’t have time to harden. Also, oils can turn rancid if left on the bristles. If you can’t get to it right away, soak the bristles in warm water. To clean, rub dish detergent and hot water into the bristles, and be sure to clean the base where the bristles are attached to the handle. That’s where bacteria can form. Rinse well. Dry off any metal parts, such as the ferrule, to prevent rust. Blot the bristles and hang the brush, bristles down, to air-dry.

Do not put the brush in the dishwasher. To clean gummy oil out of boar bristles, try soaking the bristles in a mixture of lemon juice and a few drops of dishwashing soap for several minutes, then wash as usual.

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