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It’s grilling season, and if you’re planning to marinate your meat before throwing it on the grill, you want to get as much of it on there as possible. That’s where basting brushes come in. They look like big paintbrushes, but instead of paint, it’s your favorite sauce or marinade, and the meat is your canvas.
Basting brushes differ slightly from pastry brushes in that they’re typically longer and made of heat-resistant silicone—a key quality when you’re working over a hot grill. Silicone basting brushes, as well as their natural-bristled counterparts (like boar hair brushes), are the most common types available on the market. There are a lot of reasons to love silicone basting brushes, however. For starters, they're easier to clean and are typically heat-resistant.
But regardless of the bristle material, a long handle is key for protecting your hand from the heat of the grill. Furthermore, densely packed bristles mean you don’t have to dip into the marinade nearly as much to coat your food.
I chose the basting brushes highlighted below by consulting reviews and product information across a variety of retailers. I put my choices to the test on my portable Weber grill while making steak and chicken kebabs. I then reviewed and ranked them according to criteria like design, heat resistance, and ease of cleaning. I awarded Williams Sonoma BBQ Basting Brush the top spot based on its performance and how it met the testing criteria.
To help you narrow down your choices, here are some of the best basting brushes out there.
Best Overall: Williams Sonoma BBQ Basting Brush
What We Love: Long handle, sleek look, interchangeable heads
What We Don’t Love: Expensive
Winner, winner, chicken (kebab) dinner! This basting brush has it all: a long handle that keeps your hands cool when basting over the grill, two different types of silicone heads, and a sleek look that ties it all together. I ended up using the thin bristle brush head since the marinade I made was also thin, but the thick bristle head is perfect for thicker marinades and sauces. It’s like having two brushes in one, and I can see the thin bristles also being ideal for vinaigrettes or melted butter. The handle was the longest of all the basting brushes I tested, which meant that my hand was far away from the heat of the grill when basting.
Superior quality and craftsmanship come at a price, and it’s a literal one in this case: The Williams Sonoma BBQ Basting Brush is the most expensive basting brush I tested. But, if you’re willing to splurge or wait for a sale, it’s well worth it. It applied marinade smoothly onto my shish kebabs with just a dip or two, and I imagine it’d work just as well on larger pieces of meat or fish.
"This basting brush checks all the boxes: a long handle that stays cool while grilling, heat-resistant bristles, two sets of bristles for thin and thicker marinades, and a sleek look."
Brush Size: 1.75 inches | Bristle Material: Silicone | Handle Length: 14.25 inches | Handle Material: Stainless steel shaft with POM handle | Heat Resistance: Up to 450 degrees F | Dishwasher-Safe? N/A
Best Overall, Runner Up: All-Clad Silicone Brush
What We Love: Stylish design, fine bristles offer versatility, soaks up a good amount of sauce
What We Don’t Love: Expensive, tough-to-remove sticker residue
This All-Clad Silicone Brush gets some serious style points for its brushed stainless steel handle, which is comfortable to hold, but it’s more than just a good-looking tool. It can stand up to the heat of a grill, and the fine bristles soak up a fair amount of marinade. I can also see these silicone bristles being used to brush butter over biscuits or an egg wash on a homemade pie crust.
Sleek and functional as it is, this contender for Best Overall falls just short of the Williams Sonoma BBQ Basting Brush because of its shorter handle and the fact that it comes with just one brush head. That said, if those two qualities aren’t important to you, this basting brush won’t disappoint—though note that like the Williams Sonoma brush, it is a little pricey. Another small thing to note is that it comes with a sticker on the handle that doesn’t peel off easily, but I was able to remove it with some (intense) scrubbing under warm water.
"This is a great well-rounded option, offering high-heat resistance that’s perfect for grilling, plus fairly fine silicone bristles that could also be used for egg washes or butter when baking."
Brush Size: 2 inches | Bristle Material: Silicone | Handle Length: 9 inches | Handle Material: Brushed stainless steel | Heat Resistance: Up to 450 degrees F | Dishwasher-Safe? Yes
Best Budget: KUFUNG Silicone Basting Brush
What We Love: Simple design, compact, easy to clean
What We Don’t Love: Short handle
Tiny but mighty, the KUFUNG Silicone Basting Brush is the smallest of the bunch, but also the cheapest. Despite its small size, it held a good amount of liquid. The small size is beneficial if you have limited storage space, and it also makes it easier to clean since it has fewer bristles. Plus, it’s a bright red color, which makes it easy to find in a kitchen utensil drawer.
Given the small size, I had to dip into the marinade a few more times than when I was using the other options, but I didn’t mind too much. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option that gets the job done, this little red basting brush is a good pick. Sure, I wish the handle was longer for basting over the grill, but if you baste beforehand you don’t even need to worry about that.
"While it holds the least amount of liquid due to its small size, this also meant that it was the easiest to clean because it had the least amount of bristles."
Brush Size: 1.25 inches | Bristle Material: Silicone | Handle Length: 7 inches | Handle Material: Silicone | Heat Resistance: Up to 480 degrees F | Dishwasher-Safe? Yes
Related: The Best Grilling Tools
Best Set: GIR Silicone Basting Brush, Set of 2
What We Love: Two different sizes, nice blue color, perforated flaps for extra liquid retention
What We Don’t Love: A bit pricey
This set of basting brushes comes in a lovely blue hue, with two different sizes for handling a variety of tasks. I ended up using the larger of the two because of the longer handle and bigger bristles, but the smaller one would have worked as well—it’s about the same size as our budget pick. The all-silicone construction feels high-quality, and the perforated flaps in the bristles helped with liquid retention.
All that said, this set was on the pricier side of the different options tested. But if you’re willing to splurge a little, find it on sale, or would like two brushes for savory and sweet sauces, it is a high-quality, effective option. You can also reserve the smaller brush for pastry applications and keep the larger one with your grilling stuff. (The longer handle and bigger bristles of the latter are definitely an advantage for grilling applications.)
Since these were silicone brushes, they were easy to clean by hand, but you can also throw them in the dishwasher.
"Only one dip into the marinade was needed to fully coat each shish kebab, and the long handle made it easy to use over the grill without getting hot."
Brush Size: 2.4 inches and 1.6 inches | Bristle Material: Silicone | Handle Length: 13 inches and 6 inches | Handle Material: Platinum-grade silicone | Heat Resistance: Up to 550 degrees F | Dishwasher-Safe? Yes
Best Mop: GrillPro Flexible Handle Basting Mop
What We Love: Excellent liquid retention, precise application, long handle
What We Don’t Love: Unnecessary flexible handle
If getting a whole lot of marinade onto whatever you’re about to grill is your number one goal, look no further than the GrillPro Flexible Handle Basting Mop. The density of the bristles combined with the round, mop-like shape allows it to hold an impressive amount of liquid without actually absorbing the marinade like the other mop-style brush we tested (more on that below). It also offers a more precise application compared with the other mop brush I tested given the slightly tapered shape.
At first glance, the flexible handle that can be bent into different angles seems like an appealing feature. While it certainly stands out from the other basting brushes, I didn’t end up finding a use for it. For me, it’s unnecessary but maybe for small grills or food that’s in a tight corner, there is an application. The long handle was a plus as it kept my hand cool when basting over the grill, and while the dense brushes made it a little more difficult to clean, it was still easier than any of the non-silicone brush options.
"I found this round brush to have all the advantages of the other mop brush (such as great liquid retention) without the pain points of imprecise application. ... It’s a great design for applying a lot of marinade in a precise manner."
Brush Size: 1.75 inches | Bristle Material: Silicone | Handle Length: 12.5 inches | Handle Material: Silicone | Heat Resistance: Up to 500 degrees F | Dishwasher-Safe? Yes
Related: The Best Grill Brushes
Best Boar: Tezzorio Boar Bristle Basting Brush with Lacquered Hardwood Handle
What We Love: Classic look, comfortable grip, versatile
What We Don’t Love: Difficult to clean, takes forever to dry
One of just two non-silicone basting brushes that I tested, the Boar Bristle Basting Brush is a versatile option for baking and grilling. It’s delicate enough to brush butter onto pastry, and its liquid retention is ideal for basting thin marinades onto kebabs. This basting brush felt elegant in my hand, and when I used it to baste shish kebabs I almost felt like an artist.
The exceptional liquid retention of this boar bristle brush ended up being an issue when it was time to clean it. I found that the bristles were still moist a day after cleaning and sitting on a drying rack and eventually had to use a paper towel to get it to fully dry. Additionally, this basting brush isn’t dishwasher-safe, and despite being fairly gentle when handwashing, I experienced some shedding with the bristles. In the end, I still think this is a versatile brush that has both pastry and grilling applications, though for the latter I’d rather go with silicone if you’re using a thicker marinade or sauce.
"This boar bristle brush feels elegant in your hand, and using it to baste shish kebabs feels almost artistic. It holds a good amount of liquid for being a small brush, but the downside is that it takes forever to dry when washing it. I also experienced some shedding."
Brush Size: 1 inch | Bristle Material: Boar Hair | Handle Length: 9.75 inches | Handle Material: Wood | Heat Resistance: Up to 500 degrees F | Dishwasher-Safe? No
Related: The Best Grill Tongs
At under $10, the KUFUNG Silicone Basting Brush is a simple yet affordable option for your basic basting needs. If you’re looking to splurge a little for a high-quality grilling tool, look no further than our best overall pick, the Williams Sonoma BBQ Basting Brush.
What Are the Other Options?
Miso 18-Inch Grill Basting Mop: I had high hopes for this grilling mop, because it definitely stood out from the bunch. A little mop! For grilling! I’d never seen anything like it and was excited to give it a try—but I found that there were a few issues. First off, it makes a mess. Perhaps you'd have better luck using this basting mop to slather marinades on large pieces of meat, but I was making shish kebabs, which means the marinade got everywhere. Second, it’s a pain to clean. It includes four replacement heads, which should have been my first sign that cleaning was going to be a beast. There are no specific cleaning instructions in the product listing, and my handwashing efforts yielded frustrating results.
How We Tested
I prepped and grilled three sets of kebabs following this recipe for Beef Kebabs on Simply Recipes. I made beef kebabs and chicken kebabs using the same marinade. For each type of kebab, I marinated the proteins for several hours, then applied even more marinade once they were threaded onto the skewers. I tested each of the basting brushes at room temperature and over the grill, noting my findings throughout the testing process. After the grilling was done, I hand-washed the basting brushes.
I then recorded what I liked and didn’t like about each basting brush and rated each one on the following features: Design, Liquid Retention, Heat Resistance, Ease of Cleaning, and Overall Value. Learn more about how we test products.
What to Look for When Buying Basting Brushes
In testing, small, densely packed bristles usually meant a basting brush had better liquid retention. And better liquid retention means you’ll spend less time having to dip into your marinade over and over again and more time slathering marinade over kebabs. Silicone bristles are great for their heat resistance and make for easier cleanup than natural bristle brushes. As far as size goes, larger basting brushes typically have more liquid retention, and if you’re basting directly on the grill, a long handle is helpful to keep your hands from getting too hot.
The basting brushes we tested either had a silicone or wood handle, and both were comfortable to hold and use. Silicone handles offer a little more grip and have the advantage of being dishwasher-safe for easy cleanup. A long handle is ideal if you’re basting directly over the grill but, not necessary if you’re not.
Depending on your grill, the surface temperature can reach 450 to 650 degrees Fahrenheit. As Paris Hilton would say, that’s hot. Again, if you’re planning on basting kebabs directly over the grill, it’s important to check to see if your basting brush is marked for heat resistance (and to what temperature) and to keep an eye on your grill surface temperature if possible. The last thing you want is melted plastic on your food.
Ease of Cleaning
Many of the options tested in this roundup are marked as dishwasher-safe, so cleanup couldn’t be easier. For the non-silicone options like the boar brush and mop, you need to take a little more care in hand-washing to help ensure their longevity. These brushes also took much longer to air dry than the silicone ones.
How do I clean a basting brush?
Dish soap and hot water are your friends when cleaning marinade and raw meat juice off a basting brush. “I make sure to use my fingers to agitate the bristles”, says Mike Lang, grilled food photographer based in Dayton, Ohio, and who is also the writer of the grilling blog Another Pint Please.
“If the brush is really dirty, the top rack of the dishwasher is an easy destination.” For natural bristle brushes that are not dishwasher-safe, take care when washing by hand to minimize shedding.
What’s the difference between a pastry brush and a basting brush?
While these are interchangeable terms by both retailers and grilling pros, Lang draws the line when it comes to the bristles. “I consider anything with a stiff, often natural, bristle a pastry brush and anything silicone a basting brush,” he says. If you have a pastry brush already, check to see if it’s marked as heat-resistant before trying to brush on a marinade over the grill—you don’t want to end up with melted bristles.
What can I use besides a basting brush?
If you don’t have a basting brush handy and need to apply some oil onto proteins or vegetables, Lang notes that clean fingers are a handy substitute. If it works, it works, right? For a thicker sauce or marinade, he recommends a long serving spoon or a pair of tongs if you’re in a pinch as they can help slather it on decently well.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Abigail Abesamis Demarest is a freelance journalist who specializes in food and drink content. She interviewed grilling experts to learn about what the pros look for in grilling tools, and she’s always keen to share this knowledge with readers. In the summertime, she helps her husband make grilled burgers and sausage at their lake house.
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