Anyone who gets into cooking understands that the utensils you use can make a big difference when cooking, baking and grilling. Two of the most confusing kitchen tools are the basting brushes and pastry brushes. They all seem to do the same job, but what is their difference.
Ideally, pastry brushes are also basting brushes. However, the difference in their names comes from the difference in applications; one is for sweet glazes, and the other is for savory applications. Another difference is one is for a high-heat application while the other can only withstand moderate heat. Basting brushes are kitchen utensils that you use to baste or moisten meats such as steak, poultry, fish, and other foods that you are roasting. On the contrary, a pastry brush is for glazing pastries when baking.
Basting Brush vs. Pastry Brush
There are very slight differences between how basting brushes and pastry brushes look but the difference is application. Most cooking professionals have one brush specific for meats and another for pastries. Using the same brush can transfer flavors between your meats and pastries. Here are several differences you might want to know between a basting brush and a pastry brush.
Most professionals use the natural boar-bristled brush to glaze pastries before or during baking. The natural boar bristles can quickly coat egg wash and syrups evenly over the pastry before baking because they are absorbent; therefore, they can hold and transfer more liquid with less dribble. Other than applying egg washes on pastries, you can also remove crumbs with the natural brush, unlike the silicone basting brushes.
A basting brush is a kitchen brush with silicone bristles. You can use it to baster liquids from the hot pan onto a piece of meat while roasting or brush on marinades before grilling. The silicon or nylon brushes do not retain much product, which is excellent when making barbecue or a rotisserie. In addition, it allows you not to drench your meat with the product all at once. If you want to use a silicone basting brush that holds more product, you can get silicon brushes with gaps in the center bristles that carry more liquid.
Also, silicon brushes are better for basting meat because they are better at holding and evenly spreading thicker and sticky sauces and marinades. The silicon bristles also have more flex which allows you to baste into crevices and meat cuts easily.
Both pastry brushes and basting brushes come in a variety of designs and sizes. The handles come in varying lengths of nylon, plastic, or wood. Choosing which handle is best depends on personal preference. Rubbery plastic and varnished wood handles are most common as they have a better grip. A shorter handle is best for detailed pastry work. Pastry brushes with widths of 1-1.5 inches are enough when working with pastries.
For the handle, a basting brush with a handle of about six inches long is advisable, especially if you will be overworking over an open fire, as it will keep your hands away from the heat. When roasting, using a basting brush with a handle length of between two and four inches gives better product coverage. Flat basting brushes also cover a larger surface area, especially when working with large cuts.
Natural boar bristles are usually animal hair, such as a hog or badger. These natural boar bristles that are moderately dense are better for more delicate and precise jobs such as glazing individual pastries when creating patterns or working into crevices. Though loosely packed bristles do not carry so much product, they are much easier to clean.
Natural bristled brushes are also great for thin liquids such as melted butter or olive oil. The pastry brushes are great for pastries because they cannot tolerate extremely high heat, which can burn the bristles and melt the glue that holds them, unlike the basting brushes that are heat resistant are great for using over barbecue fire.
The natural boar brushes also come in different coarseness levels, which can affect the pastry glazing process. The medium-soft bristles will apply the liquid more evenly without tearing the delicate dough surface.
On the other hand, silicon brushes are smooth to the touch, but they are not gentle. They can leave streak lines on dough which makes them unsuitable for pastries. They also do not hold less viscous liquids like oil or melted butter and have less control during application.
Although natural bristled pastry brushes have great qualities, these brushes are not the most durable. Over time the bristles start to shed and can end up in your food. These brushes are also tricky to clean than basting brushes; therefore, they become rancid quite quickly. However, silicone basting brushes are more durable due to their synthetic material and are easier to clean. Thus, natural bristled pastry brushes are not as durable as silicone bristled basting brushes.
Natural bristled brushes are harder to clean due to the size of the individual bristles, which makes them retain odor and turn rancid much quicker. Therefore, they should be washed by hand and allowed to air dry. Similarly, you should clean silicon brushes with non-detachable wooden handles by hand. If the handle is plastic or wooden and detachable, you can remove the wooden handle and wash it in the dishwasher.
The silicone bristles are safer to use over fire than natural boar bristled brushes because they are heat resistant of up to 482°F. Natural bristled brushes are delicate; they burn when held over extreme heat. They can also start fraying if you deep the bristles in very hot oil in a pan.
Basting brushes are also better when applying anything with a pungent smell, such as garlic, because they are non-porous. Natural bristled pastry brushes tend to retain odors which can spoil other foods that you use them on. If the silicone bristles retain the smells of the marinade and sauces, you should replace them. However, most dishwashing soaps can get rid of most odors on a silicon brush.
Technically, you can use the names pastry brush and basting brush interchangeably in the kitchen. However, what makes them different is the jobs they are efficient in doing. When it comes to pastries, natural boar bristled brushes are more superior due to their ability to hold more liquid and gentle application on the dough. However, for grilling or roasting, your best choice would be a silicon bristled basting brush because it can tolerate high heat, does not retain odor, and is easier to clean. Therefore, if you want to buy a brush for baking pastries and grilling meats, consider getting one of each type.