A basting brush is a piece of cooking equipment designed to assist cooks with basting, which refers to adding liquid to food for flavor and to help keep it moist. Most typically, it is done on meat, although other foods can be basted as well. A brush is an excellent way to control the amount of basting applied and to use it efficiently.
The basic design of a basting brush is like that of any other brush, with a handle for gripping and bristles to brush a surface. This brush is designed to be heat resistant, however, so that it can be used in and around ovens and grills. The bristles can be natural or synthetic, with most cooks preferring synthetic ones, especially those made from silicone. To use this tool, the brush is dipped in the baste or marinade, and it is applied to the food to be basted.
The classic basting brush is made from a wooden handle and boar or plastic bristles. Some cooks complain that these brushes tend to hold stains, odors, and flavors, however, and they are also potential bacteria traps, since the design often includes nooks and crannies. The natural fibers and wood should not be cleaned in a dishwasher. To keep this type of brush sanitary, it should be periodically dipped in bleach to kill potential organisms.
A synthetic brush, especially one with a plastic handle, is usually dishwasher safe. It may also be designed with fewer bacteria-catching crannies, so it is a better choice for cooks who want to keep their kitchens clean and sanitary. This type of brush can be molded from a solid piece of silicone that will resist odors, flavors, heat, stains, and freezing.
Although this type of brush is specifically designed with glazes, sauces, and marinades in mind, it can also be used as a pastry brush. Most cooks keep their basting and pastry brushes separate to avoid food contamination, but one made from silicone can be used for both applications, as long as it's thoroughly cleaned in between uses. It also helps to keep a variety of sizes around, to ensure that cooks have brushes for all their needs.