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When buying a silicone pastry / basting brush, look for the grooves

I love silicone. For cooking and baking, that is; not for breast augmentation as I certainly don’t need one. Over the past few years, I’ve been gradually shifting to silicone baking pans. I have discarded the old metal kitchen tongs and have been using silicone tongs for two years or so. I have also thrown away my old pastry / basting brushes in favor of just one silicone brush. It’s durable and it’s easy to clean. And there are so many pretty colors to choose from.

If you’ve used pastry / basting brushes with natural bristles, you’d know how difficult they are to clean. Getting the grease out — they do get greasy especially on the barbecue — is a headache. I used to soak my brushes in hot water but even that didn’t always get the grease out. I’ve tried brushes with nylon bristles too. Same problem. And when I soaked them in hot water, the nylon bristles melted in the heat and got glued to each other. So when I discovered silicone pastry / basting brushes, I never looked back. I dip the brush in boiling water for about a minute then wash it in warm sudsy water and it’s squeaky clean. And I’ve been using just one brush for about two years.

A month or so ago, I was watching Alton Brown in Good Eats and he was extolling the virtues of silicone pastry / basting brushes. The only problem, he said, was that because silicone is so smooth, when you try to use it with very thin liquids (such as melted butter), the liquid just slides down the bristles and drip off before it can be brushed on the food. In all the years that I have been using a silicone brush I have never had that problem. Why?

Look closely at my silicone brush.

The bristles look rounded, don’t they? Like little tubes. Surely, they can’t hold any thin liquid for more than two seconds. Surely, that means I have to hold the bowl of liquid in one hand and the brush in the other and keep them close together while brushing the food with the liquid. Otherwise, it gets messy as most of the liquid will drip off before reaching the food. Right? Not really.

While one side of the bristles are rounded and smooth, the other side has grooves.

See them? Here’s another photo.

See them now?

Okay, those grooves which run through the entire length of each and every bristle act like scoops. If you dip the brush in liquid, say melted butter, scoop the liquid and hold the brush horizontally as you move it toward the food you intend to brush the liquid on, the grooves hold the liquid well.

So, if you’re thinking of getting a silicone pastry / basting brush, check the bristles from the front and the back, and look for the grooves. If you don’t find any, search some more. Otherwise, if you settle for the ones with smooth, rounded, tube-like bristles, it will be as Alton Brown described in Good Eats. Brushing or basting will take twice as long, with twice as many movements from bowl of liquid to food and it’s going to be plenty messy.

Where did I buy my brush? Now, that’s a problem. I don’t remember. I don’t remember how much it cost either. I do try to take note of things like that, you know, because you never know when someone asks about them. But then, I never really thought I’d be writing about something as seemingly inconsequential as a silicone brush until Alton Brown mentioned what’s wrong with most silicone brushes.

But, surely, the brush has a brand? Another problem. The pretty little thing doesn’t have the brand etched anywhere on it. I’m sure the packaging clearly stated the brand but that packaging had gone to the trash long ago. If it’s any help, I only go to three places for my baking equipment — Gourdo’s, Living Well and Cooks Xchange. Occasionally, but quite rarely, Kitchen World at the Eastwood Mall and at the Landmark at TriNoma too.