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May/June 2016

Barbecue Basting Brushes

We tested our old favorite barbecue basting brush against five new silicone brushes priced between $8.49 and $14.95.

How We Tested

Long-handled barbecue basting brushes allow you to safely apply oil or sauce to food on the grill without burning your fingers. The winning brush from our last testing, the Elizabeth Karmel Super Silicone Angled BBQ Brush ($9.16), has silicone bristles, which we found work better and are more durable than nylon or boar’s hair. Manufacturers seem to agree, as there are now many more models featuring silicone bristles on the market. So we went back to take another look, testing our old winner against five new silicone brushes priced between $8.49 and $14.95.

To get a sense of how much barbecue sauce the brushes could hold, we weighed them dry, plunged them into a bowl of barbecue sauce, and then weighed them again; we did this three times with each brush and averaged the results. We gauged the brushes’ dexterity by painting both lines and circles of barbecue sauce on parchment paper. We evaluated the heat resistance of both the bristles and the handles and tested how durable and how prone to staining and odor retention the brushes were. Then we put them to work painting barbecue sauce onto chicken legs for grilling.

All of the brushes got the job done eventually, but some were easier than others to use. Handle length was important; we found that 12 inches was just about perfect. Any shorter and our hands got too close to the heat; any longer and we sacrificed control. Handle material also mattered. The silicone bristles were heat-resistant between 480 and 600 degrees (even the low end was sufficient), but the handles were not; we subtracted points for plastic handles that melted after more than a minute of contact with the grill and metal handles that got uncomfortably hot.

In general, the more bristles a brush had, the better its capacity to retain and distribute sauce and oil. Brushes that had fewer than 50 bristles were usually narrower, too, and thus less capable of covering foods quickly. That said, the brush with the most bristles was, if anything, a bit too wide, forfeiting the ability to detail corners or irregular surfaces as a result. And the bristles themselves had to be at least an inch and a half long—shorter bristles limited coverage and were less dexterous, making it more difficult to negotiate curves and corners.

In the end, we still preferred our old winner, the Elizabeth Karmel Super Silicone Angled BBQ Brush, which offered the perfect balance of control and fast coverage. It was light, agile, and precise, and the slight angle of the brush head made for safe, effortless maneuvering over the hot fire, allowing us to paint all the nooks and crannies of the chicken legs without decorating the grill as well.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

$33.31*

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.