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Barbecue Basting Brushes

From Summer Pork Supper

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

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.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*