What to Use If You Don't Have a Basting Brush
No brush? Not a problem: The solution is in your kitchen
Are you working on a recipe that requires a basting brush? Don't sweat it if you don't have one (or can't find yours). You probably have several items in your kitchen that you can use instead. A basting brush is used to coat the top of foods with oils, glazes, marinades, sauces, or egg washes. So, you just need to find something that'll do that same job, and you're in business.
Any of these options will work just as well as a store-bought basting brush—and costs a lot less—and won't leave you with a messy cleanup.
You can use lettuce, celery, and sprigs of various herbs as a makeshift brush for savory dishes. Use leafy green "basting brushes" for marinades, sauces, and oils when basting meats or vegetables. You can even pick herbs straight from the garden to baste meat on the grill.
These work particularly well with oils, melted butter, and egg washes. Just ball up the paper towel, and soak the bottom corner in your basting liquid. Gently rub this over your food as needed. Thick napkins will also work in a pinch, but they may be more prone to falling apart, so make sure you don't end up with little pieces of paper in your food.
Grab a coffee filter, and use it just like a paper towel. Since the material is thinner and more likely to tear, it's best to save this trick for when you're working with thinner liquids.
A Clean, Unused Paintbrush
Bristled basting brushes are very similar to an ordinary paintbrush, so this is a perfect alternative. Just be sure to stick to a new paint brush. You don't want to use one that's been dipped in paint or some other chemical. And watch for any bristles that may fall out into your food. (This is a common issue with kitchen-grade brushes, too). Just pick them out, and you're good to go.
A Freezer Bag
Toss the food that needs to be basted into a freezer bag with the basting liquids, seal it up tight, and then give it a good shake to coat the food. Toss the bag when you're done.
In a pinch, your fingers can also be used as a basting brush. Just wash your hands well before you touch the food. Then, use a spoon to drizzle your basting liquid on the dish, and work it in with your fingers. Note that this is not a good idea over the open flame of a grill.
If—despite all of these suggestions—you decide to add a basting brush to your collection of kitchen tools, look for one that's made of silicone. It'll save you the hassle of trying to clean oily liquids out of your basting brush and will last a long longer.