7 Best Cooking Torches | January 2017
- basic enough for beginners
- die cast aluminum
- a bit hard to refill
|Rating||4.2 / 5.0|
- reliable safety lock
- great for gratins and meringues
- only uses sterno brand butane
|Rating||3.9 / 5.0|
- works with standard butane canisters
- simple trigger-style ignition
- no insulation at tip
|Rating||4.1 / 5.0|
- large control knob
- one-click trigger
- can't work at any angle
|Rating||4.5 / 5.0|
- long 200-minute burning time
- uses easy-to-refill butane gas
- anti-flare-up protection
|Rating||4.8 / 5.0|
- attachable base for hands-free work
- childproof safety lock system
- can also be used as a cigar lighter
|Rating||4.7 / 5.0|
- very well-reviewed by owners
- comes with lifetime warranty
- guaranteed to be flavor-neutral
|Rating||4.5 / 5.0|
How Cooking Torches Work
Cooking torches work in a similar manner to larger, industrial blow torches. They are loaded with a pressurized canister of butane, propane or propylene gas and then a trigger or dial of some sort is used to release and control the flow of gas. Most have holes in the exit nozzle to introduce air to the fuel, which allows it to burn better and hotter. Some cooking torches also allow you to control the amount of air pulled in through the holes as a secondary method of adjusting the intensity of your flame.
The ignition system is similar to what you find in a gas BBQ. The Piezo effect is used to generate a spark that ignites the fuel and starts the fire. Some cooking torches require you to constantly hold down the trigger to release the gas, while others have a trigger lock, which allows you to relax your hand or even set it down when you are working without extinguishing the flame.
Despite their small size, cooking torches can burn at temperatures over 2,000° F, which is more than enough for any type of culinary use. To put that in perspective, caramelization of the sugar on top of a Crème brûlée, takes place at between 230° F and 320° F.
Choosing The Right Cooking Torch
Cooking torches come in many shapes and sizes, but they are all designed to accomplish the same thing. When trying to decide which one is best for you, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. If you think you will be using one often and holding it for long periods of time, you'll probably want to keep your eye out for a smaller, lightweight model to avoid hand fatigue while you work. Try and purchase one that feels comfortable in your hand as well.
Another good idea is to pick one with a stable base and a trigger lock, so you can set it down as needed while you work, without having to relight it every time you pause for a moment. Buying one with an adjustable flame is also a good idea. This will give you more precise control of the heat and allow to get that perfect char with less chance of burning your food.
You'll also want to learn about the different properties of each fuel type, so you can decide which you prefer. Some feel butane leaves an unpleasant after taste, but finding propylene and propane gas canisters in the right size can sometimes be difficult. If you prefer to go with one that uses one of these gases, check the availability of fuel in your area or you may have to purchase them online.
After that, other features to look out for in a cooking torch will come down to your wants and budget. If you don't mind spending a bit more, there are some great models that have a fuel gauge, so you can always be ready with another canister before you run out. The ability to work while inverted is another handy feature that some cooks may appreciate. If all you are doing is toasting the top of a meringue, this won't matter so much. On the other hand, if you need to be able to sear the sides of a piece of meat evenly, this feature could be invaluable.
Fun Uses For A Cooking Torch
Caramelizing the sugar on top of a crème brûlée might be what comes to mind when most people think of using a cooking torch, but there are actually a wide range of ways to use one in the kitchen, many of which are suitable for even the most amateur home cooks. Making s'mores indoors would be a perfect example. Using a cooking torch, you can achieve the same charred flavor on a marshmallow that you would find on one roasted over an open camp fire.
They can be used to sear tomato skins to add some depth of flavor to what might have otherwise been a boring dish. If you have made a casserole or soup that would be perfect with some melted cheese on top, just sprinkle it on, hit it with the torch, and in a few seconds you'll have a nice cheesy topping.
Fire roasting a pepper is another ideal way for the average home cook to use a cooking torch. Whether you are making a hamburger, infusing an olive oil with flavor, or just looking for a fun addition to a salad, charring a pepper before adding it will enhance the dish.
Sous-vide is an interesting new cooking technique that has popped up in kitchens across the world. While it might be one of the best ways to achieve a perfectly cooked, fall-apart tender cut of meat, it often leaves them with a very one-dimensional flavor. Using a cooking torch to finish off the meat can allow you to achieve that eye-pleasing sear and mouth-watering flavor that only fire can provide.
Some other fun uses include glazing sugar or fruit on top of a ham, browning the top of meringues and tarts, flash searing a piece of fish, toasting breadcrumbs, and torching wood to impart a smoky flavor to a dish or cocktail.