Which kitchen torch is best?
Just about every cooking method outside of fermentation and dry curing rely on heat. Baking, boiling, steaming, frying and all their derivatives use either dry or wet heat to turn raw food into a culinary masterpiece.
There are two problems with all of them, though. You can’t hold an oven, stove, steamer or deep fryer in your hand. And none of them can deliver high heat to just a small part of a piece of meat or produce.
When it comes to cooking delicate foods and preparing meals worthy of a Michelin-star eatery, a good kitchen torch is a must. The best for most cooks is the Iwatani Pro 2, a butane torch that is no stranger to high-end restaurant kitchens. It offers precise two-way flame control and is as reliable and easy to use as they come.
What to know before you buy a kitchen torch
What kind of dishes are cooking torches good for?
You can do a lot in the kitchen with a good torch. The most commonly cited example is the classic crème brulée and its crackling, caramelized sugar, but a quality cooking torch can accomplish many other tasks. You can use a culinary torch to sear steaks, particularly those that have already been cooked in a sous vide machine; put the finishing touches on macaroni and cheese or lasagna; or roast flavorful peppers such as poblanos or jalapeños.
Why are kitchen torches so effective?
For starters, you can hold a torch in your hand for intricate tasks like caramelizing a layer of sugar. Of course, while you could never finish a crème brulée in a pan, you could theoretically finish one under a broiler. The real key to kitchen torches is their precision. You can see the flame and where it touches the food, and you have fine control over both.
Consider searing a steak. Dropping a steak in a ripping-hot cast iron pan won’t just sear it, it will cook it. But if your steak is already fully cooked and you’re just looking for that flavorful outer layer, you don’t want to apply the kind of heat a skillet will provide.
A good culinary torch gives you close control over what gets the flame — and what doesn’t. With practice, using one can help you cook restaurant-quality food.
What to look for in a quality kitchen torch
Butane vs. propane kitchen torches
When it comes to torches marketed for cooking, the overwhelming majority use butane canisters. As long as you choose good-quality butane, it won’t add any off flavors or unintentionally discolor your food.
Then there’s the classic propane blowtorch, which isn’t quite as popular. Nonetheless, propane torches can be more effective for some tasks. This is mostly due to their significantly higher heat output, which does also give them a steeper learning curve. While butane torches are the order of the day for pastry chefs, you’re much more likely to find a propane torch in use at the protein station of a busy steakhouse kitchen.
Good propane torches are also compatible with MAPP gas, which is cleaner and burns hotter than either butane or propane.
Flame size and shape adjustment
Make sure to select a kitchen torch that offers an adjustable flame. The best options usually have one knob that controls the fuel level and therefore the total heat output, with a second setting for adjusting the flame from a pinpoint to wider and more fanned out. Learning to use these settings together lets you get a wide range of things done with a single tool.
Propane torch attachments
Even the best propane torches are usually limited to one control knob. Unfortunately, that means their intense heat is a little tougher to master, but fortunately, there are diffuser attachments that make this significantly easier.
Hands down, the best one is the Booker & Dax SearzAll, which practically turns a common torch into a handheld infrared broiler, making it easy to sear large amounts of meat in just seconds. The SearTeq torch attachment is a great alternative that’s less than half the cost of the SearzAll, and the SearTeq offers a somewhat more focused flame. While it’s a touch more difficult to get the hang of, some cooks prefer it.
Keep in mind that both of these attachments were designed with Bernzomatic torch heads in mind, because Bernzomatic is the clear industry leader when it comes to professional-grade blowtorches. While they might work with other brands of propane torches, there’s no guarantee. And as long as you get the right one, you’ll almost certainly be satisfied with a Bernzomatic torch head, anyway.
One more thing: Only use these diffusers with propane, not MAPP gas.
How much you can expect to spend on a kitchen torch
Plan to spend $15-$30 on a butane torch and up to $60 on one that uses propane.
Kitchen torch FAQ
Should you buy a refillable kitchen torch?
A. Don’t rely on a refillable torch for your kitchen needs. To be fair, some refillable torches produce big enough flames for kitchen tasks. By and large, however, they don’t get incredibly hot and their durability often leaves a lot to be desired. You’re better off getting a culinary torch that uses butane, propane or MAPP gas canisters.
Are propane and butane torches safe?
A. Anything in a kitchen can burn you if it’s hot enough, and in that respect a kitchen torch is as safe as, say, a gas stove. Of course, the torch head will remain very hot for a short while after you use it. Generally speaking, though, torches aren’t dangerous as long as you exercise caution.
The thing to look out for when using a culinary torch is the fuel canister. Again, with proper care they’re safe, but make sure not to leave a canister sitting near tools that could puncture it, or near an oven or other heat source. Even “empty” fuel canisters have enough residual fumes and pressure inside to cause a problem if they get too hot.
What’s the best kitchen torch to buy?
Top kitchen torch
What you need to know: This well-known culinary torch is a staple of many high-end restaurants.
What you’ll love: It’s lightweight, easy to light and works with the most common type of butane canister. Plus, it’s remarkably well made and should last for years as long as you don’t abuse it. Both the size and shape of the flame are adjustable, so it’s perfect for everything from crisping the top layer of macaroni and cheese to caramelizing a crème brulée.
What you should consider: If you find yourself with a lot of steaks that need searing, a propane torch might be more suitable.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top kitchen torch for the money
What you need to know: About as affordable as they get, this one is perfect for occasional use.
What you’ll love: Its two-way adjustable flame makes it easy to switch between tasks. It accepts the same easy-to-find butane canisters most torches do. It doesn’t leak or flare up and should last reasonably long, if you’re careful with it.
What you should consider: It doesn’t have the same impressive build quality that more expensive models offer, so it’s not suitable for full-time use.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: It’s a full-on blowtorch that can deliver enough heat to satisfy professional chefs.
What you’ll love: A precision flame-adjustment knob and trigger-style operation make it especially easy to use. It’s as reliable as anything from widely popular blowtorch manufacturer Bernzomatic and should last for quite a while on a single bottle of propane. If you need to sear a large number of sous vide steaks every day, this is the one for you.
What you should consider: It’s heavy and bulky and requires a bit of practice to wield consistently and accurately. It’s also not cheap, although pretty much everyone who uses it agrees that it’s worth the investment.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Chris Thomas for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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