You may have noticed that sous vide steak has been a current foodie trend for a while now. If not, “sous vide” is a cooking technique that works incredibly well for steaks, along with a wide variety of other foods.
The name is French for “under vacuum.” The process involves putting the food into a special vacuum-sealed pouch and submersing it in hot water. This is a slow cooking process that can take hours, but it results in a flavorful yet healthy steak.
It’s hard to overcook food with the sous vide method, and many people feel that the taste, texture, and tenderness of sous vide meat are superior to that produced by other cooking techniques. If you’ve been having trouble getting that perfect medium rare, sous vide could be the answer you’ve been looking for.
It’s also healthy, especially compared to pan frying. This cooking method doesn’t require nearly as much excess salt, fats, or oil as most other ways of preparing meat.
But there is one issue with sous vide meat, particularly steak: it doesn’t have that outer sear, or the texture and flavor that come with it. That’s where kitchen torches come in.
Why Sear with a Kitchen Torch?
Searing a sous vide steak creates a flavor, texture, and color contrast on the outside of the meat, like you’d get with a steak that was grilled. You can sear a sous vide steak in a pan on the stove, however sous vide torches provide the finishing touch to the sear, allowing you to get a fully developed sear without worrying about overcooking the center. If you’ve invested in a sous vide machine, buying a kitchen torch is a fantastic idea to complete your setup.
Sous vide steaks aren’t the only uses for a kitchen torch, of course. One of their other key uses is for baking and desserts. A kitchen torch is used to brown meringue for dishes like baked Alaska, to create garnishes from burnt sugar, and to prepare fruit compotes from scratch.
But that’s not the limit of a kitchen torch’s utility. You can do all kinds of interesting and creative things with them. They’re handy for melting cheese to the perfect consistency for chili or French onion soup, for glazing baked ham, and even for melting s’mores.
If you love to cook, a sous vide torch can be a worthwhile investment. There’s a reason why they’re so widely used by professional chefs, and with a torch in your culinary sous vide arsenal, you can achieve restaurant quality cooking in your very own home.
Should I Get a Butane Torch or a Propane Torch?
If you’re shopping around for kitchen torches, you’ll probably notice that they use one of two fuel sources: butane or propane. You want the best product you can find for your money, so it’s natural to question which fuel source is better.
What actually really matters here is how hot the fuel burns, more so than what type of fuel it is. Neither propane nor butane will have an adverse effect on the flavor of the meat, but both of these common gas fuels can burn considerably hotter than methane, the key component in the natural gas that powers gas stoves.
What you do want to do, however, is to adjust the flame on your kitchen torch until it turns dark blue. The blue color means that it’s an oxidizing flame, not a reducing flame. This is a chemistry difference that matters for your food. If the flame is yellow, it’s a reducing flame, and there will be hydrocarbons from the fuel — whether it’s propane or butane — that aren’t fully combusted. These can end up in your food, creating an “off” taste in whatever you’ve seared with the torch.
4 Kitchen Torches We Love
There are quite a few kitchen torches available, with different fuel types and price points. You can find tons of them on Amazon, but we’ve found a few specific torches that we absolutely love. Each one is unique, and may be better suited for a particular type of food.
My Favorite: Sansaire Searing Kit
The product description sells this kit as “the most powerful culinary blowtorch ever created for home use.” Whether or not this is true, it’s definitely a powerful, high-grade kitchen torch that’s a great choice for serious home cooks.
This torch is a totally different animal from the kind of basic kitchen torch you can pick up at a big box store. It’s much closer to a professional grade torch, and it creates an exquisite sear on red meat. With a flame that’s over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, there’s no denying that this is one powerful kitchen implement. The torch handle is incredibly high quality and feels quite heavy. You’ll notice an unlock and lock knob which is used to control the flow of propane when holding in the “flame button”, as I call it. In addition, there is also a control lock which will keep the flame going even if you take your finger off of the flame button. This is particularly good for larger roasts that may take some time to fully sear.
The Sansaire Searing Kit ships with a propane tank included. It’s my understanding, however, that you can grab a replacement propane tank from your local store when this one runs out.
Finally, this kit also comes with a nice drip tray which is perfect for searing. I actually use this all of the time for resting steaks and roasts, even if I’m not searing it with a torch. It’s a great addition to the kitchen and another reason why the price on this kit is a bit higher than other torches. Overall, I recommend the Sansaire Searing Kit as an excellent all-in-one solution. If you’re looking for an all-around, multipurpose kitchen torch, it’s a great choice.
Cheaper Option: The Bernzomatic TS8000
For this torch, you’ll need to buy an accompanying fuel tank – the company recommends their own brand of Map-Pro fuel; however, people regularly use standard “camping” propane tanks you can pick up at your local store. The torch is made from durable high quality aluminum, and its adjustable flame knobs are very user friendly. Plus, it’s on-off trigger can be operated with one hand for maximum convenience and safety.
Like the Sensaire kit, the Bernzomatic TS8000 is a great all-around multipurpose kitchen torch, although it’s also effective for totally different applications like soldering. If you’re not looking to dish out as much cash for the Sansaire torch, this Bernzomatic sous vide torch should be your pick.
Awesome Accessory: The Searzall Torch Attachment
This one isn’t technically a full kitchen torch, it’s an attachment that you can use with the Bernzomatic TS8000. But it adds so much functionality that we decided to give it a separate discussion in our list.
This attachment improves the TS8000’s suitability for use with food, since the TS8000 isn’t exclusively a kitchen torch. This funnel-shaped device takes the thin flame from the torch, and puts it though two layers of wire mesh to make the flame more even and consistent. This improves the sear you’ll get on steaks and other food by dispersing the heat evenly across the surface. One of the best ways to get a perfect sear on a steak is to use the Searzall while simultaneously searing the steak on a hot cast iron pan.
If you’re going for the Bernzomatic TS8000, we highly recommend that you pick up a Searzall Torch Attachment along with it.
Cheapest: The Iwatani Cooking Torch
This professional-grade kitchen torch is smaller than the Sensaire or the TS8000, which makes it more effective for more delicate applications like desserts or fish. You can also use it to brown meat or sear a sous vide steak, of course, but we favor this one for pastries, particularly sous vide creme brulee.
Wow Your Guests with Pro Quality Cooking, Thanks to Your Handy Kitchen Torch
If you’re serious about food and cooking, a kitchen torch is a must-have. They’re actually quite affordable, yet powerful and robust. Whether you’re delicately browning a dessert meringue, or creating the perfect sear on a sous vide steak, these torches will take your cooking game to the next level.