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. In fact, one may argue that sous vide is currently the finest form of cooking available altogether. Especially if one were to write for a website dedicated to sous vide.
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. You may think you’ve tasted steak before, but you haven’t really until you’ve sampled a sous vide steak.
It’s almost impossible 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. Once you try a sous vide steak, it will change the way that you think of steak forever.
It’s also healthy, especially compared to pan frying your meats. This cooking method doesn’t require nearly as much excess salt, fats, or oil as most other ways of preparing meat. It’s a very pure way of preparing the steak that brings in no excess fat that wasn’t already there.
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. It’s entirely possible to bring that texture to your sous vide steak if you need it. This cooking method can truly offer everything to everyone.
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 (to get the same sear on one of those other cooking methods would demand very tricky and delicate techniques). If you’ve invested in a sous vide machine, buying a kitchen torch is a fantastic idea to complete your setup. Otherwise, you won’t be getting the most out of any meat that you prepare sous vide.
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. So, while a kitchen torch may initially seem like a needless extravagance, it’s actually a surprisingly versatile tool that just might transform your menu for the better.
Should I Get a Butane Torch or a Propane Torch?
You may have notice while shopping around for kitchen torches, that they tend to 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. Like all important questions, this one doesn’t have a particularly obvious or easy answer.
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
At long last, let’s explore the finest kitchen torches on the market. There are quite a few kitchen torches available, with different fuel types and price points. You can find plenty 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. If you have specific cooking needs outside of those covered in this article, you might find that another torch is better suited to your needs. However, if you primarily plan to use your kitchen torch to sear sous vide steaks or provide the finishing touches to specialty desserts, the follow torches should fulfill all of your needs.
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 certainly packs a punch and will sear anything that you require quickly and efficiently.
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. You can try to find something that this little beauty isn’t capable of torching powerfully and easily, but you will fail.
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 extra time to fully sear.
The Sansaire Searing Kit ships with a propane tank included. It’s my understanding, however, that you can easily grab a replacement propane tank from your local store when this one runs out. So, that’s helpful.
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. You’ll find that drip tray pays for itself almost immediately. 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. This beauty is tough to top.
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. You can’t beat a one-handed torch. It really is a game changer and once you’ve tried one, you’ll never want to go back to your two-handed torch days ever again.
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 or if you plan on using your torch in more places than the kitchen, then 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. You’ll be truly surprised by what a dramatic improvement is offered by this seemingly simple attachement.
If you’re going for the Bernzomatic TS8000, we highly recommend that you pick up a Searzall Torch Attachment along with it. Otherwise, you won’t be able to get the most out of your torch in the kitchen, which is obviously pretyt important if that’s the entire reason why you’re looking to pick up a torch in the first place.
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. It’s ideal for giving your pastries that final torched touch.
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. Sure, they may sound expensive and extravagant, but only to those who haven’t done the research. Kitchen torches are 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. So, don’t be scared off by bringing a torch into your kitchen. Instead, get excited by all of the wonderful opportunities having a torch around your kitchen will provide. Cooking steaks sous vide simply isn’t complete without a solid torch sear. So if you’re serious about your sous vide and want to deliver the best sous vide meats possible, you’re going to need one of these flaming beauties in your kitchen.
Should I get a propane or butane torch?
Propane produces a wider, easier to work with tongue of flame when compared to butane. It’s also, typically, quite a lot cheaper and allows more forgiveness when searing. Butane torches heat smaller areas, which means they’re good for detail work. With that said, the versatility of a propane torch puts them one step above the rest.
Why should I sear with a torch?
Searing with a torch allows for, much like sous vide, the precise control of heat. Sous vide is also a technique that uses searing to lock in flavour rather than developing a crust for basting, as with pan steaks. Although broilers will do in a pinch, torches allow for the considerate and precise application of heat.
Is it safe to use a butane torch on food?
Lots of folks are rightly concerned about the smell of gas working its way into their food during searing. The trick with any torch, not just butane, is to make sure you don’t overfeed the flame. Turning the dial to the max might feel good, but an overfed flame will lead to a higher likelihood of brisket that tastes of butane, for instance.