There are certain kitchen tools that might be considered “essential” to a well-stocked kitchen and then there are others that are “nice to have”. A kitchen torch would, for most of us, be in the latter category. In this Cooking Tip, I want to discuss the uses for this tool as well as some shopping suggestions.
One of the main purposes for a kitchen torch is to apply a brûléed top to certain dishes. Another way of saying this is to caramelize the top. The most classic example is as in a crème brûlée. To make this dish, you make a type of custard, sprinkle sugar over the top and, with a flame, melt the sugar and turn it into a crunchy, caramelized top. Although some recipes will recommend using a broiler for this, a kitchen torch is an easier method with more control over the amount and depth of caramelization.
Custards are not the only dishes which benefit from a small amount of torching. Other dishes that you can brûlée are oatmeal, grapefruit, fresh figs, apples, bananas, goat cheese, cheesecake and so much more.
There are more uses to a kitchen torch than just making a brûléed topping. They are an easy way of getting that wonderful melted and brown cheesy topping on a bowl of French onion soup. Those browned tips on your meringue pie are a cinch with a kitchen torch. Another great idea is to torch your mac & cheese topping in lieu of putting it in the oven if you are impatient for that wonderful cheesy dish.
Have you got the makings for s’mores but no campfire? With a kitchen torch, you can enjoy these in a just a few minutes. I have never tried this but some cooks use their kitchen torches for charring the skin of tomatoes and peppers. This will give you a nice smoky taste and make it easier to peel the item. Some even use it to apply a quick final browning to a piece of meat.
Are you convinced that you need to get a kitchen torch? If so, the next question is which one to buy. I have one made by Kitchen Craft but certainly would not recommend that one. It is much too wimpy to be of much good. On the other side of the spectrum is just using a large propane torch that you would buy at a hardware store. That will certainly do the job, but if you are faint of heart (as I am), it might be a bit intimidating.
There are a few things you should look for when shopping for a kitchen torch. First, you don’t want it too heavy to use easily and it should feel comfortable in your hand. The flame should be adjustable so you can use it for many different tasks. For safety purposes, it is nice to have a lock to prevent it from activating when you don’t want it to do so. Although not necessary, a fuel gauge so you can see how much fuel you have is very useful. Take a look at the warranty, too, in case you have problem after purchasing it.
Different sources recommend different torches but there are some that come up repeatedly in reviews. First is the Iwatani Cooking Torch. Rösle is another brand that comes highly rated. A third quality company is Messermeister. Another brand to take a look at is BonJour. They have a few different models.
Do you have a kitchen torch that you love? Let me know which one it is. Do you have any special ways in which you use it? Please share your favorites!