Do you need a cooking torch? Probably not — generations of humans have trudged on just fine without access to homemade crème brûlée. But if you do have a kitchen torch, you may be surprised at just how powerful you feel with that little flame in your hands. Yes, it can make a delectable, shattering crust on a crème brûlée, but it can do so much more. Basically, it becomes a powerful, fast replacement for anything you’d use the broil function on your stove for. You can quickly brûlée a grapefruit, for example, by sprinkling some sugar on top and lighting up the torch. Bananas can be caramelized quickly, whether as an oatmeal topping or for a decadent finish to a banana creme pie. It can even quickly “roast” veggie that you’d otherwise have to fire up the grill for.
It’s also more precise than a broiler or grill, too. I have used a chef’s torch to create a perfectly crispy and burnt-in-just-the-right-ways topping to a pie, all while leaving the perfectly golden-brown crust untouched. There are also foods that can’t go in the oven that can benefit from a torch for serious home chefs. Artisanal cocktails can be crafted with the help of a blowtorch, and cooks inspired by history can take a turn at the old-school ice cream-center classic, the Baked Alaska. And, despite how fancy they seem, kitchen torches are relatively inexpensive, making them a great gift for the serious chef in your life. Just note that the torches do not come with butane gas preloaded, so you will have to buy that separately.
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1. Jo Chef Kitchen Torch
A chef’s torch is relatively simple: butane gas stored in the handle of the torch is released in a steady stream that is then lit via a spark. A good torch, like this one from Jo Chef, allows you to control the stream of butane via a knob. In this model, a simple trigger can be pulled to release the butane. An on/off switch makes it safe to store. Designed to be easy for beginners to use, it’s nevertheless powerful enough for the expert home cook.
2. Authenzo Kitchen Butane Torch
With fewer buttons than the Jo Chef model, one knob/button both ignites the torch and then releases the butane. A sliding lever on the side lets you adjust the level of gas and intensity of the flame. The knob/button ignition makes it a bit awkward to light and then immediately start using, but it is also about half the price of the Jo Chef torch. If you are only using it occasionally, you may find the trade-off (and not having a fuel indicator) worth it.
3. Sondiko Culinary Torch
Lighting the same way the Authenzo torch does, the slider can be adjusted one-handed for flame intensity. Once turned fully into the “off” position, it is safe to store without risk of leaking. The continuous flow of butane means you can also hold it from any angle, even upside down, as you try to get to the perfect spot to torch a dessert.
4. TROPRO Blow Torch
The only difference between a kitchen torch and a regular lighter is power. This model lets you have the best of both worlds: A stick lighter for hard-to-reach areas and fires that can bend to create an angled kitchen torch. You can adjust the flame level for each task as well. The shape of the body also allows it to hold more butane than the average kitchen torch, meaning you can go longer between refills.
5. Master Torch Butane Torch
Most butane torches work by being filled and refilled via butane canisters. It’s a relatively simple process, but this butane torch takes out an entire step by allowing you to attach the torch directly to the cannister. If you anticipate wanting to use the torch for a long time, or like the idea of cutting down on the steps in using a torch, this is a great option.