Heat gun to sear meat?
April 5, 2011 10:50 AM   Subscribe

Will a hardware store heat gun be able to sear meat?

I've been using the sous vide method to cook steaks, hamburgers and chicken with good success except the browning of the meat. Using a frying pan to do this creates another pan to wash and is a hassle. A blowtorch is another method but may change the flavor of the food (gas smell).
posted by boby to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I use a torch, which I think is pretty standard and I've never had a gas smell. I've heard people complain about that with propane torches, but I use butane.
posted by Lame_username at 10:57 AM on April 5, 2011

I've seen it done on TV. Yes! I now want to try it myself:)

Please report back on your results!
posted by jbenben at 10:58 AM on April 5, 2011

Alton Brown has said a heat gun is an acceptable alternative to a torch on several episodes of Good Eats.
posted by indyz at 11:16 AM on April 5, 2011

I tried Thomas Keller's blowtorch rib roast, which starts with a blowtorch (no gas smell), then finishes in the oven. My inclination is to say sear instead of torch, but who knows, I may be wrong.
posted by Gilbert at 11:20 AM on April 5, 2011

Some blowtorches use butane, others use propane. That may make a difference, although I've never been able to tell in the handful of times I've used my blowtorch for good.
posted by beepbeepboopboop at 11:52 AM on April 5, 2011

I've never tried it but I don't think my heat gun would get hot enough to sear meat in a reasonable amount of time. As others have said a torch would be the more common solution.

I'm assuming you don't have a gas range. If you did you could use tongs and hold it over a burner on high (though I think drips might be more cleaning hassle than washing another pan). I'd ponder whether some of these other solutions consume less time/cost than washing a browning pan.

If you are more concerned about cleaning hassle than cost/environ issues then I'd suggest just putting the cut of meat on a piece of tin foil under the broiler.
posted by phearlez at 11:53 AM on April 5, 2011

As for torches, I've been doing some plumbing, and I got a 2-headed torch with MAP gas. That thing is tremendously hot.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:06 PM on April 5, 2011

Depends on the heat gun. Some heat guns (I'm looking at YOU harbor freight) are barely hair-dryers. Don't expect it to brown exactly the same as using flame, and be willing to sacrifice a little bit of heating control. Anecdotally, this is totally possible; in my days working at a local fancy-pants grocery store, we would make grilled cheese sandwiches and roast chestnuts with heat guns in the stock-room.

A heat gun is an ill-advised manner of heating up a frozen pizza, however.
posted by furnace.heart at 1:04 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've used plumbing/utility torches (both propane and butane) to sear, caramelize, or generally spot-heat food as a restaurant chef. You shouldn't find any fuel smell/taste on meat— some foods may pick up the smell of odorant or the burning fuel itself, but I never ran into that with proper technique and kitchen ventilation. YMMV.
posted by a halcyon day at 2:39 PM on April 5, 2011

I think to produce a sear, the meat needs to reach something like 250 or 300F (I can't remember the exact number right now) so, I guess if your heat gun will produce temperatures like that, then you could theoretically sear meat.
posted by doogan nash at 2:47 PM on April 5, 2011

Some of the heat guns I've researched state they produce heat up to 1200 degrees F!
I will get a good quality one and give it try. Torches (with flame) would have me worrying too much about fire. Thanks for all your input!
posted by boby at 3:31 PM on April 5, 2011

Don't be lulled into complacency by heat guns not having a flame. For a fire three things are needed: fuel, oxygen and heat. A heat gun at 1200 degrees is just as capable of lighting a fire as a match.
posted by borkencode at 4:08 PM on April 5, 2011

Don't be lulled into complacency by heat guns not having a flame. For a fire three things are needed: fuel, oxygen and heat. A heat gun at 1200 degrees is just as capable of lighting a fire as a match.

This. Please be aware of your surroundings and what is behind the meat. A heat gun will absolutely ruin a formica countertop or a plastic cutting board, and can quickly char wood if the focus of the heat is left in one place for more than a moment.

We have a very hot heat gun that we use for shrink wrapping and for taking labels off; at its highest setting it will set a wood pallet on fire with a few seconds of focused heat.
posted by xedrik at 4:30 PM on April 5, 2011

Thanks for the advice about the fire producing capabilities of a heat gun. I will be careful searing my New York Strip steaks!
posted by boby at 4:58 PM on April 5, 2011

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