Paging Dr Steve Brûlé
March 5, 2019 7:41 AM   Subscribe

I have the noble goal of melting butter and caramelizing sugar onto things. I'm also kind of scared of fire and flammable gases. Recommend me a good kitchen torch?

Help me turn everything I eat into a delectable brûlé.
I'd love to pay under $50, pretty please with (burnt) sugar on top.
posted by pseudostrabismus to Food & Drink (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you have an oven with a broiler and broiler-safe containers for the custard, then the broiler works fine, according to Mark Bittman. The trick:
You need intense heat to burn the sugar, but you do not want to expose the custard -- already thoroughly cooked -- to any more heat than necessary. That would curdle the eggs, resulting in a noncreamy crème brulée.

The solution is a stone-cold broiler, with the tops of the ramekins right under the heating element: two inches away is good. Once the broiler is on, keep the door ajar so the compartment stays relatively cool, and keep a close watch.

After a few minutes the sugar topping will begin to bubble. A minute or so later, it will brown. If the browning is uneven, rotate the ramekins. At that point, the custards are done.
posted by jedicus at 7:51 AM on March 5, 2019

As jedicus says, you don't really need a torch for this.

It's more fun though! A basic propane torch with a trigger like this will do just fine - that plus a small Coleman propane tank will run you about $25. In general you don't want to use the hottest part of the flame for this, so you can start a little farther back than you might think until you get a feel for it.

Remove the torch part for storage if you're worried about safety.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:25 AM on March 5, 2019

I use the Bonjour kitchen torch. It works really well and it's very easy to load with butane. (I usually use it to blowtorch marshmallows when I don't have a campfire handy.) This is the butane I use, but I suppose any brand would be fine.
posted by holborne at 8:38 AM on March 5, 2019

I like a trigger-style propane torch like the one aspersioncast linked to, my go-to is the slightly more expensive Bernzomatic TS4000 paired with a wide camping-style cylinder.

Two points
1- you can also use a long-and skinny, lighter can of propane, but the short and fat camping cylinder means the torch can be stood upright without falling over.

2- I don't like working with, and don't usually recommend Iwatani-style butane torches because the on/off is fussy and usually involves turning down a knob to turn off. With a propane torch, you just let go of the trigger. The Bernzomatic torch looks bigger and more intimidating than a sleek little Iwatani, but I've found its actually safer.
posted by zingiberene at 9:29 AM on March 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I bought a cheap refillable butane torch, and had a heckuva time not spurting fuel everywhere. I agree with Hank Hill: Butane is a bastard gas.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:53 AM on March 5, 2019

I bought a fairly cheap butane torch and ramekin set from Winners (like TJ Maxx) years ago and it still works fine. I don't think it cost more than $20 Canadian. Using the torch is fun but I've never used it for anything besides creme brulee.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:49 AM on March 5, 2019

I'm with zingiberene here: a plumber's torch and a bottle of propane is the way to go. You can get a standard inexpensive manually-lit torch and bottle of gas for < $15 at any hardware store. I'd suggest paying $20 or so to get one with a built-in igniter, and I'll agree that the Bernzomatic TS4000 is a much nicer version (I have it).

Now I want to make creme brulee again...
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 12:19 PM on March 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

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