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Contemplating a blow torch; advice?

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So I think I'm finally going to get a blow torch. Not one of those little hand held creme brulee torches from a gourmet supplies store. A real blow torch from a hardware store.

The ones I've seen most in restaurants are a foot tall, blue butane canister with blow torch attached. They look mighty powerful.

Is it completely crazy to have one of these (and a fire extinguisher) in a small apartment? I mostly want it for browning the tops of certain dishes, making creme brulee, browning meringue, and searing the tops of nigiri sushi like I've seen at some japanese restaurants. Of course, the power and butane capacity of the $25 hardware store torch is much more tempting than the tiny $20+ food torch. Plus, a huge replacement canister is $4 (probably cheaper if I shop around) and I'm sure a replacement for the fancy little kitchen toy would be just as much.

Also, what other kitchen uses are there for a torch?

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  1. go for the hardware store kind. much more powerful.:)

    3 Replies
    1. re: junglekitte

      ditto, I have the bitty kind that was a gift. I don't use it, I use the bernzomic (sp?) housed in the garage. Much more powerfull

      1. re: Candy

        bernzOmatic--a fascinating website for toolheads.

        Craft or hobby torch is more apt a descriptive name for the bernz-o-matic. Get the one with auto-ignite. The Quickfire is designed to be used inverted--looks comfortable to use as well!

        I second the advice to go to an independant or coop (Do-It-Best, Ace, etc) hardware store. Those folks know their stuff! Suppoort (all) your local businesses!

        Link: http://www.bernzomatic.com/bernzomati...

        1. re: toodie jane

          yes, go with the hardward store variety and make sure to get the built in igniter - they seem to work better than the plain ones you have to ignite with matches/butane stick.

    2. Yeah, what junglekitte said: get the propane/butane torch at the hardware store. Not that it matters, but to me "blowtorch" means an old-timey device fueled by kerosene and hand-pumped compressed air. My dad had one when I was a little kid, and it was a truly nasty thing. Certainly not something you would want to operate inside your home. These modern propane torches are much cleaner and safer. That's what I use.

      Jim

      1 Reply
      1. re: Jim Washburn

        Ditto on "truly nasty thing." But using one of those blow torches was one of those things that made Julia famous.

      2. Another vote for the larger hardware torch. I have both and the small nice is nice for quick jobs, but for serious browning the big torch is great. I haven't used mine for anything except creme brulee and meringue but if you're up to plumbing jobs, that's what the torch is made for. My husband uses it for small plumbing repairs.

        1. I bought mine (at least the head) at a restaurant supply store. It attaches to a butane can, the large size used for camping. It is very powerful, but still nice and compact.
          As others have mentioned, don't waste your time with home models...you will do exactly that...waste time. It takes minutes to caramelize a creme brulee with those things, seconds with my model or others mentioned.

          1. The hardware store variety is the best. Could probably pick up one at Home Depot for under $20. Plus, I use mine to char peppers, works great for that, plus is a lot neater than laying them on the burners of the gas cooktop.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Monty

              I was just going to say that. not only does it work better for creme brulee, but also for charring peppers. Better than the broiler or the stove top, as Monty mentioned. don't waste your money on the cheapo fancy small ones.

              1. re: Monty

                hehe, thanks for all the replies. It's always fun to see people get all worked up about their flame toys. Fire, fire!!

                My concern was that it might not be very safe for home use or would take a lot of practice to master, but everyone seems to love theirs so I'm going to keep an eye out. It was $25 at the hardware store in a ritzy part of town, so I'll wait til I'm at a more run of the mill Home Depot. Maybe they'll have a special on joint torch and fire extinguisher purchases.

                1. re: nooodles

                  Well, they do produce a powerful, hot flame from a device that you hold in your hand, but like most tools, there's nothing inherently unsafe about them. Obviously you won't want to be storing it next to the stove or where little kids can get their hands on it.

                  One thing, I would recommend getting one with a self-starter - they're a little more expensive but a lot more convenient. And if you're at all klutzy, you won't want to be putting it down (while you do something else for a second) while it's on, and having to use two hands to relight it frequently gets old, fast. The self-starters can be easily turned on with one hand.

                  1. re: nooodles

                    Perfectly safe if you're careful. And being careful just means using
                    common sense, there aren't any complicated skills you need to learn.
                    It's not going to blow up. Don't point it at your face. Etc.

                    You screw the nozzle into the canister. Turn the knob on very, very
                    slightly (because it won't light if the propane's coming out too fast),
                    hold a match in front, and you get a tiny, tiny little non-scarey blue
                    flame. Then adjust. You can also light it by pointing it at the flame on
                    your gas stove. Again, it's not going to explode.

                    If you're worried about lighting things on fire, practice with it outside
                    a bit.

                    One advantage of going to a hardware store instead of Home Depot is
                    that your local hardware store is staffed by people with a faint clue
                    about hardware, who enjoy telling people how to operate blowtorches
                    as much as we enjoy telling people where to eat. At Home Depot, you're
                    on your own.

                    Remember, always use your blowtorch for good. Never for evil.

                2. I don't know if you're in Manhattan, but 55th Street Hardware (between 3+lex) has them on sale w/ a cannsiter for 9.00 right now....

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: BackyardChef

                    Thanks! Just picked one up today, marked down from $21.98 to $8.99. Master Mechanic brand propane torch kit. Love a good bargain.

                  2. While I was goofing off at Home Depot this afternoon I checked
                    on prices. Currently: BernzOmatic propane basic 2-piece kit (nozzle plus
                    canister): $12. Same but with a built-in lighter: $26. Make sure you get
                    the blue propane, not the yellow MAPP Gas canister (the colors are
                    standard). You do *not* want MAPP around food.

                    I'm firmly in the don't-bother-with-the-lighter camp. If it's hard to
                    light, that just means you've got the gas turned up too high.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Jef

                      Pardon my ignorance but I want to make doubly sure: you're saying the $12 version will be sufficient for me, and I can just light it on my gas burner's flame, right? TIA

                    2. http://www.bernzomatic.com/bernzomati...

                      better then butane (availability) and cigar type small unit butane (too small) and the standard propane torch (too large).