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Using a kitchen torch to roast poblanos?

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I love poblanos and similar chiles, but I don't love the time it takes to char them on the stovetop burner. Plus, it's so difficult to actually char the concave sections of the pepper. I've tried roasting them in the oven, putting them under the broiler, putting them in a cast iron skillet on the stovetop, the oven, and the broiler in order to escape the charring on the burners - but only the charring on the stovetop burners really gives decent results.
So, I've been considering getting a creme brulee torch to simplify this task. Is this a good idea - do these torches work for charring peppers?

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  1. Yes, they would, but you might find they're a slow go as well, depending on the torch. Bigger torches are available and may be better with a bigger flame, trigger ignition, butane canister, safety locks, all that. I really think the gas burner on high is the best bet for pepper roasting, with the second best option being a bbq grill outside. I leave 'em on the burner, and avoid flipping, until the side is well charred. The whole pepper doesn't really need to be completely blackened, btw, which could result in a textureless overcooked pepper.

    If you're still interested in purchasing a torch, look for a bigger model, often found in hardware stores, a smaller butane canister Bernzomatic or something like that, which is what I used in the restaurant kitchens I worked in. The small dedicated creme brulee torches don't have much of a flame length, go out frequently, and need refilling constantly. They tend to be pricy for what they are, and hopefully you'll use them for other kitchen tasks, aside from roasting peppers. This one's not too bad, with two good reviews:

    http://www.amazon.com/BonJour-Pro-Tor...

    This one will whip those peppers into shape very quickly with it's 3400F but the flame is adjustable, and it can do other household and plumbing repairs as well, a real multitasker:

    http://www.bernzomatic.com/PRODUCTS/K...

    Personally I wouldn't buy a torch for just roasting peppers, I'd stick to the stove top burner method, but if I was to do the creme brulee thing more often than I do, sear meats, brown meringue, melt or brown cheese or pull sugar, even make toast, without prefering the broiler, toaster or hot oven, maybe I'd get one.

    2 Replies
    1. re: bushwickgirl

      Personally I wouldn't buy a torch for just roasting peppers
      `````````````````````````````````````````

      i agree with this. unless you roast ALOT of peppers. in which case the broiler seems like itd be much more time efficient anyways.

      have you tried your grill?

      1. re: bushwickgirl

        I use my gas grill outside. About 5 mins a side on med-high heat. Works great. It's easy to grill large quantities too.

      2. Do you have an electric or gas stove? If it's gas, I can't imagine why it would take so long. If it's electric, have you considered getting a camping stove? Most run on butane but offer a much larger flame than a kitchen torch.

        Just remember to have plenty of ventilation. And just think, you'll be one step ahead in surviving a natural disaster . Or a post-apocalyptic world even. :o)

        I'm thinking something along the lines of this:

        http://www.google.com/products/catalo...

        Or even this:
        http://www.google.com/products/catalo...

        1 Reply
        1. re: soypower

          I use a butane hotplate, the kind sold at Asian groceries for around $20, and fuel 4 for $5. And a Japanese grill accessory. I prefer to use it outside.

          A propane torch (hardware store kind) works, but is more tedious - turning one pepper at a time on a meat fork.

        2. I do mine on a flame tamer (on a gas burner), and for me, it works perfectly and about as fast as anything. I'm guessing you're not using a gas burner? But I agree w/what others have said: the little creme brulee torches are unlikely to be very fast. I don't even find mine that effective for creme brulee. If you get a bigger torch for peppers, be careful. They're powerful.

          1. You'll need more BTU's than the creme brulee torch. If you don't have a gas stove or grill, go out (REI for example) and buy backpacking stove. Those have enough juice to get the job done in an efficient manner.

            1. Thank you all for helping. You've all kind of confirmed what I was afraid of - that a kitchen torch isn't going to help me do this particular task more efficiently. Yes, I do it on a gas stove - and as I said, it DOES work, but I just find it to be a pain in the ass. An outdoor grill would probably be better, but as I live in a NYC apartment that is not a practical possibility. Perhaps working in a tiny kitchen is the reason I seem to find this more burdensome than the rest of you. Sigh. Thanks again.

              1. I am curious why you do these one at a time, which would be the case if you use a kitchen torch. When I roast peppers, which is often, I line a cookie sheet, and very lightly oil the peppers, line them up and pop them in the oven on the top shelf. I turn the broiler (gas) on low, and let them char (of course not leaving them alone) I turn them when they're ready, and so on. Put the charred peppers into a bag, usually a gallon zip lock and then peel when they've cooled. If I'm not doing too many I just sit them on the gas burner, but when making a sauce as I did recently with a bunch of Hatch chilis, I charred them using the cookie sheet method. Unfortunately it's just a tedious job as it is with most Mexican food preperation. But if you're like me and love Mexican food, then its worth the effort.

                I have a small kitchen torch that I bought at Williams Sonoma orginally for brulee, and I have to tell you I'm not all that thrilled with it. There's the larger industrial sized torch which is over-kill and then there's the small one. It's my opinion they need something in-between.

                12 Replies
                1. re: chef chicklet

                  I do them one at a time because I'm doing them on a stovetop burner (well, one per burner anyway). As I said I've done them in the oven and under the broiler as well, and i don't think they char as well - they get more roasted than charred and don't taste the same, at least not to me.
                  "Unfortunately it's just a tedious job as it is with most Mexican food preperation. But if you're like me and love Mexican food, then its worth the effort".
                  I also think that as with most Mexican food preparation, it's not a technique that was developed by or for individual cooks working all by their lonesome in their little apartment kitchens. It's something you do with a group of people and thus something you're just doing while simultaneously hanging out, so more of a fun social activity with a fun result than a household chore. I definitely don't find it such a PITA when doing it with Mr Rat and our friends. Perhaps this is the real key to my frustration.
                  I guess I was kind of hoping the kitchen torch could kind of complete the job (you know, char the crevices) rather than replace the stovetop burner. It sounds like not, although of course using the blowtorch would certainly be entertaining, especially in a group. You're also not the first to tell me they were underwhelmed by their creme brulee torch, but yet weren't really interested in using a welding torch for food. Thanks - you've given me more to think about.

                  1. re: ratgirlagogo

                    Are you sure you're putting the peppers close enough to the heat source when you broil? It should be fairly easy to char without roasting. If your rack doesn't get the peppers within a couple of inches you could always invert a broiler-safe pan of some sort.

                    1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                      When I roast stove top, I crank up the gas and let the flames lick the peppers. Get a good char that way, it's pretty quick, turn a few times, done.

                    2. re: ratgirlagogo

                      I don't know if you'll see this or not because the thread is over a year old, but if you're interested, I can tell you EXACTLY what to do to torch those peppers and how ridiculously easy, quick, and foolproof it is. These other people do NOT know what they're talking about. Email me at minnie13mouse13@yahoo.com if you want the details.

                      1. re: MinervaMouse

                        Do you have a special tool to sell? :)

                        1. re: paulj

                          No, my husband is a propane service technician, so when he saw me struggling to roast the peppers on the stovetop (crappy ol' gas stove, I might add), he asked me if I'd like to try a torch he had on his truck. I said, "Sure!" So he goes out and comes back with this propane torch with a spring trigger and a safety button on the side. He shows me how to use it, and voila!... I'm charring pepper skins with the greatest of ease. The fire stream was so easy to guide down into those pesky crevices. I just skewered the pepper with a metal skewer I had and held the pepper in one hand and the torch in the other. I had ripped pieces of aluminum foil ahead of time, one for each pepper, and wrapped each pepper in the foil when I was done charring it. After the peppers sat and cooled for a couple minutes I unwrapped them. Using one paper towel per pepper to provide friction, I easily rubbed the skin off.

                          The biggest problem was all those sticky seeds going everywhere when I went to gut the peppers, but that isn't even part of the discussion now, is it?

                          1. re: MinervaMouse

                            I have used a propane torch, though probably not as nice as your husband's. A problem with the one I used was that it could not be used with the flame aimed downward (since the bottle can't be tilted down).

                            There's also the question of whether the torch can be used indoors or not. Even though I cook with butane indoors, I prefer to roast peppers outside.

                            A propane torch intended to melt ice on sidewalks might do the job quickly and easily. Just lay the peppers on a cookie sheet, take them outside and torch them, turning several times.
                            http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tool...

                            1. re: MinervaMouse

                              Thank you. I'm not sure this is something I could easily get my hands on, but you do confirm my suspicion that a torch would be easier to use.

                          2. re: MinervaMouse

                            So why not share the secret w/the rest of us?

                            1. re: nomadchowwoman

                              <Sigh> ...just not in the mood to argue with people. See reply above.

                              1. re: MinervaMouse

                                There's more than one way to roast a pepper.

                          3. re: ratgirlagogo

                            I usually do 3 or 4 peppers at a time on a burner - I got a little round grill with a handle to lay over the burner (you can get these in various forms in mex and indian stores) and lay the peppers on it, propping them on each other as needed. I usually start with the stem end, standing them straight up (the stems can go through the holes and burn up. and so on.. Its not perfect and I try to chose peppers that are not heavily indented, but it works.. you can open a pepper out and flatten it if you really have trouble - its not so important to get a char on every bit, just enough heat to loosen the skin. the steaming in the bag, paper or plastic that follows will help with this.

                        2. Use a panini press or a George Foreman Grill ... much more efficient than a creme brulee torch.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            I have a strong allergic reaction to roasting poblanos. I have purchased a mask, but it's uncomfortable. I found that the best way for me to blacken the skin of poblanos for removal is to put them on a rack just above the coals in my Weber kettle. The wind carries away the fumes that make me cough and they blister and blacken very well.

                            I just made chiles rellenos today and we had them for dinner. Except for the fact that the chiles are a bit bland this time of the year...they were great.

                            My Spanish teacher was also a cook and he used to rail against jalapenos and other chiles in the winter months.

                          2. If you're going to purchase a torch for anything other than creme brulee, you're better off just getting a plumbers torch from the hardware store. Should make quick work of your peppers, and you can always use it to char meats (see Thomas Keller's rib roast).

                            1. At least you have a gas stove/oven but it sounds like it isn't doing the job. I'd suggest a propane bbq grill that you can set out on the sidewalk. Here in TX I have a horrible electric stove & oven. but I use my propane grill all the time.

                              1. If I were to get anything new for the job, it would be a torch that works with butane cartridges, the same ones used in Asian style hot plates.

                                http://www.amazon.com/Iwatani-Interna...

                                But as I wrote a year ago, the gas hot plate lets me roast several peppers at a time.

                                9 Replies
                                1. re: paulj

                                  Have you used this torch yourself? Cause all the chef's torches I looked at were pretty weak and kind of expensive, just as the posters in this thread pointed out to me originally. I'm still not sure I even want one - but Christmas is coming....

                                  1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                    This other Iwatani model has more reviews
                                    http://www.amazon.com/Iwatani-Torch-B...
                                    It clearly is a step up from the torches that use butane lighter refills. This uses the aerosol size canisters that work well in hot plate stoves. I use that type of stove, but don't have experience with this type of torch.

                                    1. re: paulj

                                      I actually just got this in the mail yesterday. Ordered it because it's what they use at the ramen place on 5th and B to caramelize the slices of charsiu. I figured it must be hardy since they've used it everyday since they opened years ago. Thus far, I love it. It's the perfect size for my hand and easy to use. The flame can go from tiny to huge with the turn of a dial (2300*F i think is the claim).
                                      When a friend wanted a torch, I actually steered him aggressively in the direction of the Bernzomatic at Home Depot (he worked at W-S and was going to use his 40% discount on a $120 creme brulee torch. insanity.) But now that I have the Iwatani on a butane cartridge the size of a hairspray can, I can't imagine going back to wielding a big, relatively heavy and clunky Home Depot butane tank.

                                      1. re: soleilnyc

                                        The Benzomatic HD tank is probably propane, not butane. The fuel is stored at a higher pressure, and hence the tank is sturdier and heavier.

                                        1. re: paulj

                                          I have a benzomatic torch left over from my glass blowing days. We used to use Mapp gas. Is that too hot for food applications?

                                    2. re: ratgirlagogo

                                      Okay, I just typed this big long-winded explanation about the torch and it apparently went into cyberspace when I hit the "post my reply" button. So, in a nutshell I'm going to (again) try to attach a photo of what I was using. You buy a standard disposable propane cylinder and attach it - the ones about the size of a quart of milk. I'm sure there are many other brands available that would work just as well. You really owe it to yourself to try this. They're not expensive.

                                       
                                      1. re: MinervaMouse

                                        Here is Alton Brown demonstrating your propane torch

                                        http://www.foodnetwork.com/food-netwo...
                                        (Video on culinary torches)

                                        1. re: paulj

                                          OMG! (I love Alton Brown...) That was perfect, paulj! That is exactly how it works. You just press the trigger and whoosh - anything in its path is burnt. Well done and thanks for that. :^)

                                          1. re: MinervaMouse

                                            I worried that his fingers might be bruleed as he rotated the custard dish!

                                  2. You get better roasting on the stove than with a torch. I used my electric burner when i had one and now my propane gas stove. With the electric, I would just lay the betters down on the coil which was red hot and on high.