Kitchen Torch Recommendations, Please
My 16-year-old niece has made "perfecting creme brulee" a goal for the new year, so I thought I'd put together a sort of a kit for her birthday. I want to get her a culinary torch, but don't know what kind. The torches that come in pre-assembled creme brulee kits look a bit flimsy (which is why I don't want to just buy one of those). I've noticed some posters here recommend a plumber's torch. Can anyone give me brand names and models of torches known to work well? Safety has to be the primary consideration, over and above power, then ease of use and availability of fuel refills. Any advice or suggestions would be most appreciated.
A broiler also works well. I have had great results using turbinado sugar under the broiler. I have a propane torch, but it is honestly a little hard to get it to reach into the edges of a ramekin that isn't brim full.
$50 at your corner ACE Hardware store buys both the propane bottle and the Benzomatic deluxe torch with regulator, piezio pushbutton starter, and safety lockout. I recommend getting the wider-base bottle (intended for camping lanterns, etc.) rather than the conventional bottle, because then the whole thing is harder to inadvertently tip over. While you're there, ask if they have a flame-spreader tip-otherwise your niece is going to have to pay very close attention with the pencil-tip flame.
Hope this helps,
I use a small (fits in the palm of my hand) butane torch that takes liquid refills from pressurized containers. Lights by pulling it's trigger, adjustable flame, burns hot enough that there is no smell or fuel taste. Works for everything from creme brûlée to igniting lump charcoal in our smoker unit. Also added crusty char to filet medallions after low temp roasting and flash cooked some marinated bay scallops too small to skewer. Very handy tool.
We've talked about torches in a thread about roasting peppers (burning the skin to remove it).
Propane is the high power choice. However some of them might not work well when the flame is aimed down (or more importantly, the canister is aimed down). Also the canisters are heavy.
I have seen videos of people holding the custard cup up in the air, as they play the flame over the tilted surface. But I wonder what happens when the flame strays beyond the edge of the cup.
On the other hand butane torches, especially those sold in kitchen stores, may be too wimpy.
An inbetween option is a butane torch that uses the larger aerosol size cans, the ones that are used in Asian style hot plate burners. But this isn't as widely available.
The Spanish (or Catalan) approach to creme brulee is to melt the sugar with a hot branding iron.
I agree with the larger butane torch suggestion (Iwatani is one brand). The hardware store propane canisters are tall enough to be quite tippy while the smaller butane torches sold for kitchen use just don't have enough heat output. Restaurant supply stores are a good source for both the torch and the canisters.
Since the OP was interested in safety, I think that probably rules out the red hot irons and the fire to heat them in.