Specific desserts like crème brûlée must be exposed to high heat to caramelize the topping, either via a handheld torch, or a broiler.
A broiler is a poor choice for two reasons:
- the heat is distributed unevenly
- if the the only part of the dessert that should be heated is the top layer, a broiler heats the entire thing
The alternative is to get a handheld torch.
Most kitchen stores sell “mini torches” or “kitchen torches”, but they are not very good and they crap out quickly. (Amazon is bursting with negative reviews of these torches, from various manufacturers). Mine died on the first day of use! At first I wondered if I had broken it, but I did some research, and found I was not the only one who bought one of these shoddy torches.
Here is what they sell in stores:
I blocked out the brand name because it’s not important, they are all basically the same design, and they all have the same problem. These torches cost about $20.00 CAD and they are a waste of money.
I was caramelizing three custards when my new torch died. It worked fine on the first one, started acting weird on the second one, and by the time I got to the third one, the flame kept going out. It seemed impossible that it was out of fuel from three tiny desserts, but I refilled it and retried, but it never worked again. The flame would flicker and die. Refilling the tank was a tedious, foul-smelling process.
So how do you get a bad ass kitchen torch?
For under $15.00, you can pick up a propane tank, regulator, and flint. These components are sold at any place that sells camping supplies. I got mine from Wal-mart and I love it!
Price update Jun 30, 2011: just visited a Toronto Wal-mart. They are currently selling a combo kit of propane tank and air regulator for $16.97,and you can get a flint for around $2.00. Replacement tanks are also $3.97. Still cheaper than the bad torches at the top!
This is a BernzOMatic fat boy tank, which holds 16.92 oz / 479g of propane.
I chose the smallest size available, because I have small hands, and if I’m going to be using a very hot tool I need something I can hold onto comfortably.
My homemade torch is superior to the so-called professional kitchen torch, in every way.
- it’s cheaper
- it produces a constant, hot, steady flame
- no fuss no muss – no refilling required, when tank is empty replace it
- your homemade torch can be used for other projects around the house