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Kitchen Torches


NVNVGirl
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An interesting browning method used by Dave Arnold at the cooking issues blog is pour-over frying. Basically, you heat a buch of oil on the stove and ladle it over your sous-vided protein, which you place over some kind of rack so the oil goes away. Takes much less oil and kitchen real estate than a deep fryer, and seems like it gives a better crust and better coverage than a torch. Not super convenient, but maybe worth playing with.

Notes from the underbelly

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I've done pour-over frying - it works great, but can be kind of dangerous - since the precooked meat sometimes wants to drip juices - it can result in a LOT of splattering and burnt forearms... then again, maybe what I was doing wasn't so smart - I was suspending the meat over the hot pot of peanut oil so whatever dripped off the meat would go back into the oil.. in hindsight, it would probably be better to suspend the meat over a hotel pan or something to catch the fat/drippings... hmmm... a good thought for next time!

But in any case, it gives great surface browning and very minimal interior cooking...

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For fish (like salmon), I have trouble handling it without it flaking apart, even when cooked at 116F. So putting it into a pan to sear is unwieldy. I've tried the Iwatani torch on it and can only get a very thin crust. I'll have to try the glucose wash.

I have found that poultry skin and fish skin can't really be nicely crisped with the torch -- if someone has had better results I'd like to know their method.

For fish (and I have done a lot of experimentation), you are best off removing the skin (the fishmonger should be able to do it free of charge when you buy the fish) before brining and cooking the fish. Then, just before taking the fish out of the water bath, crisp the skin in a hot frying pan with some grapeseed oil or other that has a high smoke point. I then top the fish with the crisp skin when serving.

With 116F salmon (which is awesome) it can't spend really any time in a frying pan without losing something.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Here is my second attempt at using the Iwatani to give a sous-vide steak a nice browning. The steak was cooked to 131F so a deep pink red medium-rare. The picture isn't great but I think that you will see a marked improvement from attempt number one -- which leads me to think that there is an issue of technique. I believe that with more practice the results will get better.

This time I decided not to be afraid of burning the steak -- i.e. I would learn more by overdoing it than by underdoing it. So, I cranked up the flame and had it very close to the steak -- to avoid scorching the steak, I kept the torch moving -- going back and forth over the steak. Total time per side was probably on the order of 45 seconds. The mixture adjustment ring was turned all the way counter-clockwise. For the next test, I try the mixture adjustment turned the other way. I will also explore the influence of torch distance.

There were a couple of spots that scorched a little bit but that was a failure of attention rather than something unavoidable. My taster gave the flavor two thumbs up.

P1020802_forweb.jpg

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I've done pour-over frying - it works great, but can be kind of dangerous - since the precooked meat sometimes wants to drip juices - it can result in a LOT of splattering and burnt forearms... then again, maybe what I was doing wasn't so smart - I was suspending the meat over the hot pot of peanut oil so whatever dripped off the meat would go back into the oil.. in hindsight, it would probably be better to suspend the meat over a hotel pan or something to catch the fat/drippings... hmmm... a good thought for next time!

But in any case, it gives great surface browning and very minimal interior cooking...

This is where a wok seems to be especially handy. Rest your meat against the side of the wok and pour oil from the center. Any juice dripping is going to hit a dry wok and slide down the side, minimizing splatter.

PS: I am a guy.

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  • 2 weeks later...

With practice, I am getting better and better results with the torch. Here are wagyu cross-rib roast and a wagyu brisket. Both cooked at 134F and then seared with the torch. Nice maillard flavors and no burning. The secret seems to be both getting the distance right and to keep the torch moving. Here is the brisket:

gallery_51976_6006_402079.jpg

Here is the cross-rib roast.

gallery_51976_6006_29639.jpg

gallery_51976_6006_294350.jpg

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With practice, I am getting better and better results with the torch. ... Nice maillard flavors and no burning. The secret seems to be both getting the distance right and to keep the torch moving. ...

The bright blue cone at the centre of the flame is UNburnt gas. You don't want that on the food.

The hottest part of the flame, however, is just above the point of that cone. That's where burning will happen fastest!

Is anyone using a torch/blowlamp with (or with an adaptor to give) a flat (sometimes called 'fish-tail') flame, as would be the choice for paint-stripping?

It would seem to be a more appropriate solution than a 'point' flame.

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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Is anyone using a torch/blowlamp with (or with an adaptor to give) a flat (sometimes called 'fish-tail') flame, as would be the choice for paint-stripping?

It would seem to be a more appropriate solution than a 'point' flame.

Before I switched to the Iwatani, I tried such an adapter a few times on my propane torch. I didn't find it terribly helpful. I may try it again -- but with the Iwatani, things move very quickly so I don't find the flame shape to be a problem.

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  • 1 month later...

I bought the Iwatani as well. I am using it to finish off fish.

Williams Sonoma is selling a black version of it with their own branding on the box for 60 bucks. The good thing about that is, they do carry the original Iwatani Gas bottles for 8 bucks. I picked mine up there realizing they are probably cheaper elsewhere but for convenience I didn't care.

JK

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After several months of use, I am satisfied that non-Iwatani-brand butane is fine with the torch as long as it is a canister that has the right notch -- basically any butane canister that was designed to be used with a butane burner. They are available for a couple of dollars apiece at most restaurant supply stores, many Asian markets and Smart & Final as well.

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I just did 116F halibut with a miso glaze (white miso, sweet mirin, sesame oil) that was seared with an Iwatani torch. It was excellent. I think glazes are a good alternative to directly searing the meat, especially with something temperature sensitive like fish because it absorbs a lot of the heat.

The miso glaze actually tasted quite different from the usual method of browning in the oven as the torch is a lot hotter. It actually tasted like it had some fish sauce in it. But you should be aware of this for other sweet glazes.

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  • 4 months later...

Wondering if there is a consensus best for a blow torch for the home kitchen? And, does it matter if it's propane or butane? Does one leave an after taste and not the other?

Should I be thinking Home Depot or cooking.com?

Thanks.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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I went with the hardware store and also got the ACE hardware head with automatic start, definitely worth it. I never tasted or smelled anything off or chemical, the flame is very hot and I don't touch the meat with the fire anyways. Some say they can taste a difference, maybe they're more sensitive. But any good hardware store will take a return, maybe not of the cheap gas bottle, but of the rest, and I've seen plenty cooking shows where they use exactly what I have. Fun to play with, just keep the kids far away :-)

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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Hardware store - the torches sold in cooking shops from my experience do not hold enough gas and do not get hot enough.

A head that attaches to a canister, something like this http://www.clickonstore.net/blow-torch-quick-torch-head-with-canister-p-1084.html (No connection) is what I have and it works a treat, someone bought me a chef one but, no where near the heat and ran out of gas to soon.

Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.

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I've got both and use the butane by preference. Note, it is not a "creme brulee" torch but rather a head that attaches to a butane canister. Steer away from the toy torches sold in kitchen shops and head to a professional catering shop which will have the real deal.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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Propane and Propylene burn hotter than butane. I've heard butane leaves an aftertaste, but Im not sure.

I've always used stuff from bernzomatic, its built well and lasts a long time. Just got the hose model for 50$ shipped expedited from amazon.

Edited by ChickenStu (log)
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I went with the hardware store and also got the ACE hardware head with automatic start, definitely worth it

I've seen that model used in the highest end pastry kitchens, so I assume there are no glaring issue with off flavors.

The one I have is a bernz-o-matic with an automatic starter. Similar, but you have to turn the gas on before clicking. Works just fine, though not as convenient as ace model if you're using the thing all day long.

The most important feature is a pressure regulator. If you have one of the unregulated torch heads, the flame will blow out when the canister is half full and you tilt the torch toward the food. You'll end up with a stockpile of half-full propane canisters. Or half-empty, depending on your point of view.

Notes from the underbelly

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  • 3 years later...

I am thinking that it is time to upgrade my kitchen torch. I currently have a Bernzomatic propane and a Bernzomatic MAPP/Oxygen torches, But, MAPP is no longer available and I was considering the IWATANI. Can anyone give advice on this particular torch or are their better options?

Any and all advice is welcome.

Mark

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First of all, you should've never been using MAPP gas to torch your food. See my old post here [click], and take note of the Nathan Myhrvold quote I included.

I have had a Bernzomatic propane torch for quite a while, and a few months ago I bought an Iwatani. The Bernzo has a lot of horsepower, but it's bulky and the flame is non-adjustable (on mine).

The Iwatani is a more kitchen-friendly size, and uses refills that I can pick up at my (very) local Asian grocery store (instead of driving to a hardware store); the refills can also be found at restaurant supply stores, survival-type stores, etc.

More importantly, the flame is adjustable. This has turned out to be the best feature -- not everything needs to be blasted, and the Iwatani makes it easy to do gentle touch-ups.

The Bernzo is back in my garage, and the Iwatani now has a permanent spot in my cupboard.

Edited by Joe Blowe (log)

So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

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