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Butane in the kitchen (for a torch)


Fat Guy
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I found an old mini torch and a couple of butane refill canisters. Can that be used for kitchen duty?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I use mine constantly for (a) melting heat shrink tubing on various wiring jobs in car/home/boat and (b) making a fast and excellent brulee on lemon tarts.

However, I have been banned from burning spiders and watching them go pop.

Luke

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I found an old mini torch and a couple of butane refill canisters. Can that be used for kitchen duty?

Don't let the central part of the 'flame' - the blue cone - touch the food.

It is (cold) unburned (as yet) gas.

So if you don't want to taste the gas, keep the blue cone off the food!

Same goes for any torch flame, not just butane.

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

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Hardware torches the way to go but the small ones have thier uses.

And while you should keep food out of the blue cone, the tip of the blue cone is the hottest part of all, so aim for the cone just not touching the food for maximum heat.

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

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I used to use my propane torch from the hardware store just fine in the kitchen. Then I read that it might leave a "taste" and butane is better. I never detected it, but since I pretty much only use it with expensive things like prime beef I got a butane torch for the kitchen. It attaches to the small tanks (spray can size) that you use with little butane burners. Works very well, I think I spent $25 on the head at the kitchen supply store.

Now there's also a new gas at the hardware store that supposedly burns hotter, don't recall it's name, I think it was more some kind of letter acronym. I have not tried those.

You should be just fine, but don't set the kitchen on fire - or the food. And watch for smoke, I set off the smoke alarm with it once :laugh:

And my cutting board has some scorch marks, scars of a touch life :cool:

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

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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Don't let the central part of the 'flame' - the blue cone - touch the food.

It is (cold) unburned (as yet) gas.

So if you don't want to taste the gas, keep the blue cone off the food!

Same goes for any torch flame, not just butane.

Are you sure about that?

High pressure gas exits the orifice thru a Venturi cavity that draws in air and mixes in the torch head. The gas/air mixture burns completely, which is indicated by the blue flame. The blue cone is where the burning temperature at the hottest.

I use a propane shop blow torch, I have never experienced propane taste or smell on the food. In any case propane and butane are highly volatile; they will evaporate immediately even if they somehow are deposited on the food.

dcarch

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The flame from this thing appears to be all blue. There's a more concentrated cone of blue within a less dense cone of blue.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I don't know if you have one of those little creme brule (sp?) torches they sell (cute but pretty useless) or something else, but you can touch the food with the flame, just go sweeping. But in many cases it's fine to be just a bit away from the food, as things burn quickly if you touch it. Just play with it on a piece of toast or a carrot. It is said that a fire extinguisher should not be too far away from these games. Maybe play in the sink if it's steel.

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

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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I don't think this is a torch intended for culinary use -- it's a hardware item. But I imagine it makes no difference.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Both styles of torches Rock!

The hardware store torches are great at most things, but they are hard to light, bulky, and the propane can get expensive. (and yet, I still have a ----_eating grin every time I watch Ratatouille when all the cooks pull knives on the rat, but the pastry guy ignites his torch...)

I use the butane torch for many items: For creme brules and "sunburned" lemon cheesecake, for "hotknifing" my chef's knife to cut though items, for heating up my mixing bowl when making italian buttercream, italian nougat, or just warming up butter in the mixing bowl, for heating up metal cake rings on frozen or chilled items to remove them easier, and... on more than one occasion, to ignite stubborn sparklers on b'day cakes.

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Now there's also a new gas at the hardware store that supposedly burns hotter, don't recall it's name, I think it was more some kind of letter acronym. I have not tried those.

That's MAPP gas and it does burn quite a lot hotter than propane. Don't know about butane as I've never used it.

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Don't let the central part of the 'flame' - the blue cone - touch the food.

It is (cold) unburned (as yet) gas.

So if you don't want to taste the gas, keep the blue cone off the food!

Same goes for any torch flame, not just butane.

Are you sure about that?

Yes.

High pressure gas exits the orifice thru a Venturi cavity that draws in air and mixes in the torch head. The gas/air mixture burns completely, which is indicated by the blue flame. The blue cone is where the burning temperature at the hottest.

No.

The blue is unburned, therefore cold.

The hottest part is just ABOVE THE TIP of the cone.

In the UK this is taught in schools before mid-teenage.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/science/ocr_gateway/carbon_chem/7_using_carbon_fuels2.shtml

I use a propane shop blow torch, I have never experienced propane taste or smell on the food. In any case propane and butane are highly volatile; they will evaporate immediately even if they somehow are deposited on the food.

The problem isn't entirely the gas itself.

Most (all?) fuel gases have tiny traces of 'very smelly stuff' added to them so that you can "smell gas" if there should be a leakage.

You want that stuff to be burned before it hits the food.

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

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"-----No.

The blue is unburned, therefore cold.

The hottest part is just ABOVE THE TIP of the cone. ---"

I see what you are talking about. I think we are talking about the same thing.

The diagram you linked to is missing some information. The typical well burnt flame has three parts, not two as shown. I am talking about the bright blue cone and you are talking about the dark blue cone.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bunsen_burner_flame_types_.jpg

--------------------

BTW, the torch can burn way beyond the flame. it can melt plastic, burn your kitchen towel, scorch your kitchen walls up to 12" to 18" away from the flame. Make sure you are not near anything that you don't want to BBQ.

dcarch

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With propane torches, it's worth it to get one that has a pressure regulator. Without it, when you've used about half the gas in the cylinder, the flame will sputter out every time you tilt the torch far enough to do most kitchen jobs. And you'll end up with a collection of half-empty cylinders. Not sure if the same applies to butane torches ... worth asking.

Dougal is right about how to avoid gas and soot flavors. Small, dark blue cone, no sputtering or roaring, and use the flame at or beyond the tip. This is the same for both propane and butane.

Notes from the underbelly

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as for hard to light hardware store torches, yes, the simple ElCheapo ones you have to light with a "sparker" (or what ever that tool with a flint inside is called) are hard to light, but you can buy really nice heads that have piezzo lighters built in, pressure regulator, and you can use them upside down or any which other way you like. The torch I got at the restaurant supply store is somewhat like this one and fits on the little butane bottles you use in the cookers (pictured on the bottle in the link). Works the same way, attach, turn on, press button and you've got fire. Adjust and go at it. The gas is very cheap (Asian market!) and with home use, I have yet to empty the first bottle.

There are also electric heat guns like this one that go up to 1100 degree F, which I think would work just as well. But there's no fire, no danger, where's the fun? :cool:

I actually have two heatguns, I should check the temps I can get with them and try it.

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

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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Don't let the central part of the 'flame' - the blue cone - touch the food.

It is (cold) unburned (as yet) gas.

So if you don't want to taste the gas, keep the blue cone off the food!

Same goes for any torch flame, not just butane.

Are you sure about that?

Yes.

High pressure gas exits the orifice thru a Venturi cavity that draws in air and mixes in the torch head. The gas/air mixture burns completely, which is indicated by the blue flame. The blue cone is where the burning temperature at the hottest.

No.

The blue is unburned, therefore cold.

The hottest part is just ABOVE THE TIP of the cone.

In the UK this is taught in schools before mid-teenage.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/science/ocr_gateway/carbon_chem/7_using_carbon_fuels2.shtml

I use a propane shop blow torch, I have never experienced propane taste or smell on the food. In any case propane and butane are highly volatile; they will evaporate immediately even if they somehow are deposited on the food.

The problem isn't entirely the gas itself.

Most (all?) fuel gases have tiny traces of 'very smelly stuff' added to them so that you can "smell gas" if there should be a leakage.

You want that stuff to be burned before it hits the food.

This sounds like one of those perennial arguments that will need to be settled by an authoritative source.

Long before I ever thought of applying a torch to food, I was in metal shop and was told in no uncertain terms that the tip of the blue flame was the hottest part of the flame. So I have a problem reconciling the 'hottest part of the flame' with 'unburned fuel'.

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While I'm not an authoritative source when it comes to using torches for cooking, I have used torches for nearly forty years in my work. I've used the type being discussed here mainly for plumbing copper pipe and fittings - "sweating" joints. My main use of torches, though, is oxy-acetylene torches in my steel working business.

Just to clear up some stuff.... The type of torches most likely to be used in the kitchen are fueled by propane, butane, or MAPP gas - with the detachable cylinders. They do not have separate pressure regulators and there is no way to alter the fuel to air ratio. They come preset for both. They don't have a clearly defined "tip" in the flame, but you do want to use the part of the flame that's nearly invisible beyond the definitely blue part.

A good torch head for these types is the Surefire T655. I've used one of these (for plumbing) a lot and it's been the best torch of this type I've ever had. It's "trigger start" (no matches or separate igniter) and has worked flawlessly. It also works with MAPP gas, which I usually use as it's much hotter than propane.

For those of you wanting to achieve the ultimate in kitchen torch cooking think about investing in a "rosebud" oxy-acetylene torch. There's nothing like a rosebud when you want lots of heat fast. :wub:

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There are also electric heat guns like this one that go up to 1100 degree F, which I think would work just as well. But there's no fire, no danger, where's the fun? :cool:

I actually have two heatguns, I should check the temps I can get with them and try it.

I commented on the "MAPP, Propane or Butane" thread yesterday on the use of a heat gun as an alternative to a torch. I dug out my old paint melter, and turned it to its top setting, nominally 1000F. It toasted bread very quickly. It browned a pre-cooked bit of sausage, and I blackened a thumb sized piece of cooked chicken breat in no time.

So it works, but the area that browns is fairly small, compared to what I've done with MAPP gas thru a weed burner. Good for finishing smaller items, but probably not very suitable for browning a whole roast.

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This sounds like one of those perennial arguments that will need to be settled by an authoritative source.

Long before I ever thought of applying a torch to food, I was in metal shop and was told in no uncertain terms that the tip of the blue flame was the hottest part of the flame. So I have a problem reconciling the 'hottest part of the flame' with 'unburned fuel'.

I always assumed the tip was the hottest part too ... but the more important issue is avoiding the flavor or gas or soot.

NathanM speaks to this on the Modernist Cuisine blog:

"The type of gas that you choose isn’t as impor tant as the com plete ness of its com bus tion. Propane, butane, MAPP, and acety lene are all great so long as you adjust the flame of the torch so that it is a fully oxi diz ing flame. This is a flame that is pro duced with an excess of oxygen—either from the sur round ing air or sup ple mented with com pressed oxy gen. You can tell that you have an oxi diz ing flame when the torch is burn ing dark blue, is rel a tively short in length, and hisses and roars. Frequently, peo ple have too large of a flame that is burn ing yel low at the tip. This is a reduc ing flame, also referred to as a car bur iz ing flame because there are uncom busted hydro car bons from the fuel in the flame that will end up in the food, impart ing an unpleas ant taste. In my expe ri ence, butane torches are espe cially prone to this, but it can hap pen with any torch that hasn’t been prop­erly adjusted before aim ing it at the food.

Too often, peo ple aim the blow torch at the food before they have it appro pri ately adjusted. Not only do they often end up torch ing the food with a dirty flame, but there is also some raw fuel being blown onto the food before it ignites. Like an old, car bu reted car (and for the same rea son), it is best to light the torch and adjust the fuel-to-oxidizer ratio before get ting underway.

Long story short, always light your torch fac ing away from the food. Then adjust the torch to pro duce a short, hiss ing dark blue flame and you won’t have a problem."

The picture on that page shows the meat engulfed in flame ... I was always taught not to do this, but perhaps if the flame is adjusted correctly it doesn't matter.

Notes from the underbelly

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Unburned gas has no color at all. The inner blue part is the interface with the gas that is burning. Inside of that line is the unburned gas.

Yes, but neither of us explained it properly.

What looks like a solid dark blue cone isn't.

gfweb speaks of a line - it isn't exactly that either.

Imagine for a moment, a cone made of cardboard.

That cardboard represents where the combustion reactions start to take place.

The space inside the cone is filled with colourless gas that has not started to combust yet, and is therefore 'cold'.

You don't want to place your food inside the dark blue part.

The hottest part of the flame is outside it. Inside there is unburned stuff that you'd better keep off your food.

I have two small, preset, non-mixture-adjustable torches.

They both give crisp blue cones in their butane and butane/propane flames.

Edited by dougal (log)

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

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