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weinoo

The Searzall by Dave Arnold

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In what might be the greatest "extra" product to have if you're into sous-vide cooking, Dave Arnold, in conjunction with David Chang and Momo, is going to be selling his first consumer product, the Searzall.

One of the things I've always disliked about the blowtorch method of searing food is that I have been able to detect the taste of the blowtorch. This seems to solve that problem:

Essentially a hand-held broiler, the Searzall attaches to a blowtorch, forcing the flames to spread evenly and create a high quality finish. Arnold explains "we are taking the power of the torch, and transforming its pencil thin, too hot flame, into a much more even, almost radiant, infrared heater." Arnold says he was inspired to improve upon the basic blowtorch because he "needed a very powerful, high temperature tool to finish low temperature or sous vide meats without creating what we call 'torch taste,' or that nasty fuel taste typically associated with using a blowtorch when cooking."

I want one.

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Whether you sous vide or not, that's a great tool in the kitchen to pan fry a steak both sides at the same time, or to re-crispy up leftover chicken, char to remove bell pepper skin, etc.

I would not be surprised if it can also be the best paint remover ever, serious.

dcarch

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Me too. I've used a torch a couple times and every time my wife and I tasted somethign weird and unpleasant. I figured i was doing it wrong because i kept seeing people doing it and instructing to do it, including in Modernist cuisine...turns out I was right, AH HAH!

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And the next step? A mini, maybe, for the perfect creme brulee?

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oooh! Want!

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For those interested, here's a link to the Cooking Issues blog (edited since first posted) explaining the reasoning behind the Searzall. Notably, as mentioned in the article linked by the OP, Dave Arnold originally assumed the problem with torch taste was incomplete combustion of the fuel, but later realized the problem was very high heat too closely concentrated. This device, of course, is designed to solve the problem by diffusing the torch.

ps - Kodos to lesliec for mentioning this Cooking Issues post back in Part 8 of the Sous Vide thread, which is how I learned about it.

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This seems like a worthwhile product, whether or not one is a sous vider, and I am not trying to pick a fight, but just curious: if you want seared meat, why not just sear the meat, rather than investing hundreds or thousands of dollars in equipment and then, on top of it, having to make compromises and work-arounds and buy ever more equipment? Have not salamander broilers served us well for decades? In addition, one has to look at the failure rate and perpetual problems with home sous vide equipment. This seems more like a Popular Science or Popular Mechanics project out of the 1950s, like building your own computer or airplane, rather than a true culinary sea change. Sous vide cannot possibly be the best option for everything that we cook, and it really smells of something that will be viewed as a fad of its time a decade or two from now...

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This seems like a worthwhile product, whether or not one is a sous vider, and I am not trying to pick a fight, but just curious: if you want seared meat, why not just sear the meat, rather than investing hundreds or thousands of dollars in equipment and then, on top of it, having to make compromises and work-arounds and buy ever more equipment? Have not salamander broilers served us well for decades? In addition, one has to look at the failure rate and perpetual problems with home sous vide equipment. This seems more like a Popular Science or Popular Mechanics project out of the 1950s, like building your own computer or airplane, rather than a true culinary sea change. Sous vide cannot possibly be the best option for everything that we cook, and it really smells of something that will be viewed as a fad of its time a decade or two from now...

So the reasons I like sous vide:

  • Control of temperature allows previously 'tricky' processes to be performed much more easily (creme anglais, hollandaise, etc.), with the same quality of result.
  • Consistency of result - my steak or eggs are always done 'so', with little practice or effort, and variation for different tastes of 'doneness' can be made controllably and consistently.
  • I like good food, and I am an average cook.
  • I like toys.

As a result, my meals are of better quality than they were before I was introduced to sous vide. It's definitely not for everything, but it works well for me in many applications. I've not had any issues with failures of equipment that were any worse than if an oven had failed half way through a casserole.

I should also point out that it's not the sous vide that adds the (sometimes) unpleasant flavour - it's the use of a blowtorch. I tend to use a cast iron pan or a hot grill (I'm in the UK - I think what we call a grill is your broiler - heat from above) for final sear, though i also have an iwatani blowtorch - I'm just a bit better with the pan and grill than I am with the blowtorch.

Also, sous vide has been around for a long time so I'm not sure it's valid to call it a fad, it's just become more popular now as equipment becomes more affordable - perhaps in the home it will become a fad, but I know very few people who have tried it and not stuck with it - not for everything, but as another addition to the arsenal in the kitchen.

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This seems like a worthwhile product, whether or not one is a sous vider, and I am not trying to pick a fight, but just curious: if you want seared meat, why not just sear the meat, rather than investing hundreds or thousands of dollars in equipment and then, on top of it, having to make compromises and work-arounds and buy ever more equipment? Have not salamander broilers served us well for decades? In addition, one has to look at the failure rate and perpetual problems with home sous vide equipment. This seems more like a Popular Science or Popular Mechanics project out of the 1950s, like building your own computer or airplane, rather than a true culinary sea change. Sous vide cannot possibly be the best option for everything that we cook, and it really smells of something that will be viewed as a fad of its time a decade or two from now...

Seared meat is one thing; properly cooked meat with a sear is another thing altogether.

No one I know, well - except Dave Arnold - has a salamander broiler at home; those things fire at ridiculous temperatures and they are restaurant equipment.

At $79 for the Searzall, and say $200 for an immersion circulator now that they're being made as consumer products, I hardly see "hundreds or thousands of dollars of equipment" being poured into this "fad." Just like I don't see a Vitamix, Kitchen Aid, Cuisinart, ice-cream maker, or any other piece of equipment that a serious home cook might have in his or her battery as a fad.

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not to mention that heating up a salamander broiler heats up the kitchen, and isn't as intense as direct heat from a torch with the searzall, so it's quite different.

Using a pan is ok, but it makes a pretty big mess of my stovetop with splattered stuff...i imagine this will reduce the mess considerably, and also overcome my anemic stove burners.

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Yeah, why bother with such things when almost anything can be cooked, caveman-style, on a stick over an open fire?

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OK, so I see a theme of "urban sous viders" developing here! With the two pieces of equipment described in weinoo's post and a vessel for the water, perhaps one can do things that limited kitchen space might otherwise prohibit. By the way, I think that Dave's device is a terrific idea, and am probably inclined to buy one myself. I am thinking that sous vide finish work is not its only, nor necessarily its highest and best, use. Of course, I live out in the sticks and tend to cook with a stick over an open fire most of the time...

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I'm not inclined to buy a $75 accessory for my $25 Iwatani torch….

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Several years ago, I bought a "hose-torch" (made by Bernzomatic) for my propane canister - it's basically the gas valve connected to a 3 foot long hose, which is terminted with a "swirl-torch". I bought it because I thought it would be more convenient to sear things with the canister hanging on my belt just holding the light torch in my hand - plus, as anyone who has done lots of sweat-plumbing, holding the canister sideways with attached normal torch pointing down doesn't always work too well. The swirl-torch is advertised as making a more even and hotter flame for use with plumbing... but I find it works very well for searing post-SV stuff. I use it for all searing purposes, and I have never had a torch taste yet. It does take a bit of practice - I usually stay farther away from the food than I'd normally think was necessary and I get nice even browning with a very small amount little charred freckles so to speak. If there are no spices or ground pepper, then I can really blast a steak and get a really good crust without overcooking the interior. Spices/pepper tend to burn easily.

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In addition, one has to look at the failure rate and perpetual problems with home sous vide equipment. This seems more like a Popular Science or Popular Mechanics project out of the 1950s, like building your own computer or airplane, rather than a true culinary sea change.

You may be right. Time will tell. Bear in mind that you see lots of posts about equipment failure here because this is one of the few places on the internet to raise such issues. Plus, of course, complaints stand out more than successes, notwithstanding oodles of posts relating the latter. My own experiences with LTLT, for example, have been almost uniformly positive, the problems with blowtorches being the main exception. For the time being, I've done well using a countertop convection oven for browning. Others prefer other solutions. IMHO, the Searzall may be the tool which closes the circle and moves LTLT to the mainstream. Or not. As I said, only time will tell.

BTW, on review, I realize DDG linked in Post #3 the same Cooking Issues blog post I linked in Post #8.

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I'm not inclined to buy a $75 accessory for my $25 Iwatani torch….

Qiite the opposite... I wish it WERE compatible with the Iwatani torch.

(it's being promised for perhaps later)

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I pulled the trigger on this today...seems like an obviously good choice to me: high radiant heat, no pan to dirty or oven to turn on, no torch taste. The torch taste is the big motivating factor for me, I've used propane and MAPP gas and they do leave subtle undesirable flavors. The radiant heat of the Searzall is similar to the metal bars on gas grills. Yes it is a Kickstarter, so there is a possibility of delay but this seems like a simple device: insulation and an absorbing metal mesh, no moving or electric parts.

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Yep, just crossed the finish line today, I think it will be worth the wait if it is a true mini broiler

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Umm, it's a kickstarter project, not an order on Amazon. I signed up, but won't be shocked if it fizzles. That's how kickstarter works.

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