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And what does he/she principally use it for?

I'm thinking of crème brûlée to start with and maybe blackening the skin of a pepper. Apart from that mine sits on the worktop pretty much unused.

Oh ... one other use (possibly unwise) .. occasionally using it under supervision does get my very young son more interested in cooking!

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I thought everyone had one! –  Neil Fein Aug 14 '10 at 2:14
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I thought no one had one. –  Chad Aug 14 '10 at 3:23

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I own one, and have tried it for both those uses, but with mediocre results compared to other techniques.

For crème brûlée, I get more even caramelization by placing the individual custards under a broiler. The only benefit I could appreciate from using the torch was that it was quicker, and I could monitor the caramelization more easily. (The broiler technique is the one recommended in this book for the perfect crème brûlée.)

For peppers, the torch dries out and blackens the skin without really cooking the interior. Again I have had better results in a broiler/hot oven, or on a grill.

The torch is most definitely fun, but so far I haven't found it to be necessary; I'll be interested, however, if someone else has found the perfect use(s) for a culinary torch.

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I would say probably not, with a few exceptions. I have one and the only thing I really use it for that you couldn't do some other way is crème brûlée. You can blacken the skin of a pepper with some tongs and a gas burner. Of course, if your stove is electric, then the torch suddenly becomes much more useful. The thing I use mine for a lot is browning meat while cooking sous vide. This is a really easy way to brown the meat that's much less messy than using a smoking pan and doesn't require firing up the grill. It's really a convenience play in this case.

So yes if:

  • you have an electric stove
  • crème brûlée is your favorite dessert
  • you cook a lot of sous vide

Note for the crème brûlée: I've never had much luck with a broiler and find that my torch works much better. I have a plumbers torch, not one of the little "kitchen" torches which seem to be far less effective.

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Even if you have an electric stove you can easily roast peppers in the broiler. chefdarin.com/2010/08/roasting-peppers –  Darin Sehnert Aug 13 '10 at 15:49

I admit, I have a hardware-grade torch, that I also use for plumbing, but it does have some culinary-related uses besides what's been mentioned:

  • Starting the grill. For charcoal, or for those times on the propane grill when the sparker's not working and you don't want to take the time to re-gap it.

  • Planting your garden. You can burn holes in weed-block fabric, rather than having to cut an X for each plant. This dramatically saves time, and you can do it while standing up. (actually, you want to do it standing up, as if the ground is too dry, you might start a fire that you need to stomp out).

You can use 'em for cooking, too -- I've toasted bread with one, but you have to be quick with it.

I've also heard that 'food stylists' use 'em so they can get color on the food, without actually caring if it's been cooked or not -- so they might come in handy if you're planning on making a cookbook.

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Toasting bread with a torch will just brown the outside, without heating the interior. Heating the whole slice of bread, thus forcing water out of the starch, effectively "recooks" the bread, turning old bread into fresh-tasting bread. I wouldn't toast bread this way unless the bread is fresh or has already been reheated some other way. –  kevins Aug 13 '10 at 15:46
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This post appealed to the dormant cave man in me. I need to get myself a torch! –  Sobachatina Aug 24 '10 at 15:00

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