If you are a sucker for a beautifully browned and seared sous vide steak then you probably want to get yourself a food torch. The sous vide water bath does a great job of cooking your steak perfectly. But it won’t give you that impressive brown, crispy seared look or taste. That is where the sous vide torch comes into the picture. Do you want your sous vide cooked steak to look like this?
If the answer is yes, then keep reading.
It is not difficult to use a food torch to sear your meat at the end of a sous vide cook. Here’s a super simple diagram to show you the steps involved in using a food/kitchen torch at the end of your sous vide cook:
Now that you can see how easy it is to finish off your meal with a torch, let’s put kitchen torches under the spotlight.
What is a food/culinary torch?
A sous vide torch is simply a food torch (also commonly known as a kitchen torch or culinary torch) that is designed to caramelize food including meats and desserts. It is actually quite a versatile tool. It can also be used for soldering/brazing small metals or used when camping as a survival tool if those things float your boat. But we digress.
Here is why a food torch is so effective for finishing off your sous vide steak . After your sous vide cook, you don’t want to cook your steak any further. The high heat of the food torch won’t affect the inside of the cut of steak. That way, you get lots of juiciness on the inside and a gorgeous crust on the outside of your steak. A food torch also works well with meats of different shapes.
An important note: using a food torch may well increase your legendary status when hosting a dinner party. There is something pretty cool about flames being used to finish off a meal. Your dinner guests are bound to be impressed…and slightly terrified if you do not know what you are doing!
Keen to see a kitchen torch in action searing a steak? Here’s a quick clip:
What does the sous vide torch actually do?
It caramalizes the meat. In technical terms this is called a Maillard reaction. In the Further Reading section at the bottom of this article there is a link to some further technical information about the science behind this reaction if you would like to learn more.
To get this caramelization with a food torch, you need to take your time and make sure the torch does not get too close to your steak. Many cooks use a diffuser to make sure the flame of the torch isn’t too intense or concentrated in one area. The most common diffuser used in sous vide cooking is a product called the Searzall. It is specifically designed to diffuse the flame.
Sous vide torch buying tips
Tip 1. Some blow torches can be very smelly. Modernist Cuisine recommends using MAPP gas in preference to butane or propane. This is because it is not smelly and tends to have a hotter flame.
Tip 2. As we mentioned in the sections above, you don’t want the food blow torch to have one concentrated blast burner. Look for food blow torches that diffuse the heat. The Searzall is a great option. This is a device you attach to the end of your food torch to diffuse the flame.
Tip 3. There are loads of kitchen torches on the market and the quality can vary dramatically. Where possible, look for a money back satisfaction guarantee which many reputable brands offer.
Tip 4. Remember, all food torches are likely to be sold WITHOUT canisters. Read all food torch product descriptions carefully. Order a suitable and compatible canister at the same time you order your food torch. Alternatively you can pick up gas cylinders and canisters from local hardware stores and places like Home Depot.
Tip 5. Some kitchen torches are not up to the job of searing a sous vide steak. If you plan to use your torch to sear meats, don’t buy a small kitchen torch. Smaller torches are better suited for desserts such as sous vide creme brulees. Many of them simply do not put out enough heat to sear steaks or other meats at the end of your sous vide cook.
Here are the top 5 sous vide torch options we think are worth considering:
Iwatani Pro2 Food Torch
This inexpensive food torch receives great reviews from sous vide home cooks. It’s easy to use, has a dispersed flame, comes with a 1 year manufacturers warranty and is made in Japan. Reviewers confirm that any brand of 8 oz butane fuel canister will work with this torch. You can pick these up in local hardware stores.
The Iwatani Food Torch is one of the most popular food torches amongst sous vide home cooks. The brand is very reputable in terms of quality. Many reviewers find that it burns much hotter than other food torches they have used. It has an adjustable flame so it can be used for different applications. It is more expensive than some other food torches on the market but reviewers time and time again say that it is worth the cost. You can use this torch with a range of gas cylinders. Many people use this food torch with a Worthington gas cylinder
Here’s an image of the Iwatani Food Torch in action:
Here’s a quick clip of the Iwatani Food Torch
This is the creme de la creme of torches that sous vide cooks rave about. It’s reliable, has an auto start/stop ignition which easily ignites and extinguishes flame and a great heat output. It has an adjustable flame control knob to easily size flame for different applications and a cast aluminum body for durability.
Here is a quick clip of the Bernzomatic TS8000 torch in action:
A number of sous viders use a Searzall with the Bernzomatic TS8000. Searzall is an attachment that you secure to the top of your blowtorch to create the perfect searing temperature and flame dispersion without the off-putting aromas that typically result when cooking with blow torches.
According to Searzall, “by forcing the thin flame of the blowtorch through two layers of fine, high-temperature-resistant wire mesh, it produces a consistent, evenly spread flame that provides a professional quality finish to meats and other food items.” The good news is that reviewers agree! Searzall is renowned in sous vide cook circles are being an extremely effective tool that can be used in conjunction with their blowtorch. The Searzall is available on Amazon and from the manufacturer website Booker and Dax. At the time of writing Searzall appears to be out of current stock. We will update this post and our social media accounts once the Searzall is available again. If you just can’t wait, one option is to purchase a Searzall second hand.
Here is a pic of the Searzall attached to the end of the Benzomatic to give you an idea of how it fits together:
JB Chef Kitchen Torch
The jury seems slightly split on this kitchen torch. Whilst we have some apprehension recommending it, we have included it here because it does receive a lot of praise from the sous vide reviewer community. This is a well priced, refillable food torch (butane sold separately). The gripes with this kitchen torch include that it can sometimes be a little tricky to turn on and off. Also some sous viders have commented that in their experience, the butane has leaked which is obviously problematic.
Here’s a shot of the JB Chef Kitchen Torch in action
Here is a quick clip of the JB Chef Kitchen Torch from someone who has purchased one:
Xpert’s Flame Culinary Torch
We love that this food torch comes with a 90 day satisfaction guarantee plus a bonus e-book (if that’s your thing). It also has an adjustable flame and most reviewers report it is easy to use. As with the JB Chef torch, there are a minority of reviewers who found that the butane leaked and that the customer service experience was not fabulous. Keep those factors in mind when considering this product. If the price is right at the time of purchase you may be willing to give it a shot.
Bernzomatic BZ4500HS Heat Shrink Torch
This torch is similar to the Bernzomatic TS-8000 listed above, but this model has a wider, more spread-out flame. It’s even broad flame is great for a fast sear. Cooks who sous vide have reported that there is no after taste when using this food torch.
A note about gas clinders
It is important to note that some gas cylinders do not sell online as freight of gas is problematic. When you purchase your torch, look carefully to see if the gas cylinder is also included in the purchase. It usually is NOT included. If you cannot get a gas cylinder or canister online they are readily available from local hardware stores or similar.
Sous Vide Hub torch technique tips
Tip 1 Pop the meat on a wire rack over a non stick baking sheet. That way you will protect your kitchen bench and also your dishware.
Tip 2 Use a sweeping motion with the blow torch. Move the flame slowly back and forth across the surface of your steak to evenly caramelize the meat.
Tip 3 Don’t rush. You don’t want to get the food torch too close to your sous vide meat. It will burn instead of caramelizing.
Tip 4 Before you use the sous vide torch, pat your meat dry. This will make for a better crust when you sear.
Kitchen Blow Torch products mentioned in this post
Booker and Dax website – makers of Searzall
We’ve included a link to an article explaining the technical details and science behind blow torching – Science of Cooking website
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