Making crème brûlée is just one of the
numerous things you can do with a culinary
torch. Photo courtesy BonJour.
Many of us have purchased a culinary torch (a.k.a. chef’s torch or brulée torch) for the sole purpose of caramelizing sugar on crème brûlée.
But a culinary torch has numerous other uses in the kitchen, for preparing both sweet and savory dishes. Here are 14 ways to use your torch, with thanks to Williams-Sonoma for some of these ideas.
1. Breakfast or dessert grapefruit brûlée. Cut a grapefruit in half and pat the cut surface dry. Sprinkle a thin layer of brown or white sugar and some optional cinnamon and/or nutmeg. Heat with the torch until the sugar bubbles.
2. Brûlée your oatmeal. Sprinkle cooked oatmeal or other porridge with a thin layer of brown or white sugar; heat with a torch until it gets crisp.
3. Caramelize beef and other meat.
Meat that’s served rare, like roast beef, is best cooked at a lower temperature. But this technique doesn’t produce a caramelized crust. Chef Thomas Keller shares his technique for prime rib: Before popping the roast into the oven, char the outside with a blowtorch. You can also do this with lamb. And, it makes any bacon wrap (like bacon-wrapped shrimp) crisper: just torch the bacon before putting the appetizers in the oven.
4. Char bell peppers. Instead of holding them over the stove, use your torch. You can also use the torch to roast small chiles (jalapeños, e.g.).
5. Cook a pizza, no oven required! Your torch will brown a ready-to-eat crust, melt the cheese, even roast the veggies.
6. Glaze a ham or a pork roast. Brush with chutney, honey mustard, preserves etc. If you’re adding fruit, lay the pineapple slices or other fruit over the ham. (If you need to use toothpicks, first soak them in water.) Sprinkle with brown sugar. Heat with the torch until the sugar caramelizes.
7. Melt cheese. Add a finishing touch to the cheese atop onion soup gratinée, chili or any hot dish with grated cheese, including mac and cheese.
8. Peel tomatoes. When making sauces, chili, etc., you can blanch the whole tomatoes in boiling water, or use your torch to sear and easily peel the skin. When skin starts to crack, set the tomato aside to cool, then peel.
9. Sear fish. You may have seen a sushi chef use a torch to sear the outside of a raw piece of tuna or other fish. Try it at home for an appetizer, atop a bed of frisée, mesclun or seaweed salad; replace some of the olive oil in your vinaigrette with sesame oil, and garnish with toasted sesame seeds. For a more cooked alternative, use the torch to crisp the skin and of the fish that hasn’t gotten it crisp enough in the pan (how to crisp fish skin).
10. Singe the pin feathers off poultry. Easy peasy!
Charred bell peppers. Photo courtesy Zabar’s.
11. Toast a bread crumb topping. Stuff tomatoes, bell peppers or avocado halves with chicken, crab, lobster, shrimp or tuna salad. Sprinkle with buttered bread crumbs and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, then heat with a torch until golden brown. You can also torch the bread crumb topping on mac and cheese and spaghetti or other pasta dishes.
12. Brown meringue. Use the torch to brown the meringue atop Baked Alaska, fruit tarts, meringue pies and other desserts.
13. Create burnt sugar garnishes. Place a greased cookie cutter on a Silpat liner and sprinkle a thin layer of sugar inside the cutter. Heat with a torch until crisp, then lift off the cutter. Use the burnt sugar decoration to garnish desserts such as frosted cakes, ice cream or pudding.
14. Make s’mores. Do this in the kitchen; or if your guests are handy adults, place graham crackers, chocolate bars and marshmallows on a platter and invite them to spear marshmallows with fondue forks and toast and assemble their own.
15. Flambé your food. Make delicious, festive desserts: Bananas Foster, Cherries Jubilee, dessert crêpes, fruit compote, etc. Pour Grand Marnier or other liqueur into a metal measuring cup and heat with the torch. Pour the warmed liqueur over the dessert and then use the torch or a long match to ignite. How to flambé.
16. Unmold frozen desserts. If they resist popping out of metal molds, the torch is neater and quicker than hot water.
17. And of course, crème brûlée.