Chef Mike C. offers this:
My Banquets & Catering chef at the CIA would always sprinkle an initial layer of sugar onto his brulees as soon as they came out of the oven. This way, that sugar would melt and fill in the little pits or uneven bits on the surface. That way, he said, when you put another layer of sugar on top when they were all cooled, you would have a perfectly smooth, glass-like layer of caramelized sugar.
Another chef I worked with in California used brown sugar instead of granulated sugar. I don’t remember them having an exceptional crunch (maybe because of the molasses?), but the flavor on them was great.
Great tips, Mike! I’ll add them to the permanent crème brûlée tutorial.