What good is a kitchen blowtorch?

What are you kidding me? Other than making crème brûlée you mean? If you dig pastry, lots of things. You can makes s’mores without a campfire, for one. A blowtorch can turn a humble split banana and a sprinkling of brown sugar into a gourmet platform for homemade ice cream. It’s also handy for toasting meringue toppings. On the savory side, it’s great when you need to roast the skin off a chile pepper or a tomato and don’t feel like heating the broiler up. Then there’s melting or browning cheese, say, on the top of a bowl of onion soup.

And then of course there are tarts. This is where a blowtorch really shines, in my opinion, since I can think of a variety of tarts — savory and sweet — than are best served room temperature, yet benefit from a light top-toasting just before serving. Alsatian onion tart is a great example. Another is a tri-color pesto tart I used to like to make, since pesto (as many of you know) can’t handle oven heat. It turns to a greasy, dark green smear. A quick brush with a blowtorch, though, will brown the very top without “melting” what’s underneath.

I also apply mine to my mixer bowl when I want to warm its contents as the machine runs. That’s a neat trick if you’re mixing a batter but forgot to take the ingredients out of the fridge ahead of time (just be sure to wave the torch lightly so as not to cook anything delicate — like the eggs). I kid you not when I tell you that the biggest proponent of the kitchen torch was Julia Child. For her, a work area wasn’t complete without one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *