Straight to the Point
Whether you’re looking to elevate your wok-cooking game, give a batch of torrijas a perfect caramelized sugar crust, sear some sous vide steaks, or angrily incinerate the remains of a failed baking project, a kitchen torch can be a useful tool. Do you absolutely need a kitchen blowtorch? Probably not. But for anyone in the market for a new torch, or for those partial to pyrotechnics, this review is for you. We tested nine different kitchen torches, drawing from a range of butane and propane selections. Here are our favorites.
The Winners, at a Glance
The Best Butane Kitchen Torch: Iwatani PRO2 Culinary Butane Torch
A popular choice among restaurant professionals, the Iwatani PRO2 is an affordable, no-frills butane torch that delivers ample power and unmatched flame coverage. Larger butane canisters are cheap, so the price-to-value ratio makes this torch a solid option for most cooks.
The Best Compact Butane Kitchen Torch: Jo Chef Superior RX
The Jo Chef Superior RX is a great entry-level model that offers many of the same benefits of a more heavy-duty torch, but in a less intimidating size and at a lower price point.
The Best Propane Kitchen Torch: Bernzomatic TS8000
If serious firepower is what you’re after, then look no further than the Bernzomatic TS8000. This monster of a blowtorch blew every other torch out of the water in terms of raw heat output, burning time, and reliability. It also comes with a hefty price tag and a very bulky footprint.
The Criteria: What We Look for in a Kitchen Blowtorch
A kitchen blowtorch should be able to easily handle a variety of tasks, from searing sous vide steaks and melting cheese on a burger to evenly caramelizing sugar for crème brûlée. A torch should be intuitive to use, easy to operate with one hand, and comfortable to hold. It should produce a strong and consistent flame. Above all, a good torch should offer the user a high degree of control, and therefore a reasonable margin of safety.
Why You Should Trust Us
I may not have a graduate degree in fire science, but I have been using blowtorches for several years now—on the line in restaurant kitchens, in test kitchens, and at home. I’ve written extensively about using a torch to generate wok hei at home, and have developed a number of recipes using this “torch hei” technique. These days, I’m never more than an arm’s reach away from a blowtorch in my kitchen—even if I just use it to light the pilot light on my aging gas range.
What’s the Difference Between Butane and Propane Fuel?
In most cases, blowtorches use either butane or propane as fuel. Both are highly flammable hydrocarbon gases derived from natural gas processing. What’s the difference? For one thing, butane has a much higher boiling point (31°F or -0.4°Celsius) than propane (-43.6°F or -42°C), so as a result, you can store propane in conditions with a wider range of temperatures (outside in the cold or in a shed, for example), while butane is best used at room temperature, where it stays in liquid form.
Butane is also said to be more fuel efficient than propane, which makes it ideal for lighters, smaller torches, camping stoves, or any situation in which people need to pack light. For example, if you burned the same volume of propane and butane at room temperature, you might observe that the butane would supply roughly 12 percent more energy.
Propane exerts about four times as much pressure against the walls of its container (measured as vapor pressure) as butane. For this reason, you won’t likely find propane in a small can; it’s usually stored in heavy, thick-walled cylinders or tanks. Butane can be found in smaller, thin-walled canisters.
In terms of availability, propane is generally easier to source, especially in large quantities for grilling and outdoor heating. Butane is a little trickier to find, especially in large quantities.
Finally, a note about taste: butane is said to leave a bit of a “gasoline” flavor on food if applied for too long or in an uncontrolled fashion. On the other hand, propane can also produce this effect in instances of incomplete combustion. In my testing, I found no conclusive evidence that either gas produced ostensibly more or less “off” flavors in the food. Rather, any off flavors likely came as a result of incomplete fuel combustion or faulty operation of a torch.
Test 1: Starting and Functionality
A blowtorch isn’t very useful if you can’t get a flame going. And if you can’t control that flame, safety becomes a big concern. While that may seem silly, you’d be surprised by the number of models that fail to start on the first click or—worse—ignite but then cut out unexpectedly. For this test, I recorded the average number of tries it took to ignite the torch, and noted if starting required one or both hands; I compared the experience of manually adjusting flame intensity on each model; and I also marked any safety features and overall ergonomics.
Winners like the Iwatani PRO2 and the Bernzomatic TS8000 had reliable trigger starts that worked instantaneously. They featured an intuitive dial to adjust the flame. They were also comfortable to hold, with no extraneous parts or cumbersome heat shields. In contrast, some models, like the Bernzomatic ST2200T Micro Butane Torch, felt almost impossible to start. Others, like the Spicy Dew Blow Torch, cut out multiple times during operation, and felt awkward in the hand due to a poorly placed heat shield.
When it came to testing, I noted the consistency of the flame, heat output, safety and ergonomics, and the flavors imparted on foods. First, I compared differences in functionality and user-friendly design, especially when it came to starting and maintaining a flame. Second, I recorded the flame size at max intensity. Finally, I performed tests involving searing steak at max intensity, as well as delicately finishing crème brûlée, with the hope of mimicking a reasonable range of applications that a home cook would find for this tool.
Test 2: Flame Color, Size, and Heat Output
In the world of kitchen torches, a blue flame is best. Torch flames that burn orange or yellow often indicate imperfect or inefficient combustion of fuel. This extra uncombusted carbon will cause soot to form, which shows as yellow or orange incandescence in a flame. As a result, an orange flame can translate to food that tastes sooty or like gasoline.
Along with flame color, it’s worth noting the size and spread of the flame itself. I recorded the length of the flame, as well as a rough diameter of the flame tip. Finally, I used an infrared thermometer to roughly gauge the heat output of each torch, by holding the flame tip to the surface of a cold (room temperature) cast iron pan for 10 seconds and then taking a reading of the pan’s surface temperature; comparing temperatures was a rough way to detect differences in heat output*.
*Why couldn’t I just use the infrared thermometer to take a direct reading of the flame? Simply, it’s not possible. Infrared gun thermometers are only reliable for taking readings of surface temperatures.
Notable winners in this category included the Bernzomatic TS8000 and the Jo Chef Superior RX, which had deep blue, concentrated flames with a medium to wide spread, and heated the surface of the cast iron pan to temperatures between 1500°F and 2500°F. The Bernzomatic ST2200T Micro Butane Torch fell short in this test, with a pitiful 1/4-inch flame diameter and an observed pan surface temperature of 350°F after 10 seconds of exposure. During use, this torch showed an orange-yellow flame, which led to subpar cooking results in the later tests.
Test 3: Searing Sous Vide Steaks
One of the most popular applications for blowtorches is giving gently cooked sous vide steaks a fiery finish to get Maillard browning, without having to sear them in a ripping hot skillet. This technique was all the rage in the heyday of sous vide cooking, when chefs and ambitious home cooks alike discovered the wonders of torching their sad, grey-looking (but perfectly cooked!) beef to produce a burnished crust.
For this test, I cooked 2-inch-thick portions of New York strip steak to medium-rare in a water bath set to 130°F for one hour. After cooking and patting the portions dry, I seared each portion on all sides with a kitchen torch on the highest setting until each side was browned. I recorded the optimal distance for searing, as well as the time it took to achieve a full sear on all sides.
Apart from appearance, I evaluated each sample for flavor and texture. Was there a discernible crust? Was there any dreaded “gray band”—that unappealing but avoidable ring of overcooked meat between the browned surface of a steak and the rosy interior? Were there any unappetizing, gasoline-like flavors?
Top performers in this category were the Bernzomatic TS4000 and TS8000, as well as the Iwatani PRO2, which all produced sizzling, deeply browned crusts in the least amount of time; they also left minimal off flavors on the meat. The worst performers, like the Bernzomatic ST2200T Micro Butane Torch, barely produced a crust at all, and by the time I got acceptable browning, the meat was dry and the flavor was slightly bitter.
Test 4: Finishing Crème Brûlée
Kitchen torches and crème brûlée go hand in hand, so much so that they are often sold as “brûlée torches.” But do you really need a high-powered torch to caramelize sugar? Can you get great results from a smaller, lower-powered option? I made a large batch of single-serving crème brûlées and sprinkled one tablespoon (around 12g) of sugar into each ramekin of cooked custard base. Holding the flame tip approximately 2 inches from the surface, I caramelized the sugar in sweeping motions, noting the time it took to caramelize fully. I repeated this test for each torch, on both high and medium settings.
A good torch would ideally provide adequate caramelization without curdling the custard base underneath. That means supplying enough direct heat over a short period of time, since prolonged cooking could overheat the cooked custard underneath the layer of sugar, causing it to curdle. This is where spread, flame size, and intensity factor in.
The Jo Chef Superior RX produced the most uniform, consistent caramelization—striking a balance between adequate heat output and flame spread. Others like the Bernzomatic TS4000 and TS8000 were a bit too powerful for this application, and produced burnt spots if I wasn’t careful. Lower-intensity models such as the Sondiko Culinary Torch and Bernzomatic ST2200T Micro Butane Torch took much longer to caramelize the sugar, which led to curdling in the custard base underneath.
The Best Butane Kitchen Torch: Iwatani PRO2 Culinary Butane Torch
What we liked: Iwatani is a familiar favorite in the restaurant industry, and for good reason: its torch head is affordable (less than $30) and low profile, requiring larger butane canisters (BU-5 and BU-6 cylinders) that are also relatively cheap and long lasting. Plus, the firepower is nothing to sniff at. Of all the butane models, this torch provides the widest spread (almost three inches at the point of contact); on its highest setting it has a seven-inch, mostly blue flame. This model features a reliable trigger starter that works the first time, every time; once lit, the torch stays lit and never cuts out. A dial on the back of the torch head allows you to easily adjust the intensity of the flame.
When searing steak, the Iwatani is a fast performer, clocking in at 2 minutes and 45 seconds total for the top, bottom, and sides of the meat in my tests. The crust was even, with slightly charred sections throughout, while the interior was juicy with no visible gray band. Interestingly, this torch produced some “sooty” flavors in the steak, but not in an off-putting way—more reminiscent of Korean barbecue.
Because of its wide flame radius, the Iwatani performs equally well brûléeing sugar. While the highest setting proved too much for this task (the top burned rather quickly), dialing down the flame to medium intensity resulted in perfect crème brûlée with a golden brown, speckled, shattering crust and silky smooth custard underneath.
What we didn't like: Starting and extinguishing the flame does require both hands, as you need to hold the gas canister in place while turning the gas nozzle on the back with your other hand. Otherwise, this is a very straightforward, no-frills trigger start model. Do note: It does not have a safety lock.
- Listed Maximum Temperature: 2700°F/1500℃
- Observed Pan Temperature after 10 seconds: 550°F/287.8°C
- Estimated Burning Time: 100 minutes
The Best Compact Butane Kitchen Torch: Jo Chef Superior RX
What we liked: If you’re looking for a more compact option, this kitchen torch is a great alternative. Instead of the larger butane canister on the Iwatani PRO2, the Superior RX features a built-in, refillable canister that can be filled via smaller universal butane lighter refill canisters. The drawback? This style of kitchen blowtorch has lower fuel capacity, so it has to be refilled more frequently. Even so, one 10-second charge is enough to give you at least five minutes of continuous run time, more than enough for caramelizing sugar or giving a stir-fry some torch hei.
Like the Iwatani PRO2, this model features a reliable trigger start and requires two hands to start and extinguish. It features a user-friendly safety lock on the side. The trigger start works instantaneously and, once lit, the flame never cuts out during use. On the highest setting, the flame is about 6.5 inches long and tapers to a sharp point with an average diameter of about 1 inch. Unlike the Iwatani PRO2, the flame is smoother, straighter, and seemingly more concentrated; the spread is tighter at the point of contact. Overall, the Superior RX feels sturdy—it even has an attachable plastic base—and well balanced, with no extraneous parts.
In searing tests, the Superior RX was one of fastest performers of all butane models, finishing steaks in two minutes and 40 seconds on average. The crust on the steaks was even, showing slightly more charred spots compared to the Iwatani PRO2. The flavor was clean, with no signs of soot or gasoline-like aromas; the interior of the steak was juicy and had no visible gray band.
For crème brûlée, both the high and medium settings produced an acceptable caramel top in the fastest time (45 to 60 seconds respectively). The medium setting was ideal in this instance, yielding a uniformly golden caramel top.
What we didn't like: Again, starting and extinguishing this torch's flame does require both hands.
- Listed Maximum Temperature: 2730° F/1498.9°C
- Observed Pan Temperature after 10 seconds: 520°F/271.1°C
- Estimated Burning Time: 15 minutes
The Best Propane Kitchen Torch: Bernzomatic TS8000
What we liked: In comparison to the smaller butane models, propane torches are about as heavy-duty as you can get. And there are few models as powerful and reliable as the TS8000 torch. Weighing in at roughly three to four pounds when hooked up to a large propane canister, and boasting a name straight out of the Terminator franchise, this torch is for cooks looking for serious firepower. Is it overkill for most home cooks? Sure. But there’s no arguing with results.
As a more expensive option, The TS8000 is technically designed for metal and plumbing work, able to reach temperatures well into the 3000°F range. It features a one-handed trigger start ignition that works seamlessly without fail, as well as an auto run-lock button so that you don’t have to depress the button while using the torch for longer periods of time. Unlike other models, the torch can be operated completely with one hand. At the highest setting, the flame length is about five inches, and the average diameter is about 3/4 of an inch, tapering to a fine point. The flame itself is a concentrated deep blue, and considerably more intense in color than any of the butane models I tested. There is also a dial to regulate gas flow.
In operation, this torch sounds more like a running jet engine than a kitchen tool. The TS8000 features superb pressure regulation; as a result, the flame points in the same relative direction regardless of the torch head’s orientation. That means you can tilt or invert the torch in any direction without any hitch in performance.
Searing steaks with this torch is a dream. The crust in my tests was sizzling hot, and more substantial compared to all other models. Some spots were charred, but overall the flavor was excellent and, when I cut into the steak, it showed no noticeable gray band. Best of all, the TS8000 finished steaks in a staggering one minute and 30 seconds on average—a full minute faster than all of the butane models I tested. When brûléeing sugar, this model was the fastest performer of all the torches, and it was able to caramelize sugar at a relatively even rate without curdling the custard base.
One of the other draws of the Bernzomatic is its compatibility with the mythical Searzall. The brainchild of culinary innovator Dave Arnold, the Searzall isn’t technically a torch head, but rather an attachment for a torch head. It’s specifically designed for heavy-duty propane torch models like the TS4000 and TS8000. The Searzall is meant to create the perfect searing temperature by dispersing the flame over a wider area, acting like the top-down heating element of a broiler or professional salamander. Though I was excited at the idea of perfect searing, in practice the Searzall produced average results: The sear on steaks wasn’t as intense (though the flavor was clean), and I found it hard to direct the flame to the sides of the meat; for crème brûlée, the Searzall was difficult to control, invariably blackening the sugar and curdling the custard if I wasn’t careful. Though I see the potential in the Searzall for other applications, I think there are better options for a straight up torch that aren’t so limiting.
What we didn't like: The TS8000 is almost too powerful for brûléeing sugar. Even at the lowest setting, the sugar tended to burn slightly if I wasn’t careful. Because of the high pressure exerted on ignition, this torch also tended to blow the sugar around in the initial stages of cooking, though this wasn’t much of an issue if I ignited the torch away from the sugar and then moved the flame closer.
- Listed Maximum Temperature: 3,600°F/1,982°C on propane fuel
- Observed Pan Temperature after 10 seconds: 618°F/325.6°C
- Estimated Burning Time: 1.5 to 2 hours
*This torch head can be used with MAP-Pro fuel, which is a mixture of 99.5% propylene and 0.5% propane. The TS8000 can reach temperatures up to 3,730° F/2054.4° C using this type of fuel.
- Sondiko Culinary Torch: A small butane torch by comparison, this model feels comfortable in the hand and intuitive to use, but has an unreliable one-handed trigger start function. The flame is a bit lackluster, producing an average crust on steaks. Because of the weak flame, it tended to curdle the custard on crème brûlée on the lower flame setting, as it took a long time to caramelize the sugar topping, and overheated the custard beneath it. But the most significant drawback to this torch was that the flame cut out intermittently during operation.
- Bernzomatic ST2200T Micro Butane Torch: Unlike its burly cousin, this mini torch offering from Bernzomatic fell flat in nearly every testing category. It took multiple tries to ignite, and the flame itself was the weakest of all models tested. Searing took a full two minutes longer than average, and the resulting crust was dry, relatively pale, and unappetizing.
- EurKitchen Premium Culinary Butane Torch: This torch fared reasonably well in all tests. The flame was strong, concentrated, and seldom cut out mid-use. But it did take a few tries to light the torch, as I found myself clicking the trigger switch repeatedly to get things going. The design felt awkward in the hand: the plastic hand guard felt superfluous, and the angle of the torch head made it more difficult to deftly maneuver into the corners of a ramekin.
- Spicy Dew Blow Torch: Nearly identical in design to the EurKitchen torch, this model performed similarly well in testing. Where the EurKitchen was difficult to start, the Spicy Dew was easy to start, but I experienced far more instances of the flame cutting out during use. This model had both a handguard and raised torch head angle, features that I found unnecessary.
- Bernzomatic TS4000 Torch: The TS4000 has all of the advantages of the TS8000, minus a few key features. First, the TS4000 has no dial to adjust the intensity of the flame—just one setting, every time. Second, the heat output is slightly lower than the TS8000 (about 25 percent lower). Still, the TS4000 is a great propane torch option, and provides more than enough firepower for kitchen tasks big and small.
Where can I buy butane for a kitchen torch?
You can find butane at many online retailers, like Amazon, Walmart, and Lowe's. You can also check to see if the maker of your kitchen torch sells butane, like the manufacturer of our favorite compact butane torch does.
What do you use a kitchen torch for?
Do all kitchen torches use butane?
No, not all kitchen torches use butane. There are heavy-duty torches, like one of our favorite models from Bernzomatic, that use propane.