Cuisine Technology
Side view shot of hand holding searing torch with flame over oyster shell.

The 6 Best Sous Vide Torches in 2020

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Before we begin:if you just want our quick answer, our favorite sous vide torch is the Bernzomatic TS8000 High-Intensity Trigger Start Torch WITH the Searzall Booker & Dax Torch Attachment. We love the versatility and incredible power that this combination offers.

One of the biggest struggles with sous vide cooking is that you end up with food that’s cooked through, but missing the gorgeous caramelization or Maillard reaction (depending on what you’re cooking) on the outside. This means your steak doesn’t have that nice brown crust, and your vegetable pieces aren’t caramelized at all. In addition to being less richly flavorful, these foods can even be downright ugly.

That’s where a kitchen torch comes into play. Using an easily controlled handheld flame, you can quickly sear your sous vide food, making it both beautiful and delicious without overcooking the inside. This is particularly important for steak and other meats, where adding too much heat can ruin the perfect cook you achieved with the sous vide process.

In general, we recommend using a torch in addition to searing in a cast iron skillet. (You can read more in our complete guide on how to sous vide a steak perfectly every time!) In short: after searing one side, you flip the steak over, and then use the torch to further sear the exposed side. Depending on how you’re making your steak, you may repeat this process a couple of times. If you get a particularly powerful torch, though, you can use it instead of using a pan at all. Just put your steak or other sous vide food on a metal rack and torch away.

Be aware that none of these torches come with fuel, for safety reasons. You’ll need to source your own fuel, which you can typically find at any hardware store. You may also be able to find the right fuel at outdoors/camping stores, kitchen stores, or Asian grocery stores.

Best Sous Vide Torches at a Glance

Best for: Serious cooks willing to splurge for the best
Best for: A great propane torch on a budget
Best for: Butane torch that combines power and versatility
Best for: Diversity in flame shapes
Best for: Budget buyer who values a versatile tool
Best for: Compact propane torch on a budget


The Top 6 Sous Vide Torches


#1. Bernzomatic TS8000 High-Intensity Trigger Start Torch WITH the Booker & Dax Torch Attachment

Best for: Serious cooks willing to splurge for the best

The combination of the Bernzomatic TS8000 with the Booker & Dax Searzall torch attachment definitely isn’t cheap, but if you’re serious about your food, you may find that it’s exactly what you need. While the Bernzomatic is a fairly standard (but high-quality) torch, the attachment takes it to a whole new dimension. Once you put the Searzall attachment on, you’ve gone from a standard kitchen torch to essentially a handheld broiler.

The intense but diffused heat that’s created by this combination is fantastic when you want to spread out your sear over a wider area. This is perfect for sous vide steak, for example; you can do several wider passes over the meat instead of trying to aim a narrow flame at just the right area. Of course, using the Bernzomatic without the torch gives you the option of having a single flame—but we prefer other options if this is all you’re going for.

And its uses aren’t limited to sous vide. It’s also fantastic for anything you’d broil; use it to finish off a nice mac and cheese or shepherd’s pie, add some color or char to kebabs or skewers, or get some extra last-minute caramelization on roasted veggies. If you have the budget for it and love the idea of having a handheld broiler to go with your kitchen torch, this is an incredible tool.
Keep in mind that the Booker & Dax torch attachment doesn’t work on its own, so you’ll need to get the Bernzomatic too for this setup to work. The Bernzomatic on its own is a simple flame torch; it’s the Booker & Dax Searzall attachment that really makes it magic and lets it function as a handheld broiler. If you’re looking for a torch that you can use to sear a sous vide steak alone, without using a pan too, this is the one for you.

Specs and Features

  • Gas: MAP-Pro / Propane
Pros
  • An incredibly powerful tool
  • The Booker & Dax Searzall attachment diffuses the heat to cover a wider area
  • The Bernzomatic works with or without attachment for a wide variety of uses
  • Offers faster results than the other options
Cons
  • Higher price, especially since you need to buy the torch and attachment separately
  • Requires bigger propane cylinders
  • Larger than typical kitchen torches, so it needs more storage space and isn’t as practical to handle

#2. Bernzomatic TS4000 Trigger Start Torch

Best for: A great propane torch on a budget

While it’s not as versatile as the combination of the Bernzomatic TS8000 with the Booker & Dax Searzall torch attachment, the Bernzomatic TS4000 is a great torch in its own right. It’s powerful enough to handle sous vide steaks, while coming in at a remarkably affordable price. If you’re just looking for a high-quality, well-built torch that lets you get the job done without any extra complications, this one may be the perfect fit for you!

Keep in mind, though, that this level of simplicity comes with some tradeoffs. You don’t need to worry about whether to buy the Searzall attachment… because it’s not compatible with this torch. And you don’t need to concern yourself with what flame level you should use… because it’s not adjustable. The Bernzomatic TS4000 really is all about straightforward simplicity, which may or may not be the right fit for you.

If you think you may want to upgrade later, we’d recommend skipping the TS4000 and paying a bit more to just get the TS8000 upfront. This way, you won’t need to replace your torch down the line when you decide to get the Searzall attachment to go with it.

Specs and Features

  • Gas: MAP-Pro / Propane
Pros
  • Quality build
  • Auto start/stop ignition
  • Safety lock
Cons
  • No adjustable flame control knob
  • Not compatible with Searzall attachment
  • Bernzomatic TS8000 costs only a bit more and offers more power and functions

#3. Iwatani CB-TC-PRO2 Culinary Butane Torch

Best for: Butane torch that combines power and versatility

The first butane torch on this list, the Iwatani earns its place among the powerful propane torches thanks to its combination of practical and useful features. This is partly because it’s an exception to the general rule that butane torches are refillable. In a design more characteristic of propane torches, this one actually attaches to the can, allowing for larger flames and letting you use it for a longer period.

Since it’s an adjustable butane torch, you can also use it for more delicate tasks. For example, this is one of only two devices on this list that are also on our list of top picks for crème brûlée torches. We love this level of versatility, which means that one torch should be enough for all your cooking needs!

Thanks to its relatively small build, this torch is also great for anyone who has a small kitchen or values maneuverability. You can store it separate from the fuel can, which is ideal for those with space at a premium. And the smaller size means that it’s easier to use and more practical for a small home kitchen where you may not have the elbow room needed for a large torch.

Specs and Features

  • Gas: Butane
Pros
  • Small footprint makes it practical for home kitchen storage
  • High-quality butane torch
  • Easier to handle than the bigger propane torches
  • Appropriate both for sous vide and more delicate applications such as crème brûlée
Cons
  • Smaller flames compared to bigger propane torches (even though they’re large by butane standards)
  • Butane cylinders are more expensive than propane

#4. SKYTOU Heat Propane Mapp Torch

Best for: Diversity in flame shapes

Let’s get back into propane options with this offering from SKYTOU! We always appreciate an adjustable flame, because it lets you venture into more uses than a single intensity allows. But this particular torch takes that concept to another level. Instead of simply having a knob or dial that adjusts the flame level, it comes with three different nozzles. Each one creates a different flame shape, giving you extra control over your torch.

In addition to the different nozzles, the SKYTOU torch also lets you adjust the flame level with a dial. In other words, the nozzles are an addition to an adjustable torch, not a replacement for an adjustable flame! As a result, we particularly love this device for precise control.

The only reason that this torch doesn’t challenge others higher on our list is that its construction quality could be better. We love the durability of the Bernzomatic products, for example! But if you’re looking for a tool that lets you control both flame shape and size, this one is a fantastic option.

Specs and Features

  • Gas: MAP-Pro / Propane
Pros
  • Comes with 3 different torch tips/nozzles
  • Adjustable flame control knob
Cons
  • Construction quality could be better

#5. Butane Torch Kitchen Blow Lighter by FunOwlet

Best for: Budget buyer who values a versatile tool

As one of just two options that overlap between this list and our recommendations for crème brûlée torches, this one is really something special. It’s a butane torch, which means that it isn’t quite as powerful as the propane options on our list. However, it attaches directly to a snap-joint butane cylinder, allowing for a larger flame than many refillable butane kitchen torches.

So what does all of this mean for you? While you may not get the sheer burning power you would from a propane torch, you get extra flexibility to make up for it. And this torch is an absolute master at flexibility! 

Beyond just the adjustable flame that lets you choose between soft fire and spit fire, this torch is designed to work at any angle. While you probably won’t be searing any sous vide food from underneath, the option to use it at any angle is invaluable for getting into hard-to-reach corners and edges. (If you haven’t yet had the experience of having a torch that insists on going out when you angle it too far, I can personally assure you that it’s a pain.)

And if you’re thinking that all of this flexibility must come at a price, think again. This is one of the most budget-friendly options on our list, making it ideal for anyone who wants to torch a variety of foods without paying a premium.

Specs and Features

  • Gas: Butane
Pros
  • Very affordable
  • Small footprint and practical for kitchen storage
  • Different fire options (spit fire and soft fire)
  • More control due to small flames
Cons
  • Smaller flames compared to bigger propane torches
  • Butane cylinders are more expensive than propane
  • Works with snap joint butane cylinders only

#6. BLUEFIRE Handy Cyclone Propane Torch Head

Best for: Compact propane torch on a budget

You may have noticed a pattern by now: butane torches tend to be more affordable than propane torches. This definitely holds true overall, but can be disappointing if you have your heart set on propane but a limited budget. Luckily, the BLUEFIRE propane torch comes to the rescue! It’s astonishingly affordable for a propane torch.

You’ll immediately notice that this device has a very compact head, taking up far less space than many of our other top picks. This means it’s also ideal for anyone working with very limited space, since those extra few inches can make all the difference in a tight kitchen.

If you can afford it and have the space for it, we definitely recommend the Bernzomatic TS8000 High-Intensity Trigger Start Torch WITH the Searzall Booker & Dax Torch Attachment combination instead for extra power and versatility. But if not, the BLUEFIRE is a fantastic choice that should serve you very well.

Specs and Features

  • Gas: MAP-Pro / Propane
Pros
  • More compact head than other propane torches
  • Good build quality
  • Very budget-friendly for a propane torch
Cons
  • Doesn’t burn as hot as some other options

NOT RECOMMENDED: Worthington 336737 WT2301 Trigger Start Propane Torch

(Note: this is NOT an affiliate link; since we don’t recommend this product, we wouldn’t feel right profiting if you buy it!)

Occasionally, we’ll take the time to mention a product that we specifically don’t recommend. And for this list, that’s unfortunately the Worthington trigger start propane torch. We’re disappointed that this one is made by Bernzomatic, since we tend to love their products (and they took the top two spots on our list!). However, this particular option is of questionable build quality, and tends to be far less reliable than their other offerings.

Its one redeeming quality is its low price. But the FunOwlet option is in the same price range, and we absolutely recommend that one instead if you’re on a tight budget. If you can come up a little bit (but not enough for our top pick) and absolutely want a propane torch, look into the BLUEFIRE instead.

Specs and Features

  • Gas: propane
Pros
  • Affordable
Cons
  • Built quality is questionable
  • Multiple reports of product not working properly or failing quickly

What Is a Searing Torch? And Why You Need One for Sous Vide

Sous vide cooking has a lot of benefits. It’s easy, fairly hands-off, consistent, reliable, and precise. But it has one major drawback: you miss out on the flavors and textures that come with high-temperature cooking. Your sous vide food won’t have smokiness or char, and it won’t go through the Maillard reaction or get caramelized.

Let’s use steak as a practical example of what this means for you. A sous vide steak will be perfectly cooked throughout, but the outside will be unappetizingly soft and grey instead of firm, almost crispy, and richly browned. 

This means that you need to find another way to create these effects on your sous vide food once it’s done. For steak, a common option is to sear it in a cast iron skillet for just long enough to create a crust without further cooking it through.

Another option for many foods—either instead of or in addition to searing in a skillet—is a searing torch like the ones listed in this article. You can use these to speed along the process of searing in a pan, by torching the top of your food while the bottom sears. Or you can use a torch all on its own to sear your food. 

With a powerful enough torch, you don’t even need the pan at all! In fact, I’ve personally been known to torch an entire sous vide tri tip for a holiday meal when all the stove burners were in use for other dishes. And it turned out beautifully, with a gorgeous, rich crust.


The Different Types of Searing Torch

There are two main kinds of kitchen torch: those that use butane, and those that use propane. 

In general (with some exceptions), propane torches:

  • Create a larger, more powerful flame
  • Attach to a fuel can
  • Are larger and heavier, and can be unwieldy if you’re not used to them
  • Are more expensive

And in general (with some exceptions), butane torches:

  • Create a smaller, more manageable flame
  • Don’t attach to a gas can, instead being refillable with fuel
  • Are lighter, smaller, and easier to hold and maneuver
  • Are more affordable

We typically recommend propane torches for sous vide, but some butane torches are strong enough for the task too. You’ll find that our list is primarily propane torches with a couple of butane options mixed in.

Be aware that propane torches may end up being too strong and powerful for more delicate kitchen tasks. They’re ideal for getting a nice finish on your sous vide meat, but may be more than you need for crème brûlée. If you’d rather have more information on other butane options, you can learn more on our list of the best crème brûlée torches!


The Benefits of Using a Torch for Sous Vide (or Cooking in General)

  1. Allows you to easily sear, caramelize, or char foods. This is especially important for sous vide, which sacrifices these traits in favor of cooking food perfectly and precisely throughout. Finishing off your food with a torch helps to incorporate some of those flavor characteristics that are otherwise lost through sous vide cooking.
  2. Offers incredible precision. For cases when you don’t want to apply direct heat to an entire surface of a food (as you would in a frying pan, for example), a torch can be the perfect solution. Having a narrow flame, like the kind a torch provides, lets you choose precisely which parts of your food you want to sear or caramelize.
  3. Can reduce smoke. If you’ve ever sous vide a steak and then seared it in a hot cast iron pan, you know things can get smoky. Using a torch in combination with a hot pan reduces your cooking time in the pan, which also reduces smoke.
  4. Lets you add color without significant extra cooking. Without a torch, if you want something to be more caramelized, charred, or seared, you would need to keep cooking it. A torch lets you apply intense heat directly to the surface, so you’re just affecting the outside without significantly cooking the inside of the food. Of course, eventually this will end up heating the whole piece of food—but that would take a lot of torching.

6 Tips for Using a Sous Vide Torch

  1. Especially for meat, dry your food before torching it! Most of the reactions you’re going for with a torch (like caramelization and the Maillard reaction) occur above the boiling point of water. If your surface is wet, you’ll waste time, energy, and fuel steaming the water off the surface before the desired reactions can take place. Drying off your food first helps to minimize this and get things going as quickly and efficiently as possible (and, especially with steak, ensures a better result).
  2. Torch on a metal rack instead of a cutting board so you don’t scorch or char the board. (I can vouch from experience that it’s very easy to leave permanent burn marks on your cutting board from torching on it, no matter how careful you think you’re being about where you direct the flame.) Torching in a pan is fine too—but if you’re not doing it that way, definitely opt for a metal rack over a cutting board.
  3. Other than salt, apply any spices, flavorings, or seasonings after torching. The direct and intense heat of the flame will burn even spices like black pepper that you can get away with searing in a hot pan.
  4. Keep the torch moving. It’s easy to think that the torch isn’t doing much, and to hold it in one place for a while… only to end up burning or unintentionally charring that area. We recommend keeping the flame moving over the surface of the food in slow, steady sweeps.
  5. Don’t be afraid to get the torch up close to the food. A common mistake we’ve seen with first-time torch users is a reluctance to actually let the fire from the torch touch the food. In most cases, especially with meats, closer is generally better! You can ease into it and start further away, but don’t be scared to bring the torch close to the food if it’s not having the desired effect.
  6. Have a fire extinguisher nearby! These kitchen torches are straightforward and simple to use, and none of the team here at Cuisine Technology has ever had any incident with one. But any time you’re using fire like this, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so keep a fire extinguisher handy just in case.

Conclusion 

A kitchen torch or sous vide torch is an invaluable tool for the serious home chef, especially if you’re into sous vide cooking! Since sous vide chooses precision over intense heat, the final food can sometimes be lacking in that smoky or charred flavor. A kitchen torch is a powerful tool that lets you develop color and flavor on sous vide food through charring, the Maillard reaction, and/or caramelization. 

In general, we recommend propane torches for sous vide cooking, because they tend to be more powerful than butane torches. This extra heat lets you do justice to your sous vide food by adding those charred, smoky flavors. But some butane torches are capable of doing the job too. Just aim for the more powerful options, and steer clear of the smallest, most delicate kitchen torches (which are better for other uses).