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Before we begin: if you just want the quick answer as to which is our favorite sous vide torch, it’s the EurKitchen Culinary Cooking Butane Torch. We love its power, safety features, and gas gauge!
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.
The Top 6 Sous Vide Torches
Best for: Serious home cooks or professional chefs looking for lots of features at a great price
The EurKitchen Culinary Cooking Butane Torch is our top pick for its fantastic combination of value and features. We particularly appreciate the fuel gauge; it’s all too easy to get frustrated that a torch isn’t igniting for some reason when in fact the only problem is that you’ve already run out of fuel. (Been there, done that.)
The design and finger guard definitely make safety a priority. Unlike some other torches, this one ensures that your fingers are protected from the flame with a guard between the handle and the flame tube. If you tend to be clumsy or absent minded (or just enthusiastic about safety!), this extra level of protection between your hand and the hot parts of the device is a definite pro. Its safety lock is another great feature.
Finally, we love the ability to create a flame of up to 6” long. Some torches we’ve personally tested can only manage about half that, and it’s a pain to need to get so close to whatever you’re cooking. A longer flame is definitely easier and more comfortable to work with, so that’s another great selling point for this torch.
If you’re on a budget, you should be aware that there’s a slightly cheaper version available without a gas gauge. However, the price difference is so minimal that we recommend going for the version with the gauge.
Best for: Serious cooks willing to splurge for the best
The combination of the Bernzomatic 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.
Best for: Versatile use on a budget
Have you ever tried to use your kitchen torch at an unusual angle (maybe to get a specific edge of a sous vide steak), only to have the gas flow shut off because it doesn’t work if it’s outside of a specific angle? I have, and it’s really frustrating when you’re trying to just finish off that one stubborn corner!
We at Cuisine Technology agreed that this list absolutely needed to include at least one torch that prioritizes the ability to use it at any angle, and this FunOwtlet option fits the bill. In fact, you can even use it upside-down! (We can’t imagine why you would use it upside-down in the kitchen, but at least that means that angling for the edges of things won’t be an issue.)
We also love the price! As one of the most affordable options on our list, the FunOwlet is a great entry-level tool for anyone who’s curious about a sous vide torch (or kitchen torch in general). At this price, you can’t go wrong with this one!
Be aware that this torch doesn’t have its own fuel chamber, as many of them do. Instead, it attaches to a butane can, which you’ll need to buy separately. We don’t love this, as it makes the device bulkier, but it’s worth the tradeoff if you prioritize being able to work at versatile angles.
Best for: Budget buyers
Here at Cuisine Technology, we’re passionate about the philosophy that gourmet cooking at home shouldn’t be prohibitively expensive. So we’re always thrilled to find great products that fall in line with that philosophy!
The Authenzo Kitchen Butane Torch Lighter is the most affordable on our list, and manages to be a great budget pick without sacrificing quality or function. It’s an all-in-one torch with a refillable chamber (which we generally prefer over the kind you need to attach to a gas can for ease of maneuverability during use). We also love that it comes with a safety lock and offers an easily adjustable flame level. And given the price, its high-quality and sturdy feel in the hand is a nice surprise.
Of course, other (more expensive) torches on our list offer more features. With that said, if you’re just getting started and want something that works well for an incredibly reasonable price, the Authenzo is a great choice. And honestly, it’s all that many home cooks will ever need.
Best for: Those looking for a balance between price and features
If you think you can’t have it all for a reasonable price, think again. The Spicy Dew Blow Torch incorporates many of the features we love about higher-end models without charging a price to match. Of course, there are some tradeoffs, especially that the overall quality isn’t as high and it may feel cheap or flimsy to use.
With that said, we still love the great set of features that this torch offers for a surprisingly low price. It includes a fuel gauge (which we love!), a hand/finger safety guard, a safety lock, and an adjustable flame. It’s also an all-in-one torch with a refillable chamber (instead of one that attaches to a butane can), which we generally prefer for ease of use in most circumstances.
The position of the safety lock on the left side of the device makes this torch potentially less friendly for left-handed users. If you’re a lefty, consider looking for an option that’s not as geared toward right-handed users.
Best for: Users wanting a cool double-flame feature
The Cadrim Butane Torch is a bit of a showstopper thanks to one unique feature: the option of using two flames at once! We love this for its ability to cover more surface area at a time. (Plus it just looks cool.) It’s the only one on our list with this feature, which is fantastic if you tend to want to use it on larger pieces of food. It’s great for sous vide steaks, for example, since the dual flames allow you to cover more of the food at one time.
If you ever need the precision of just one flame, the Cadrim torch offers that option as well. You can set it to use just one flame instead of two if you prefer. Of course, you can also adjust the flame level.
Be aware that one of the pictures on Amazon (the one using the torch to sear a large piece of beef) is misleading thanks to what appears to be an odd use of Photoshop. The device is much smaller than it looks in that picture; the “How to Use” series of photos will give you a better sense of its actual size.
What Is a Kitchen Torch? And Why You Need One
A kitchen torch or sous vide torch is a handheld device that uses fuel (typically butane) to create a flame. You then use this flame to sear, char, or caramelize food. (Depending on your hobbies, you may find it’s useful outside of the kitchen as well!) If you’re new to sous vide, you’re probably more familiar with these torches as the tools that chefs often use to caramelize the sugar on top of a crème brûlée.
They’re an invaluable tool in the gourmet home kitchen for all sorts of tasks, and once you have one, you’ll find yourself discovering all sorts of uses for it. We particularly love torches for sous vide, because this cooking style inherently lacks the Maillard reaction or caramelization that you achieve in various foods when cooking with other methods.
The Different Types of Kitchen Torch
There are two main kinds of kitchen torch: ones that attach to a fuel can, and ones where you use a fuel can to fill a small canister inside of the device itself.
For most uses, we prefer the second kind. They’re smaller and less bulky, making them easier to maneuver and use freely. Our top pick for this common style of kitchen torch is the EurKitchen Culinary Cooking Butane Torch, which does a fantastic job of balancing quality, included features, and price.
The downside of the all-in-one type is that they run out of fuel much more quickly. If you want a powerful torch, or one that you can use for more than a few minutes at a time, you’ll definitely be better off with the kind that attaches to a larger fuel can instead. For this kind of torch for more serious use, we recommend the combination of the Bernzomatic TS8000 High-Intensity Trigger Start Torch with the Booker & Dax Torch Attachment.
The Benefits of Using a Torch for Sous Vide (or Cooking in General)
- 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. Torches are also ideal for crème brûlée!
- 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.
- 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 only a torch isn’t our favorite way to finish a steak (unless you have one of the most powerful torches), but it can work in a pinch. We’ve done it, and it’s definitely less smoky than a hot skillet! And even if you’re using a torch in combination with a hot pan, it reduces your cooking time in the pan, which also reduces smoke.
- 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 only 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.
3 Things to Look For in a Good Torch
- A comfortable fit in your hand. A torch that’s uncomfortable to hold or operate makes it a lot harder to use it for as long as necessary. (If you’re left-handed, particularly pay attention to the design of the torch; some are clearly designed for right-handed users and put buttons in places that are awkward for left-handed users.)
- An adjustable flame. Sometimes you just want a whisper of heat across a surface. Other times, you really want to blast something with fire to give it a nice char. A torch with adjustable heat will let you do both.
- Safety features. We appreciate torches that have a safety lock, a wide and stable base, and a finger/hand guard to ensure you don’t burn yourself. After all, you are handling a device that’s spewing fire.
6 Tips for Using a Sous Vide Torch
- 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).
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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 it moving over the surface of the food in slow, steady sweeps.
- 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.
- 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.
A kitchen torch or sous vide torch is an invaluable tool for the serious home chef. It’s a simple way to develop color and flavor on sous vide food through charring, the Maillard reaction, and/or caramelization. It’s also fantastic for a variety of other uses, most famously finishing up a crème brûlée.
While they might seem fancy, basic kitchen torches are actually surprisingly affordable (although some of the higher-end ones can be pricier, although they typically have extra power and features to back it up). If you’re not sure where to start, we recommend the EurKitchen Culinary Cooking Butane Torch, which offers a great balance of features for value.