Okay, it may not be grilling. But it is live-fire cooking. Many chefs and pit masters use a tool once relegated to the workshop to lend a flame-charred taste to their food: a blowtorch.
The blowtorch made its appearance in the kitchen in the 1970s, when French pastry chefs began using it to brown meringues and caramelize sugar on custard desserts, like crème brûlée.
Using a blowtorch may seem a little intimidating at first, but there’s nothing like it for creating a high, focused flame and sharp blast of heat. Nowadays there are torches specially created for use in the kitchen. Cookware shops, such as Williams-Sonoma, sell them. If you decide to use one, keep these watchpoints in mind:
- Make sure your sleeves are rolled up, your hair is tied back, and there are no children underfoot.
- Have the food on a heatproof plate or baking dish. Never torch a pastry on a glass plate or platter.
- Place the plate or baking dish on a heatproof surface.
- Light the flame and adjust it to obtain a pointed, glowing, red-yellow cone of heat in the center of the lavender blue flame. This cone is where the heat is concentrated. Hold it 2 to 3 inches above the surface of the food, moving it back and forth to ensure even browning.
- Remember that sugar and meringue will continue to cook for a few seconds even after the flame has been removed. Stop torching just before you get the desired degree of doneness.
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