From Season 3: Bistro Basics
A torch is the best way to caramelize the sugar on your crème brûlée. We tested a hardware-store propane torch against five petiite kitchen torches fueled by butane.
The propane torch, with its powerful flame, caramelized the sugar quickly and easily, but admittedly, it's not for the faint-hearted. Although easy to wield, a propane torch puts out a lot of heat and works in just seconds, so you must work very carefully. (In contrast, the kitchen torches took about 1 1/2 minutes to brûlée each custard.) If you opt for a propane torch, make sure to buy a model with a built-in trigger that does not need to be held in place for the torch to remain lit.
Among the four butane-powered kitchen torches we tested, only two are worth owning. They have a plastic flame adjuster that is clearly marked and stayed cool enough to handle without burning our fingers. These torches were also the easiest to operate. Our favorite model requires only one hand to operate and is triggered by the thumb rather than the forefinger, which we found far more comfortable than our runner-up. Also, the safety switch can be flicked off with the thumb, which is much easier than the two-handed pull-push trick required by the second-place finisher.
The remaining models had flaws. The safety lock on one was difficult to engage and the air intake port became red-hot with use. The metal flame-width adjuster on another must be held in place during use, but it became very hot to the touch. Finally, although the final product generated the most powerful flame of the kitchen torches tested, testers needed to use both hands to switch it on and found its large size awkward.
Victorinox (formerly Victorinox Forschner) 6-inch Straight Boning Knife: Flexible
The nonslip grip and narrow, straight blade let testers remove the smallest bones with precision and complete comfort. Perfectly balanced with enough flexibility to maneuver around tight joints. The low price was a bonus.
|★ ★ ★||★ ★ ★||$19.95|
Wüsthof Classic Boning Knife
Hefty in weight, this knife was a solid performer when removing poultry bones, and the handle was easy to grip, even when covered in chicken fat. Piercing silver skin was a challenge since the tip wasnt sharp enough and the long narrow blade produced slightly jagged cuts.
|★ ★||★ ★ ★||$99.95|
|Recommended with Reservations|
Mundial Boning Knife: Flexible
The sharp tip performed well when removing silver skin, but it was too flexible when maneuvering around poultry joints, leaving testers feeling a lack of control. The heavy handle was slightly unbalanced and became slippery once covered in poultry fat.
|★ ★||★ ★||$19.95|
Shun Gokujo Filet Knife
Designed to replicate a samurai blade, this expensive knife was a disappointment. It struggled to pierce the silver skin, although long cuts were smooth and even. Minimal flexibility and extreme curve got in the way when maneuvering around joints. The smooth handle was hard to grip and slippery.
MAC Boning KnifeChef Series
The large, cumbersome handle reminded testers of an outdoors knife for fishing and hunting. The blade was too wide to maneuver around joints and it struggled to pierce silver skin. Unlike other knives, this boning knife could only slice in one direction, making intricate cuts around joints difficult.
Messermeister San Moritz Elite Flexible Boning Knife
The blade was so flexible it led to erratic cuttings; testers said the knife was hard to control. The blade was not sturdy enough to maneuver around joints and the lightweight handle felt flimsy and unbalanced.