For a company trying to sell and explain a product, a lot of this information was amazingly difficult to find so I wrote this.
For the rest of this we'll assume you're cooking a steak but the same advice applies to most other meats/cuts.
Why Do You Want A Torch to Sear Meat
To get a good texture on a steak, you need to get the outside of the steak really hot. If you keep the steak on the heat source for too long, though, it will start to cook the inside too much, and you'll end up with a well done steak.
A torch helps with this problem by making it possible to sear the outside of the steak very quickly which means the outside can get a nice sear while the inside stays at medium rare.
What to Get
You want a torch that can char the surface of a steak in under a minute. Most of the torches can't actually get that hot!
I used a butane crème brûlée torch for years and would get frustrated my steaks didn't look like the ones on Serious Eats, unless I torched them for 5-6 minutes. The torch wasn't hot enough. Using a cast iron pan by itself, even on the highest setting is also not likely to get hot enough. If your steak does not look as black as the one in Serious Eats the outside is not getting hot enough.
I read the Wirecutter guide and got the Bernzomatic TS8000. This torch is definitely hot enough; with propane it's about 3x as hot as my crème brûlée torch. I used it tonight to sear a tri tip. It is so much better.
Is that it? (No, you need fuel)
No. The Bernzomatic torch is just a torch; you still need to buy fuel. The TS8000 works with either butane or propane. You don't want butane though, you want propane, because it gets 50% hotter than butane does.
Every photo on the Internet of both the TS8000 and propane fuel tanks either shows them connected or with the caps on. You need a propane tank that can connect to this, on the bottom of the TS8000.
The top of your propane canister should look like this, with the cap off:
Bernzomatic sells a compatible 14 oz propane tank. You can also use the green Coleman camping gas tanks. The advantage of the Coleman tank is it is cheap and your grocery/hardware store probably has them. It weighs 16 ounces full, which sounds heavy but, it's fine, it's what I used.
I tried to find a small tank - 5-10 ounces - but didn't find anything promising. You'll probably get something in the 12-16 ounce range. Just put it on the end of the torch and sear with the whole tank on the end of the torch.
Get the Bernzomatic TS8000, it is one of the few torches that gets hot enough
Use propane, not butane, with it
Coleman camping gas tanks are fine
That's it. Here is the manual for the TS8000. Happy searing!
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