Butane or Propane

mrsjack_gwSeptember 10, 2012

I gave away my butane kitchen torch--too slow and not very powerful. I bought a small propane torch, but here's the problem. It's big and every time I tip it at any angle to brown anything it goes out. If it can't be tipped, it's not much use. Does anyone have the secret or recommendation for a good kitchen torch that can be used at all angles! I would appreciate and all information.



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Douglas Baldwin, an authority on sous vide cooking, recommends butane over propane, saying that propane can leave off flavors. He uses an Iwatani torch.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2012 at 12:27PM
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Butane and propane burns at about the same temperature. So it does not matter whether the torch is butane or propane.

Not that I am a better authority than Douglas Baldwin, isn't it true that most grills use propane? I have not heard anyone complain about off flavor on food if propane is used.

I have many propane torches; none goes out if burned at an angle.

Here is a possible reason why the fame can go out on yours when using the torch at an angle:

If the torch is designed improperly, when the tank is very full, liquid propane can leak out from the orifice when tilted at an angle. Liquid propane evaporates very fast in normal atmospheric pressure and temperature. Based on the general gas law, the rapid evaporation of the propane can cause the temperature around the orifice to drop below freezing, causing moisture from the air to condense and freeze. It is possible that the ice could have blocked the orifice.

Using a propane tank that is not very full may minimize the problem.


    Bookmark   September 10, 2012 at 10:39PM
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I had the same obvious question because of the use of propane for grills, but gave DB the benefit of the doubt that he knew what he was talking about. Maybe there's a difference when the flame directly hits the food, which gas grills wouldn't do? I don't know. If you google, you'll find complaints about food tasting like propane, but certainly not a lot of complaints. And of course you can find anything you want if you google hard enough!

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 3:55AM
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I don't see anyone answering the question, guys!

I first thought, but those torches are made to fit in nooks and crannies when you're sweating pipe, when I realized, you probably don't use the ones made for plumbing! I do. It's great at all angles. But your cooking torch shouldn't go out at an angle? How deep is the angle you're holding it? Could you bring the item up to a higher level so the angle isn't so deep? Like set it on a cake plate with a stand?

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 8:36AM
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I guess the title "Butane or Propane" took me in the wrong direction. But I did pass on a recommendation for a specific torch. Not that I've personally used it. Yes we're talking plumbing torches and yes they should work at angles. Personally I use acetylene with a hose; much more convenient. (Not for cooking.) My guess is Mrs. Jack's torch is just not a good one.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 9:02AM
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I think I thought the same thing, maybe it's a bum torch?

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 9:52AM
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Both propane and butane are a liquid, under pressure in
the tank. They are normally 'atomized' at the nozzle
where the flame is. When you tip them up, then you
mess up this process. I don't have a butane torch,
but all, (and I have several), of my propane torches
do the same thing. The only answer I have is to use
a hose with your tank, so the tank doesn't get tipped.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 4:29PM
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As I said, a full tank can be a problem. This is stated by one torch manufacturer regarding a full tank:
"--- Do not fill the tank with full of gas, otherwise it will cause fire because of the pressure, and also the air exhaust hole will be blocked up---"

No specific recommendation:

1. For me, a Piezo electronic ignition (self ignitor) is a must.

2. For the kitchen, a general shop torch is very inexpensive to run, but for show, a food torch is more presentable.


    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 5:36PM
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Yeah, that's for a cheap ($6) small refillable butane torch though, which is essentially what Mrs. Jack gave away.

Any links to a food-specific torch, larger than a typical creme brulee set? I've not offhand seen one, but I'd be interested if they're not excessively expensive.

Here is a link that might be useful: no you refill not full or burn

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 8:08PM
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This is the one I have. Full power, refill from propane tank.

Not sure where I got it. I have had it for many years.


    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 11:44PM
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