As more and more home cooks aspire to become accomplished sous viders, they are experimenting to discover the best ways to create an awesome sear on a variety of proteins. There are numerous techniques to sear proteins that have been cooked sous vide. One of the more popular, and the one I use a lot, is to use a torch, either by itself or in conjunction with another technique such is pan frying.
There are numerous torch options available and we have reviewed several of them. In this article we take a little closer look at the two Bernzomatic offerings; the TS4000 and TS8000 and provide a recommendation. We also suggest a potential modification to the torch that you might want to explore.
Otto Bernz was an inventor and craftsman who founded the Otto Bernz Company in 1876 to sell plumbers' tools, furnaces and torches. The company changed its name to Bernzomatic in the 1940s and came out with propane-powered torches during the 1950s.
I would love to see the expression on the face of Otto Bernz when he viewed the page on the Bernzomatic website dedicated to using his beloved torch for culinary purposes! Specifically, uses such as browning suger, blackening vegetables, making cocktails, lighting grills, and of course, searing meet.
I have to give kudos to the Bernzomatic company for having the marketing savvy and flexibility to enter a marketplace about as far from their traditional roots as they could get. Now let's get started comparing their two most popular torches for culinary use.
The two torches are quite similar in numerous ways as shown below:
You can easily ignite and extinguish the torch with the touch of a button. This is quite handy compared to back in the day when you had to use a match or a flint striker to manually light a torch.
This allows you to keep the torch lit for continuous use. As I have become more experienced with using the torch, this feature has become one of the more important ones since I typically leave the torch on most of the time while searing.
Provides for great durability and light weight.
Provides consistent performance when tilted or momentarily inverted. This is especially important when using the torch to sear, since you are often coming in at an angle.
Works with both propane and MAP-Pro gas cylinders. The flame temperature of propane in air is approximately 3,600°F (1,982°C). This compares to approximately 3,730°F (2,054°C) for the hotter MAP-Pro. Personally, I use propane and purchase my cylinders at Home Depot for around $4.00. The MAP-Pro cylinders there go for $11. I don't believe it's worth paying $7 more for a temperature increase of 130°F. It's unlikely you could tell the difference when you're just using the torch to sear.
Bernzomatic warrants to the original purchaser that the product is free from defects in material and workmanship for as long as they own the torch.
Bernzomatic has set the list price for the TS4000 and TS8000 at $57.00 and $81.50 respectively. The great news is that on Amazon, as of this writing, the TS4000 is $38 and the TS8000 is $40. Given the numerous advantages of the TS8000 torch, covered in the following section, spending the extra two bucks for the TS8000 is a no-brainer!
Although the two torches have much in common, there are some major differences as well, as shown below:
This feature, only on the TS8000 torch, allows you to control the size of the flame for different applications. For example, preparing the top of a creme brulee versus searing a large roast.
On the Bernzomatic website, I have not found any objective measures of the heat output of each torch that we can compare. However, there are two significant clues that would indicate that the TS8000 has the greater heat output. When describing the features of the torch the TS4000 states,"Swirl flame provides a hot, efficient flame ..." By comparison, it states the following for the TS8000, "Ultra swirl flame provides maximum heat output ..."
The second clue is in the name of each torch. The TS4000 is named, "High Heat Torch for Fast Work Times" and the TS8000, "Max Heat Torch for Faster Work Times". So, it's clear to me that the TS8000 has the higher heat output, I just don't know if it's 25% greater or 50% greater?
The effectiveness of the Searzall torch attachment is a heavily debated topic amongst sous viders. I don't want to address that topic at this point, but if at some time you would like to try the Searzall attachment, it only works with TS8000 torch.
As I mentioned above, I have used the TS8000 for a couple of years and love it. The Bernzomatic company was kind enough to send us one of each of their popular torches so we could do a review. This was the first time I was able to "play with" the TS4000.
Getting to do some hands-on testing of these two Bernzomatic torches was an eye-opening experience. Although I had done considerable research on the two torches, I didn't fully appreciate the disparity between the two until I had seen, heard, and felt the differences that only hands-on experience can deliver.
I will do my best to communicate those differences below using words, pictures, and sound. In the first section I will compare the differences in the flames/heat output of the two torches. The second section will address how the TS4000 and TS8000 measure up when it comes to searing a sous vide protein.
I remember the first time I used the Bernzomatic TS8000 and didn't know quite what to expect. When I pulled the ignition button toward me, I was shocked by the flame and noise that erupted from the burn tip! I thought, "Holy sh..!", it felt like I was holding a small flamethrower. Once my heart rate returned to normal, and I moved the torch around to get a better look, I could definitely feel the heat it was emiting.
In contrast, the first time I ignited the TS4000, I thought, "That's it?" I could not fathom how puny it looked in comparison to what I was used to. I do not have an objective measure of the difference in the flames, but it seems to me like the TS4000 is around 60% of the TS8000.
In an attempt to better communicate this difference, I have taken pictures of the flames and also recorded the sounds of the two torches. As you can see from comparing the the two photographs, the TS8000 flame is much longer and more full-bodied than the TS4000.
As long as we were taking pictures, I took a couple of the TS8000 with the flame adjustment knob set at lower outputs. You can see from this that the TS8000 can be adjusted for numerous types of culinary heating requirements.
The sound each of the torches makes when they ignite are also quite different. I recorded each torch igniting and then going off numerous times. Then I spliced the recordings and reassembled them alternating between the TS4000 and the TS8000. The audio begins with the smaller TS4000 torch. Although you can hear the difference in the recording, it really doesn't do the real-life experience justice.
This is where the, "rubber meets the road". How well does each of the torches sear a sous vide protein. I would not consider this a comprehensive study, but it provided all the information I needed regarding the difference between the torches when searing a protein.
As you can see from the two photographs above, the TS8000 emits a flame which is much longer, broader and hotter than that emitted by the TS4000. This allows the cook to "bathe" a large portion of the protein with intense heat. Because of this, it was much quicker to sear the steak with the TS8000. The TS4000 got the job done, it just takes a little more time and patience.
I found the Bernzomatic TS8000, straight from the package, to be a great torch for sous vide searing. But I was curious as to whether I could expand the amount of flame even more. Two things got me thinking about this.
First, I noticed that Bernzomatic had another torch, a "Heat Shrink" torch (BZ4500HS) which has a tip designed to provide a wide heat shrink flame. It appeared from the pictures that the flame was definitely wider with this torch. Unfortunately, it was paired with the TS4000.
Second, I studied the Sansaire Searing Kit. It was clear that they had worked with Bernzomatic to outfit their product with a different tip as well.
Next, I went online to see if I could locate and obtain the tip separately. I found and purchased the LT60T Series (300727) Burn Tip manufactured by Worthington, who acquired Bernzomatic in 2011. I believe the same Worthington tip is now sold on Amazon.
You can see from the pictures below that the custom tip on the TS8000, on the right, is a bit broader and much longer than the standard tip on the left.
This provides a bit more coverage area when searing a protein as shown below. Notice, in the picture on the right, how the envelope of flame and heat is a bit larger when searing with the custom tip mounted on the TS 8000. The standard Bernzomatic TS8000 torch is absolutely great for searing sous vide proteins. But if you want to kick it up a notch, you might want to try out the custom tip that makes it even better.
As mentioned in the sections above, the TS8000 torch has numerous important advantages over the TS4000. the most important of these is the adjustable flame control and the larger and hotter flame you get with the TS8000. That coupled with the fact that they are currently priced similarly, the decision becomes quite easy. This is why we continue to list the Bernzomatic TS8000 torch as our Top Pick.
If these Bernzomatic TS8000 torch sounds like something you would like, you can get it on Amazon.