What is a Propane Torch?

G. Wiesen

A propane torch is a tool or device that uses propane gas and an igniter to produce a flame that can be used for a number of different purposes. These torches can range in size from small handheld devices to larger devices that use large propane tanks and connect the torch nozzle to the propane tank through a length of hose. A propane torch can be used for a number of different purposes including soldering or welding metal together, such as copper pipes used in plumbing; melting snow and ice; and caramelizing sugars in cooked and baked foods, usually desserts.

A small propane torch can be used in the kitchen to caramelize sugar for creme brûlée.
A small propane torch can be used in the kitchen to caramelize sugar for creme brûlée.

Also called a blow torch or welding torch, a propane torch can be found in most hardware stores and used in a number of professional fields. The size and design of a propane torch will usually depend on the purpose of the torch and this design is typically meant to allow the easiest possible use of a torch. One of the most common designs for this type of torch is a small device that can be held with a single hand. A small propane tank connects to the bottom of the device and an emitter at the top releases propane gas, where a spark or other igniter creates a flame.

Propane torches are also known as blow torches.
Propane torches are also known as blow torches.

Propane gas is highly flammable, though it burns at a somewhat lower temperature than some other heat sources used in construction. Oxygen can sometimes be introduced to the propane in a propane torch to produce a higher temperature flame, though this is typically part of a larger torch device. Other types of propane torch can consist of a length of hose that connects to a larger propane tank, which is connected to a handle with an emitter and igniter at the end.

Plumbers often use a propane torch to connect pieces of copper pipe, either through direct welding or by using soldering to strengthen connections. This ensures a stronger and tighter fit that prevents leaks and can resist wear and tear. There are also propane torches designed for use in removing snow and ice in areas of cold weather. These are typically handheld devices, with the emitter at the end of a long pipe that allows a person to apply the torch flame directly to ice and snow that may be on the ground.

A propane torch can also be used by chefs and bakers to caramelize sugars when making desserts and other dishes. One of the most common uses of this type of torch is in making crème brûlée. The flame of a torch is applied to the top of the dish before serving to create the hard, “crackable” topping.

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Discussion Comments


Excellent if brief article, but what I wanted to know what a proper nozzle design would be. I bought a "made in china" torch at a local hardware store to flame the creme brulee for a party. The thing keeps losing its high intensity blue flame. It quickly becomes a wild, undirected "normal" orange flame when I direct the torch toward the sugar.

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