Searzall Review

I’ve wanted one of these tools for a couple of years. So I was thrilled when Wahine Santa brought me one of these for Kalikimaka (Christmas) 2016, and now that I’ve been using it awhile, I thought I’d give a review.

Background

The Searzall is the brainchild of cooking and cooking science guru Dave Arnold. Dave is the head of the International Culinary Center, its blog Cooking Issues, and the Booker & Dax Lab and bar. Tired of the pinpoint scorching and “torch taste” imparted by existing culinary torches, Dave tried shooting a torch flame through the fine mesh of a Chinoise. This was an improvement in broadening the flame, and inspired him to invent a torch head expressly for culinary use. When prototypes of this showed promise, in 2013, Dave Kickstarted the commercialization of the product. See, http://www.cookingissues.com/index.html%3Fp=6031.html It is now produced in China and sold through Booker & Dax, either directly http://www.bookeranddax.com/searzall/ at $75, or on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Searzall-Torch-Attachment-Small-Stainless/dp/B00L2P0KNO at $65 and free shipping.

Searzall is basically a 21st Century, self-heating salamander iron, which diffuses the pinpoint flame of a plumber’s propane torch into a wider and more gentle flame. It also oxidizes the gas more completely, the better to eliminate the taste left behind by other culinary torches. It does this by forcing the flame through 3 layers of palladium-coated screen, and out an insulated cone.

The last photo above is a bit misleading–what is not pictured there is the considerable flame that actually makes it through the mesh. This is more realistic, and a caution to Nervous Nellies who may be concerned about accidental misuse:

This is basically how the unit works all the time–a combination of radiant heat from the screen and projected flame. If anything, this photo still under-represents the extent of the flame. See, my cautions below!

Assembly

Obviously, a cookware geek or chef can get so excited by all the potential uses of this tool that s/he can forget that this is just the torch HEAD–you still need the torch. And only two specific model torches will do. There are several reasons for this which, are not explained very well anywhere. First, Searzall mounts to the torch by semi-permanently attaching a “sleeve adapter” to the torch nozzle with an Allen-head set screw:

Since the adapter must fit the diameter of the torch’s tip, the adapter was sized to the two specific models of torch–more on that later.

The Searzall main body then mounts on and off the sleeve adapter as needed, and is held onto the adapter by a thumbscrew:

As the instructions make clear, the sleeve adapter must be precisely positioned before being bolted down. You do this by putting the adapter and main body together, and positioning the supplied 1/8" matchstick between the extreme torch’s tip and the back edge of the main body.

If you have more than 1/8" space, you can ruin the palladium screens, and replacements cost $30!

The second reason only two torches are approved for Searzall is that they are high-output trigger-actuated. True high output is necessary to proper functioning (or any functioning at all), and the trigger is a convenience/safety feature. The two “approved” torches are the BerzOmatic TS-4000 and the BernzOmatic TS-8000

You MUST have a BernzOmatic TS-8000

Since I already had a TS-4000, I was excited to get all the versatility of the Searzall for $65 delivered. Unfortunately, while Searzall is compatible with (meaning it will attach to) the TS-4000, that torch is disappointingly underpowered. Only AFTER you purchase are you informed that the TS-4000 is only 6,732 Btu/hr output, whereas the TS-8000 is over twice as powerful (14,282 Btu/hr). This is a fair representation of the difference:

So, if you want a Searzall, want it to function, and don’t already have a TS-8000, you gotta buy this torch; that’s another $60. See, https://www.amazon.com/Bernzomatic-TS8000-Intensity-Trigger-Start/dp/B0019CQL60/ref=pd_lpo_79_tr_t_3?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=SABWC8NT44YTK9HK0MEV So everyone should know this is effectively a $125 purchase/gift, not a $65 one.

My gift arrived without the Allen-head set screw necessary to attach the sleeve adapter. Booker & Dax either cannot or will not send out this screw, so the only alternatives are: (a) go to a hardware store to try to find one of the correct size; or (b) return the entire Searzall for an exchange–and the uncertainty the screw will not be there the second time. After a long delay, Booker & Dax simply sent me a second (complete this time) Searzall.

Fat Cylinders Only

The next thing shoppers need to know is that Searzall is approved for use only with the fatter 16.4 ounce “camping” propane cylinders, NOT the skinnier 14.1 ounce cylinders. This is because the Searzall is heavy enough to make the assembled torch tippy. In use, the Searzall stays extremely hot for several minutes after it’s shut down–it could easily ignite flammable material if it tipped over. The skinnier cylinders would be downright dangerous! Even a full, squat 16.4 ounce is hazardous if bumped; everyone should therefore also buy one of these: https://www.fleetfarm.com/checkout/cart.jsp?_requestid=378503 Cost to date: $136.

"Pre-seasoning"

Once it’s all properly assembled, you need to “Preseason” the Palladium screens. You do this by firing the torch and holding the rim of the Searzall parallel to the floor for 2 full minutes:

If you do not hold perfectly parallel, or if you burn for less than 2 minutes in this position, you will ruin the $30 screens. Hint: wear heavy loves and a longsleeve shirt when you “Preseason”, because your hand and arm will get very hot!

Once it’s seasoned, care must be taken not to touch the screens. Searzall is fitted with welded wire guards to help avoid this in storage, but they are only around the periphery. In use, irregularly-shaped or small chunks of food could easily contact the screens, in which case you’re looking at… wait for it… another $30 set of screens

Use–Distance is Critical

As should be obvious, even with the prodigious output of a TS-8000–it’s a little scary–foods will brown faster the closer the Searzall front screen is placed over it. Conversely, if you don’t get as close as necessary, the Searzall is VERY slow. This is somewhat surprising, as the flames project quite far, and envelop the food in flame from several inches away. What Arnold recommends is almost touching for meat, and about 4" or toasting bread.

Use–CAUTION

The Searzall should be preheated. Arnold says 5-10 seconds is enough, but my eyes tell me about a minute is better. A full minute is a long time to hold this thing, and it is spewing flame (there is the reason they say 4 FEET from the floor while Pre-seasoning). Be careful.

While you’re standing there, you wonder: What can I sear in or on or even near? The answer is nothing that will: (a) melt; (b) crack; © catch fire; (d) be touched barehanded; (e) contact anything flammable; and (f) be a PITA to clean polymerized spatter from. I made the mistake of top-searing a steak on my Demeyere plancha (with easy-to-clean Silvinox surface), and it later took 5 soakings in oven cleaner to remove what the Searzall had fused to it. The only indoor method I think works well is: (a) a cooling rack or screen (b) in a sheetpan or bare CI skillet and © with it all set on top of a larger, non-flammable cook- or countertop. I would not risk cracking a glass cooktop even using a sheetpan. Obviously, a barbecue or grille would be a great choice.

Again, the Searzall is tippy under the best of circumstances, so do not set it down anywhere there are flammable materials it could tip over onto. It stands >21" tall, so have a completely safe area at least that distance all around.

And again, it stays hot for several minutes after shutting down.

I would keep this out of the reach of all children!!! At all times!!! As in under lock and key!!!

Actual Cooking Use and Applications

The Searzall is a real advance over other torches. It really does seem to eliminate torch taste, and it spreads the heat quite well, relatively speaking. It is great for finishing sous-vide proteins, and for reverse sous-vide searing. It is also good for toasting, melting and caramelizing small portions of food. I find I use it mostly to finish foods that need a touch-up before plating, and have found it a real boon to finishing fried eggs. I have yet to use it to finish pizza toppings or melt open-faced sandwiches with it, but it should work well for those things.

Dave started a user’s form, but it has stopped allowing posts. http://searzallforum.freeforums.net/ Still, there are some good tips and applications there. And since Dave was once active on eGullet, there are several useful threads there.

I think its major limitation is that, as powerful as it is, the effective area being seared is still very small. As a result, it is slow for large areas and multiple portions. For example, a cook would have disappointed guests eating seriatim if the cook expected to sear more than two steaks using the Searzall immediately before plating. For another, browning a pan of lasagna would be slow going. So it’s not a replacement for a broiler or modern salamander.

Bottom Line

In a childless home with plenty of nonflammable workspace, I’m comfortable having and using this tool, inside and at the BBQ pit. It’s probably worth the total of $136 we’ve spent to make it work safely, although I would not have asked Santa for it had I known the ultimate cost or the hassle of replacing the missing screw… I take the main body off the torch for storage, just in case…

I hope this review is useful to people considering a Searzall.

Aloha,
Kaleo

8 Likes

Thank you for that informative and thorough review.

Another first rate review. Thanks! I think I’m keeping it on my “maybe I need it” list.

1 Like

Great review!

I’m in that user group that would wind up burning down my house when I fired this up for the first time.

Toasting bread with the Searzall seems to be a little overkill, especially with the pre-seasoning?

Hi Kaleo,

The searzall would be a great thing to have if had (1) Iunlimited funds, (2) unlimited storage space, and (3) and were ready for my wife to move out of the house.

Thanks for the great review.

I have one. Don’t use it enough but found the screws that hold the cap and screen frozen so I can not replace the screen if I wanted to. Will have to drill them out at some point

True, but it’d be preferable to waiting 7 minutes for the Breville “smart” oven to make toast…

Oh, it will toast in under 7 min. My only real problem with the searzal is that the cooking area is kinda small. For small items it’s fine but for bigger jobs it suffers

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If you’re getting flames like you mention, then it isn’t put together or adjusted correctly. the smallest amount off and you have a huge difference in the flame, or lack thereof.

It is assembled and adjusted precisely per the instructions.

What might benefit from adjustment is the flame setting on the TS-8000 valve body. The instructions say wide open, and that’s where I have it. What say you, should I dial it back?

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Your flame looks about right for a wide open TS-8000

The large 16.4 oz size gas cans add some stability but mine goes in the garage on the concrete floor with a wide clearing around it to cool

Try adjusting the gap by a fraction. The one they give you the small stick to set. I played with that a few weeks ago when we discussed the flame throughput. It was terribly finicky, but I got it so that on full throttle not as much flame went through, but the screens heated up visibly hotter. It was a hairs diameter difference and took me awhile to get right, mostly because of the cool off time.

Thanks. Did you end up widening or narrowing the gap compared to the matchstick? If it was wider, how much wider than the supplied matchstick? Half again? Double? More? If it was narrower, how much use has it had since adjustment (I worry about the $30 screens burning through)?

Considering Arnold’s had 4 years in development and production, you’d think any necessary fine-tuning would be included in the instructions.

This Thanksgiving, I used my Searzall to (a) even out the browning on my turkey; and (b) crisp up the obligatory greenbean casserole and pan stuffing. It really helped bring things together that otherwise would have suffered from an overcrowded single oven.

Aloha,
Kaleo

2 Likes

When I’m holding my TS-8000 plus Searzall upside down, flame goes out after 10 sec or so. I take it back in normal position, try to ignite it again, and the it works. But can’t use it upside down. Is it possible because I use Rothenberger butane/propane mix (Rothenberger multigas 300 - 35% propane, 65% butane)?

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Hi, Edwin, and Welcome:

I don’t know, good question. I use the squat-er propane bottles. Sometimes, when the bottle is low, the flame will go out. I’ve always assumed this is an internal feed tube issue when the bottle/torch is tipped. Why don’t you try one o these bottles and see if you have an issue?

Aloha,
Kaleo

1 Like

It’s good to see you back, Kaleo!

Kaleo, what do you mean with ‘squat-er propane bottles’? Is squat-er a brand or type? Based in Europe, so never heard of it… Thanks for helping

Hi, Edwin:

What I mean is that, in the USA anyway, there are two main configurations of small propane bottles: (1) a taller, narrower 14.1 oz–about 27cm tall; and (2) a shorter, wider 16oz–about 20cm tall. Checking both, they are 100% propane. Here’s a photo to show the difference. I warn against using the 14.1 oz, because it is tippy to stay with, and dangerously so with the Searzall mounted. In fact, I even recommend getting a separate “camping” base to widen even the 16 oz. bottles.

What torch head are you using? The Searzall will only live up to its potential mated with the BernzOmatic TS8000. It will bolt up to the TS4000, but the heat output is too low to be effective.

You need to be careful about running mixed or different gases. MAPP will ruin the screen. I’m unsure what damage mixing butane and propane could do.

Aloha,

Kaleo

propane%20base

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