Torch - Map Gas or Propane
I consider this a kitchen essential - though I've never seen it recommended or even mentioned in any cookbook, recipe or cooking article. It will save you many hours of effort and frustration, within almost any cuisine on the face of the Earth.
The yellow cartridge of the photo specimen mans "Map Gas" (actually the gas mix that replaced map gas), which burns much hotter than propane, and I highly recommend it. A propane torch (blue cartridge) is usable, though not as efficient, as long as the flame is fairly wide. Do not attempt to use Map Gas with a torch designed for Propane. Map gas is more expensive, but, hey, a single cartridge lasts me three to five years in normal kitchen use.
You will find below suggestions for using this torch to peel various vegetables, but it'll also burn the fuzz off a freshly feathered chicken, or a few stray hairs off a pig foot. It can also burn the char off stove burners and be used for repairing plumbing, lifting floor tiles, blistering paint and even browning those fancy Crème brûlée deserts (if you hold it back a ways). Of course you need something to put the vegetables on when torching them. I use a Mexican steel comal, but an inverted skillet will work fine.
More on Kitchen Equipment.
The only downside, and for only a few recipes, is that the pepper is
still totally raw. That's an advantage for most recipes, but some
presume you will use their method, and the pepper will be cooked by
time the skin is charred. For those recipes, just steam them a minute
or two after brushing off the skin - you'll still be way ahead in time,
effort and mess.
Chilis - Fresh
Here the torch really shines. All the chilis in the photo took only seconds to blacken, literally. No, there was not a hint of chili fumes - I only encounter those when cleaning up my tools and working surfaces with hot water, wow!
All that remains now is to brush off the skins under running water,
using a regular vegetable brush or similar. They brush off very easily.
If a few flakes still cling to the chili, that's not a problem, and may
enhance flavor in some recipes.
In both Mexico and India, dried chilis are often dry pan roasted. This enhances their flavor and makes them flexible. They are done when they are blackened but not burned.
The torch can also be used, and is very fast, but must be used with
care, and from a greater distance than for fresh chilis. At the first
hint of smoke, pull back and let that part cool while doing another
part. The dried New Mexico chili in the photo was torch roasted, with
considerable care, and did not taste burned. In fact, it was delicious -
I ate the whole thing just as it was.
Cactus Pads (Nopales)
The torch makes quick work of disarming this difficult to handle
vegetable, burning the spines to nothing in seconds. It can then be
handled without pain while preparing it for recipes. The cactus pad
in the photo is prepared and ready to slice. You will find a lot more
detail on our Nopales - Prickly
Pear Pads page. The torch works just as well disarming the fruits
These guys are really nasty, and they can get you right through
plastic bags and even gloves, but the torch disarms them completely in
a matter of seconds. Why deal with prickly chayotes at all? Because they
have better flavor than those pale green ones.