If you own any gas-fueled implement, here’s a scenario that will be immediately recognizable. Let’s assume that the implement in question is a butane kitchen torch which you use to make crème brûlée. The creation of this delicious dessert relies upon speed when you reach the stage of caramelizing sugar for the topping. Kitchen torch at the ready, you check the fuel gauge (if it has one) or shake the torch and realize that the remaining gas is low.
You mumble dejectedly about forgetting to get a new canister when you last went shopping and you don’t have enough time to go out and rectify that. You consider your options and remember that old kitchen torch which you discarded because it was ineffective but did not banish from the house. Clearly, there’s no point in using it (ineffective) but when you retrieve it, you notice that it still has some butane gas in its inbuilt canister. If only you knew how to transfer butane from one torch to another. You’ve come to the right place.
Is it safe to do so?
This isn’t actually a disclaimer, but it is a reminder that this process can go wrong, so caution must be exercised. Gas is highly flammable, and transferring it from one source to another is a process that should be undertaken (a) in a location which is free from a naked flame and (b) only if the person or persons involved know of the indicators of leaked gas.
Although butane gas (like all-natural gases) is actually odorless, traces of hydrogen sulfide and mercaptan are added to give it that sulfurous tang and to facilitate detection. So, if you transfer butane and some escapes in the process, you will be aware of it.
There are also dangers inherent in mixing butane from two different sources, but as long as the gas being transferred has been stored in the correct conditions, it will be safe to use. Butane gas doesn’t have an expiry date, but the storage area should adhere to the manufacturers’ requirement.
Other safety concerns and Caveats
Before transferring butane, you must ensure that the safety features on your torch are deployed. These will usually consist of:
- On/Off: Whatever type of torch(es) being used here, there will be an ignition button or some similar means of activating the implement. Ensure that this is set to OFF to avoid accidentally igniting the torch.
- Flame Adjuster/Lock: All reputable kitchen torches will have a mechanism allowing the user to control the strength and/or length of the flame. Whilst this shouldn’t be an issue if the torch is switched off, it is advisable to turn the flame to a low setting.
Butane gas sounds like a generic fuel with the various brands available in shops effectively the same thing under a different brand name. This is true to some extent but there may be a subtle difference between them which render them incompatible and it is also worth bearing in mind that some kitchen torches use their own branded fuel only. So, if you are transferring between torches it is worth checking that the butane gas used by the two torches is of the same brand.
Why would you wish to do this?
Earlier in this article, we referred to the annoyance of finding one’s kitchen torch low on gas when another torch no longer in use retains enough to complete the cooking process about to be undertaken. Now that the unwanted torch has been drained of fuel, it can be safely disposed of in an environmentally friendly way. It is an efficient usage of fuel and means that the need to buy a new canister has been averted for the moment.
How It Works
There is a range of products available with names such as Gas Saver or Refill Adapter – we are not recommending individual brands in this article – which are typically small rectangular blocks made from anodized aluminum with inbuilt brass gas connectors on the top and bottom sides. Each of these will attach to the inlet on the butane holder.
Most kitchen torches have a detachable stand (used for stability) which should be removed to facilitate access to the inlet for the butane canister. The process is performed by attaching the canister with the residual gas which is being transferred to the gas connector on the upper side of the gas saver valve and attaching the gas connector on the lower side to the torch which will receive the residual gas.
When the two torches are correctly positioned and attached to the gas saver valve, a gas discharge button on the gas saver should be pressed and the transfer between the two torches takes place. As soon as the process is complete (it should be very quick), return the two torches to their upright position on their stands. As is the case when simply refilling a torch from a purchased butane canister, the gas should be allowed to settle before the torch is used.
Note that the gas saver valve has a one-way process and the valve will have an indicator showing the direction in which the gas will transfer. It should also be borne in mind that some of the gas saver valves do not have specific instructions and it may be the case that the user will have to search for such advice. That said, the process is straightforward but an awareness of the properties of butane and a thorough knowledge of the workings of the kitchen torch itself will help.
Transferring butane gas from one kitchen torch to another is a process that would dismay many health and safety officials. Kitchen torches with an inbuilt gas holder are not designed to act as the agent which transfers butane to another model, but the gas saver valve described above will perform the function and do so safely as long as the directions are adhered to.
If the kitchen torch attaches directly to a gas canister, as is the case with some models, the process becomes less fraught and the risk of danger is minimized. There are practical and economic justifications for doing so, and it can also be claimed that the environmental benefits because reduced purchases of canisters result in fewer to be disposed of.