How To Caramelize Creme Brulee

Creme brulee with berries
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  • 01 of 09

    Bring Creme Brulees to Room Temperature

    Bring Creme Brulees to Room Temperature
    Bring Creme Brulees to Room Temperature. Photo © Danilo Alfaro

    Bring Creme Brulees to Room Temperature

    Now that you've got the crème part down, it's time for the brûlée — which means "burnt" in French. You'll be using a butane culinary torch for that. Familiarize yourself with how your particular model works and be sure to follow the safety instructions — you're playing with real fire here!

    Your completed custards have chilled for at least four hours, but overnight is best. About 20 minutes before you want to caramelize them, take them...MORE out of the refrigerator and let them sit at room temperature.

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  • 02 of 09

    Sprinkle Creme Brulees With Granulated Sugar

    Sprinkle Creme Brulees With Granulated Sugar
    Sprinkle Creme Brulees With Granulated Sugar. Photo © Danilo Alfaro

    Sprinkle Creme Brulees With Granulated Sugar

    If any moisture condensation has formed on the Creme Brulee tops, gently dab it away with a paper towel, being careful not to dent the custard.

    Then sprinkle the tops of the Creme Brulees with granulated white sugar. Be generous — you'll pour off the excess in a moment. But make sure you cover the whole surface and swirl the ramekins to distribute the sugar evenly.

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  • 03 of 09

    Shake Off Excess Sugar

    Shake Off Excess Sugar
    Shake Off Excess Sugar. Photo © Danilo Alfaro

    Shake Off Excess Sugar

    Here's a tip: When you pour off the excess, pour it onto the next Creme Brulee, adding new sugar with a spoon as needed until all the Creme Brulees are covered, but there are no loose granules remaining.

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  • 04 of 09

    Flame On!

    Flame On!
    Flame On!. Photo © Danilo Alfaro

    Flame On!

    Now the fun starts — it's time to fire up your torch! They all work differently, so follow the instructions for lighting yours, and adjust the length of the flame to medium.

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  • 05 of 09

    Begin Lightly Torching the Sugar

    Begin Lightly Torching the Sugar
    Begin Lightly Torching the Sugar. Photo © Danilo Alfaro

    Begin Lightly Torching the Sugar

    Hold the torch a good distance away from the Creme Brulee and slowly move it closer, while sort of rotating the flame, keeping it constantly in motion. Once it gets close enough, you'll see the sugar start to liquefy and form little droplets on the surface.

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  • 06 of 09

    Keep the Flame Moving!

    Keep the Flame Moving!
    Keep the Flame Moving!. Photo © Danilo Alfaro

    Keep the Flame Moving!

    As you continue cooking the sugar, you'll see little wisps of smoke puff up as the sugar begins to turn caramel-colored. You'll also smell the delicious aroma of cooked sugar, kind of like cotton candy.

    Keep the flame moving so that it isn't focused on any one spot for too long. Pull the torch away if the sugar smokes excessively. Be sure to get the sugar along the edges of the ramekin as well as in the middle.

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  • 07 of 09

    The Sugar Will Darken and Form a Glaze

    The Sugar Will Darken and Form a Glaze
    The Sugar Will Darken and Form a Glaze. Photo © Danilo Alfaro

    The Sugar Will Darken and Form a Glaze

    You'll be seeing a nice, caramel-colored glaze form on top of the Creme Brulee. It's a bit tricky knowing exactly when to stop, but it's better to stop too soon than too late. If necessary, you can always fill in any underdone spots in a minute, when the sugar cools down a bit.

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  • 08 of 09

    The Finished Creme Brulee

    The Finished Crème Brûlée
    The Finished Crème Brûlée. Photo © Danilo Alfaro

    The Finished Creme Brulee

    When you're finished you'll have a hard, glass-like glaze of caramelized sugar on top. Pop the Creme Brulees back into the refrigerator for 10 minutes or so before serving them, just to re-chill the Creme Brulees after they've been heated by the torch.

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  • 09 of 09

    Serve Plain, or Garnished With Fresh Berries

    Serve Creme Brulees Plain, or Garnished With Fresh Berries
    Serve Creme Brulees Plain, or Garnished With Fresh Berries. Photo © Danilo Alfaro

    Serve Plain, or Garnished With Fresh Berries

    You can serve the Creme Brulees just as they are, and they'll be absolutely delicious. But a few fresh berries and a dusting of powdered sugar is a nice, elegant touch.