Make Perfect Crispy Chicken Skin with a Paint Stripper

A decent heat gun runs about $15 or $20 at your local hardware store.  They’re usually used for stripping paint, thawing frozen pipes, and drying plaster.  I’m not really into stuff like that.  I bought this high-powered industrial tool to melt chocolate.  But then I saw on the box that the thing goes up to 1000F/540C (holy cow!) and realized it could have some serious culinary applications.

A quick search at egullet reveals that people use heat guns to roast coffee beans and that Chef Grant Achatz even experimented with using one for a dish at Alinea.  But the best use I found online was this short mention of using a heat gun to crisp duck skin.


Crisping up every last square inch of skin on a roast chicken usually means the underlying meat will be overcooked.  Even if you butterfly and broil the fowl, as suggested by Alton Brown, there will inevitably be morsels left wet and flabby rather than crisp and decadent.

Enter heat gun.

that chicken is HOT

As you can see in the above picture, this bird has already been roasted and then quickly broiled to develop a good crisp all over.  But the heat gun, set on the “high” setting, allowed me to quickly finish off the pieces of skin that escaped the heat of the broiler.

See my geeky guide to broiler science here.


I’ve played around just a little with the heat gun for other uses.  The “low” setting (700F/370C) was great for quickly melting chocolate for dipping and for warming up leftover bread.  Make sure to put the target food on a heat-proof surface before turning the gun on.  Oh, and it doesn’t really work on sugar – the fan blows the crystals away before they get to heat up.

What would you use a high-powered heat gun for?

About Kevin Liu

Kevin Liu is a hopeless food geek obsessed with bacon, kale, and cocktails (but not usually all at once). You can follow him at @kevinkliu. Kevin is an editor at Science Fare.

5 Responses to Make Perfect Crispy Chicken Skin with a Paint Stripper

  1. Amanda August 18, 2011 at 9:05 am #

    This sounds awesome – power tools in the kitchen ftw!

    How about using it to roast some bell peppers? Or some marshmallows for some quick s’mores?

    • Kevin Liu August 18, 2011 at 8:13 pm #

      it was the perfect answer tonight to for doing a few quick bacon-wrapped figs as a garnish. will have to try roasting peppers next.

  2. Brendan Lee (@blee27) December 14, 2012 at 11:55 am #

    What about using this type of thing for the DIY smoking gun. it sounds like it has a fan, you could fashion an adapter for it out of metal to deal with the heat and it becomes a multi-tasking tool.

    • Kevin Liu December 15, 2012 at 10:32 am #

      Hey Brendan, I guess something like that could work, in theory, but the big problem is controlling where the smoke goes and making sure the ashes don’t blow everywhere. I think for $20, you might as well just build the smoker I suggested.

      But if you do come up with a good design, please share!



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