Torture is doing something that causes pain because it causes pain. There is a second goal, but whether it's to get information, to coerce someone into doing something, or just because you're a sadist and you enjoy it, the goal is to cause pain. We've seen examples of unquestionable acts of torture on Supernatural, such as when Crowley tortures Samandriel and monsters to get information. And it's when Crowley is torturing Samandriel that he accidentally discovers how to access the angel programming.
We've also seen acts that cause extreme pain, and some refer to them as torture, but I don't. For example, when Castiel checks on the status of a soul. It's very painful, but the goal isn't to cause pain. The goal is to complete a specific act, and the pain is incidental. When Sam pops Dean's dislocated shoulder back into place, it's also very painful, but we don't call that torture, so what's the difference? Why do people call it torture when Castiel sticks his hand inside Sam to feel his soul?
So, yes, Crowley's experience with Samandriel started out as torture. My question is, when it comes to doing the same thing to Gadreel, is it torture at this point? I don't think Crowley discovered that simply causing enough pain unlocks the angel code. I think he accidentally discovered that a specific torture technique had an unforeseen side effect. What he was doing to Gadreel wasn't just causing random pain; it was very specific. In fact, he referred to it as "trying to unravel a living multidimensional knob of pure energy." That doesn't sound like "trying to hurt the angel enough to break it." It sounds like "performing some very precise actions that cause pain, but the pain is incidental, and the goal is to access the angel programming."
What do you think?