How to Flambé

At a dinner party, flambé offers a dramatic presentation. The term "flambé" (flahm-BAY) is a French word meaning "flaming" or "flamed." Cooking foods flambé adds the rich, complex flavor of a liquor or liqueur without adding any alcohol (it is burned off in the cooking process). Though certain safety precautions are required, with a little practice, almost anyone can learn how to flambé.

Things You'll Need

  • A flambé pan (deep, rounded sides and a long handle)
  • A large metal lid (to smother the fire in case it gets out of hand)
  • A flame source (such as long, wooden fireplace matches or a propane gas torch)
  • Brandy or 80-proof liquor/liqueur
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    • 1

      Heat the brandy, liquor or liqueur in a saucepan until it is just boiling around the edges. You can also heat it in a microwave (30-45 seconds in a microwave-safe dish at 100 percent power).

    • 2

      Heat the foods you want to flambé in a deep, round, long-handled pan. Cooking times will vary depending on the recipe.

    • 3

      Remove the pan from heat and carefully add the liquor. Make sure it is not close to an open flame source, as this can cause an explosion (see Warnings).

    • 4

      Place the pan back on the heat and light the fumes of the liquor at the edge of the pan with a long wooden match. Get flames going as soon as possible after adding the liquor, as prolonged exposure to alcohol can damage the flavor of your dish.

    • 5

      Shake the pan back and forth until all of the flames have died out. At this point you will have gained the delicious flavor of the brandy or liquor, but without the alcohol (it has burned off).

    • 6

      Serve immediately. Be sure to impress upon your guests how much of a pro you are now (or let your singed eyebrows do the talking).

Tips & Warnings

  • Liquors that are higher than 80-proof can be volatile and dangerous. Select a brandy, liquor or liqueur that has a flavor complementary to the food you are cooking. (Ex: A fruity one for Bananas Foster, or a more savory cognac for steak.)

  • If you don't want to use liquor in your cooking, place sugar cubes (soaked in a flavored extract) along the edges of the pan and ignite.

  • Before you light it, heat the food that you want to flambé. Cold foods can cool down the warm liquor and make it difficult to light.

  • Use extreme caution when cooking, as there are open flames. Do not carry the flaming pan. Do not lean over the pan as you light it.

  • Do not pour the liquor directly into the pan from the bottle if it is near an open flame. The flame can travel up into the bottle and cause it to explode.

  • Propane gas torches are highly flammable and should be kept away from heat or flame and should not be exposed to prolonged sunlight.

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