How to flambé foodsThe term flambé is French for "flaming" or "flamed." The food is topped with a liquor, usually brandy, cognac, or rum and lit afire. The volatile alcohol vapor burns with a blue tint, leaving behind the faint flavor of the liquor or liqueur. This technique is used by chefs in the kitchen to burn off the raw alcohol flavor from a dish as well for dramatic flair at the table.
Only liquors and liqueurs with a high alcohol content can be used to flame foods, and those with a higher proof will ignite more readily. Beer, champagne, and most table wines will not work.
Liquors and liqueurs that are 80-proof are considered the best choices for flambé. Those above 120-proof are highly flammable and considered dangerous.
The liquor must be warmed to about 130 degrees F., yet still remain well under the boiling point, before adding to the pan. (Boiling will burn off the alcohol, and it will not ignite.)
Always remove the pan from the heat source before adding the liquor to avoid burning yourself. Vigorously shaking the pan usually extinguishes the flame, but keep a pot lid nearby in case you need to smother the flames. The alcohol vapor generally burns off by itself in a matter of seconds.
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