A wonderful recipe in a book says:

Slightly roast pepper with oil, then deglaze with brandy and light it up immediately, wait for the flame to go out. [Then add other ingredients]

Since that process felt quite dangerous, especially if the pan is hot and the alcohol vaporises quickly, I was wondering:

What is the difference between just adding brandy to burning it with regard to taste?

  • Hi Xiphias, health is one of our major off topics, so I removed that subquestion.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 12:31
  • From a physics standpoint, it seems unlikely that lighting the alcohol vapor will actually speed up the alcohol evaporation. Compared to the heat stored in the body of the alcohol solution, the heat contributed by the flame (most of which goes straight up) seems likely to be insignificant. Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 21:04

1 Answer 1


What is the difference between just adding brandy to burning it with regard to taste?

Time and theatric impact (flambe is often done table side in a restaurant) are the big difference.


  • very quick, almost instant reduction of alcohol
  • texture/composition changes to dish are limited due to short process
  • visually dramatic
  • subtle changes in flavor

Adding alcohol, then further cooking:

  • longer cooking time to reduce alcohol
  • longer cooking will have a different effect on texture/composition
  • there will be changes in flavor, but in a different way from flambe

With most recipes, it comes down to time. If a long simmer to remove alcohol is undesired, you flambe. Example: Bananas Foster, if you simmered that for a long time, you'll get a hot bitter banana mush. Flambe is the better choice.

Without seeing your entire recipe: if your peppers are cooked a long time, you could simply add the alcohol and let the cooking reduce it. But if the recipe is a quick saute or similar, if you don't flambe, you may not get the flavor change the author intended. And, you may end up serving alcohol.

  • That's interesting. The recipe goes on: "add bacon bits and diced onion, sauté for a couple of minutes, then add white wine and other ingredients and cook until the liquid has mostly evaporated. [...]". Reading your answer, I interpret the recipe as if "just adding" would be similar since there is a long cooking phase, although I do not know what happens to the alcohol when sautéing with bacon bits and diced onion.
    – Xiphias
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 12:15
  • The second add of alcohol will evaporate while sauteeing. Flambe v. cooking reduction is a very subtle difference. A person with a gifted ability to taste would be able to determine you didn't flambe the first add of alcohol. Most people, including me, wouldn't detect the difference.
    – Paulb
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 12:22
  • 1
    Your answer implies that the alcohol will be removed with both methods, so there is little difference. In fact, a significant fraction of the alcohol remains both with flambeing and with simmering, although I can't say which one will leave more.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 12:35
  • 1
    You will end up serving alcohol in either case. The only question is how much. In flambeing the alcohol can't ignite until it's evaporated, which also happens in simmering. The difference is that as the vapour is consumed by burning, more can evaporate, which should be preferential over water evaporation. Some figures: ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Place/80400525/Data/retn/retn06.pdf
    – Chris H
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 12:35
  • @rumtscho the link I've just posted in my last comment may be of interest
    – Chris H
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 12:35

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