So trying to impress someone the other night i tried a flambe. I probably got in over my head, but it looks so cool when you see someone else do it so i thought a flambe bananas foster would be the way to go. I can live with only one eyebrow (I'm sure the other will grow back) but what I'm worried about was the taste. The finished product tasted a little off (not burnt but in that realm). I used good booze that was fresh so i don't think that's to blame. Or maybe it's like cooking over a camp-fire; everything has a distinctive taste. Thoughts? Hints?

  • +1 for having fun drinking the good booze, despite it then causing a lost eyebrow
    – zanlok
    Dec 2, 2010 at 23:42

2 Answers 2


Sounds like you may have used too much liquor, good or not. That flavor is going to dominate...and go up like a rocket.

Flambe is about the effect, not the cooking. When I used to make Bananas Foster table side, all of the cooking, caramelization, everything is done before you torch it. You could serve it without the flambe and there would be very little difference, only the bit of flavor that comes from whatever alcohol you choose to use.

Since you are only using the alcohol for show, you don't need very much, a couple of ounces maximum. If you warm it slightly (we kept the bottle in the back in a warm water bath) the alcohol will light easily. If you use a higher proof alcohol, like 151, it will light easily, but has very little flavor. If you use a lower proof alcohol, you can get into tasty liqueurs that will add some finish to your dish in addition to the show, but you don't want to get too low on the proof, or it won't ignite. Think 80-100 proof orange liqueurs, for instance.

It's also a good idea to turn off the cooking flame before you put in the liquor, then control the ignition by using a lighter. Your eyebrows will thank you. If you pour the liquor in one spot and light it, you can then do the really cool move of using a large spoon to spoon flames (carefully) as you spread it around the dish.

For a wonderful after dinner effect, go with flaming coffee. It's a long story, and takes careful practice, but it resulted in excellent tips during my college years. And, no, it's not the same as flaming shots.


When doing a flambe, make sure to expose the alcohol to plenty of air. A higher proof liquor also helps the flame to catch. I've used Bacardi 151, which specifically states that you should not burn it, and it does well, but I do it knowing that it's considered dangerous. A regular liquor should work fine if exposed to plenty of air.

The result shouldn't taste burnt. Instead you should let the fire go only for so long as it takes to get carmelization (for sweet things) or the Maillard reaction (for meats). Even though it might not look so cool you should cover your dish to put the flame out if you think it's starting to get overdone. The distinctive taste you are going for is cooked well, not smokey or burnt.

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