Video tip: Flambé 101 (and a recipe)

<p>Los Angeles Times Test Kitchen director, Noelle Carter, shows how to safely flamb&eacute; at home.</p>

Flambéing is the act of burning, or “flaming,” off the alcohol in a food by igniting it. Whether done tableside at a fine restaurant or over your own stove as you prepare a dish, it can make for a dramatic presentation.

In addition to burning off the alcohol, flambéing also caramelizes the sugars in a liquor or liqueur, which can enhance and deepen the flavors in a finished dish. The technique is used in both sweet and savory recipes, even in cocktails.

Always take care when you flambé a dish or add alcohol to a recipe near a flame. Alcohol can ignite almost instantaneously, bursting into a “poof” of flame. Be careful not to have any loose clothing or hair near where you are working, and keep anything else flammable out of the way.

To flambé, take your pan off the burner before adding the alcohol (this also goes for deglazing a pan -- never add alcohol over or near a flame), then move the pan back over the burner flame. You can ignite the alcohol by gently shaking the pan over the burner (the friction will help the alcohol ignite) or tipping the pan very gently over the flame until the alcohol catches on fire, but it is safest to use a long match or lighter and quick reflexes.


Finally, keep the pan lid or a large cookie sheet nearby so you can cover the pan to extinguish the flame if it gets out of hand.

Cooking is fun – at least it should be. No matter how long you’ve been in the kitchen, there is always something new to learn, whether it’s a simple twist on an old technique, or a handy tip to save time and energy. In this series of short videos, I demonstrate a variety of kitchen tips, ranging from how to hold a chef’s knife for maximum control to using a spoon to peel fresh ginger. If you have any gadgets, kitchen tips or questions you’d like me to explore, leave a comment below or shoot me an email at


Total time: 20 minutes | Serves 6


    3 tablespoons butter
    1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
    1/3 cup amaretto
    1/3 cup banana liqueur
    1/3 cup (151-proof) rum
    3 large bananas, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut in halves crosswise
    1 (15 1/4-ounce) can sliced peaches in syrup
    1 1/2 pints vanilla ice cream
    1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

1. Melt butter with brown sugar in nonstick skillet over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until caramel-like, about 3 to 5 minutes.

2. Remove skillet from heat and immediately pour in amaretto, banana liqueur and rum. Return skillet to heat and stir briefly to combine liquors with sauce and to heat through. With a long kitchen match, ignite sauce, being careful to keep body, face, hands, hair, clothing and any surrounding flammable objects away from flames. When flames die down, add bananas, peaches and 2 tablespoons peach syrup and cook, spooning sauce over fruit, until fruit is heated through, about 5 minutes. Serve fruit and sauce over ice cream and garnish with almonds.
Each serving: 525 calories; 130 mg sodium; 45 mg cholesterol; 20 grams fat; 74 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams protein; 0.77 gram fiber.

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