How to flambé desserts properly

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Flambéd desserts are classic and still very cool, but they'e not always easy.

How to flambé desserts properly

The dance of flame summons a fascination and excitement that speaks to everyone's primal nature. It surges forth whenever something is set ablaze, including flambéed desserts. 

Flambéing a dessert is a visual effect far more than a cooking technique. It looks cool, it can cause textures to change, but fire rarely affects the taste of the dish, with the exception of cooking out a little raw alcohol. Still, if you want people to talk about how amazing your party was, give flambéing a try. All you need is some dessert, a match and some liquor to light on fire.

Safety first

However, if you are going to flambé properly, the first thing you absolutely must have is a fire extinguisher. You’re playing with fire -- literally -- and things can get out of hand if you’re not careful. Better safe than sorry.

What to set on fire?

Next, consider which  liquor you are going to set ablaze. You want a liquor that is strong (around 80 proof), but not too strong. Beer and wine will not flambé because there is not enough alcohol in them. On the other hand, avoid liquors like Bacardi 151 or Everclear because they burn too hot and for too long. (In fact, you should always avoid fire and Everclear.)

Also, no matter what 80 proof liquor you choose, it should go with your dessert. Both brandy and rum tend to make excellent choices.

Make dessert and prep the alcohol

The next step is to make your dessert. This can be baking a cake or a baked Alaska that you are going to flame, or sautéing some bananas to make bananas Foster.

About five minutes before the dessert is ready, pour a cup of liquor into a saucepan and warm it over medium-high heat. Don’t let it boil or the alcohol content will evaporate.


When you are ready to serve the dessert, pour the liquor into a bowl and bring it and the dessert to the table. Using a match, light the liquor and either pour it into a bowl concealed in the dessert or slowly pour the liquor around the dessert. It should burn out in a few seconds, but it will look very impressive.

That’s all there is to it. Be careful -- and be ready for your guests to be feel their basic natures sing.