What Does Flambé Mean in Cooking?

Flambé, derived from the French word “flamber,” which means “to flame,” is a cooking process that involves igniting alcohol to create a spectacular burst of fire over the dish. The technique is often performed tableside, as the flames dance and flicker, captivating diners and infusing the dish with a distinct, smoky aroma. Common spirits used for flambéing include brandy, cognac, rum, and whiskey.

The Flambé Process

While flambé may appear intimidating, it can be mastered with proper technique and safety precautions. Here’s a step-by-step guide to performing a flambé:

  1. Select the Right Pan: Use a wide, shallow pan with low sides to allow for better oxygen flow to sustain the flames.
  2. Preheat the Pan: Heat the pan over medium-high heat to the point where the alcohol is ready to ignite. Be cautious not to overheat the pan or use high-proof alcohol, as it may lead to uncontrollable flames.
  3. Add the Alcohol: Pour the selected spirit into the pan with the food. Common flambé dishes include desserts like crêpes Suzette and savory dishes like steak Diane.
  4. Ignite the Alcohol: Tilt the pan slightly away from you and carefully ignite the alcohol with a long-handled lighter or a flame from the stovetop. Stand back and let the flames burn out naturally.
  5. Allow Alcohol to Burn Off: As the flames die down, the alcohol is burned off, leaving behind a rich, concentrated flavor that complements the dish.

Flambé Safety Tips

Flambé can be an exhilarating experience, but safety should always be a top priority. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

  1. Work in a Well-Ventilated Area: Perform flambé in a well-ventilated space to avoid any buildup of alcohol fumes.
  2. Keep a Lid Handy: Have a lid nearby to smother the flames in case they become uncontrollable.
  3. Use Caution with High-proof Alcohol: Avoid using high-proof alcohol, as it can lead to more intense and harder-to-control flames.
  4. Be Mindful of Loose Clothing: Make sure to secure loose clothing and tie back long hair to prevent accidents.

The Magic of Flambé in Cooking

  1. Flavor Infusion: Flambé not only imparts a unique smoky aroma to the dish but also enhances the flavors, adding depth and complexity.
  2. Visual Spectacle: The mesmerizing dance of flames captivates diners, turning an ordinary meal into an extraordinary dining experience.
  3. Professional Touch: Performing flambé tableside adds a touch of elegance and showmanship, making it a popular technique in fine-dining establishments.

Use Flambé in a Sentence

The dessert was a delicious cherry jubilee flambe, where the cherries were gently cooked in brandy and set ablaze for a spectacular presentation at the end of the meal.


Flambé is more than just a cooking technique; it’s a thrilling experience that tantalizes the senses and transforms an ordinary dish into a culinary masterpiece. As you embark on your own fiery culinary adventure, remember to prioritize safety and technique. The magic of flambé lies in the harmony of flavors and the spectacle of the dancing flames, leaving a lasting impression on diners and igniting a passion for the art of cooking.