A flambé pan is used to ignite liqueurs on some kind of cooked dish. This process adds the liqueur flavor to the dish without adding the harshness of alcohol. The flambé technique is both old and new. Grilling food and adding sauces is as old as cooking. However, the French chefs of the 18th and 19th centuries began perfecting the art of cuisine and developed the flambé technique as a way to add extra flavor to a dish while providing a great visual effect.
When using the flambé technique, the cook should have both the food and the liqueur warmed. The food should be removed from direct heat, and the liqueur should be poured onto the food. The liqueur is then ignited with a match. The food is served when the flame dies down, meaning the alcohol has burned off.
Flambé is a showy technique, but it can be dangerous. A cook should make certain never to use the alcohol near an open flame, nor should he or she pour the alcohol onto the food directly from the bottle. If the food is too hot, the flame can travel up the stream of alcohol and into the bottle. Instead, the cook should use a long-handled ladle to pour the liqueur into the pan. He or she should also wait until the flames have died down to transport the food.
The flambé technique is often done tableside, where it attracts a lot of attention. Indeed, it is entertaining to watch a trained chef flambé a dish and then serve it on the plate. This technique sells a lot of dishes, since other diners want the experience at their own tables.
A flambé pan should be of heavy-duty stainless steel or copper. No nonstick finishes here! The flambé pan should also have high, rounded, sloping sides. This will help contain the flame in the flambé pan. The flambé pan should also have a long handle, so the cook’s hands are well away from the open flame.
The flambé pan is available nearly anywhere cookware is sold, although not necessarily under that name. The cook should look for a frying pan that fits the above criteria. A cook can expect to pay at least 100 US dollars (USD) for a good flambé pan. Some are over 400 USD, depending on their quality. Since the flambé pan will continually be exposed to open flames and intense heat, quality is paramount.
Read up on the flambé technique before trying it, and start small. The technique can be an impressive surprise in any cook’s bag of tricks.