Bite Club: How to Flambé

Time to play with fire (and bacon, brown sugar, and whiskey). 

What would compel someone to splash alcohol at a perfectly good mound of food and turn it into a fire tornado in a pan?

Is it because the nuanced flavors of liquor are given a chance to shine after the raw ethanol burns off? Is it because accurately using French words like “flambé” increases your self-worth? Is it because fire is super fun to play with?

Yes, yes, and yes—all of those things, all the time.

Even though Gordon Ramsay and the servers lighting crêpes Suzette on fire at that one place my gam-gam likes to go for weekday brunch make it seem easy, flambéing is anything but. Wait, no, that’s not true—flambeing is incredibly easy, it’s not blowing yourself up that’s the tricky part. There are a few things you need to know before putting flame to liquor.

The key to flambéing is not to get the pool of liquid itself to ignite, but the vapors that it’s emitting. If you harken back to your seventh grade science class, you’ll remember (well, probably not) that the higher the temperature, the more evaporation will occur, and, thus, the more vapors will be present. If you want to expedite the process, make sure your pan is nice and hot, and your liquor is at room temperature.

Now that you’re well-versed in pyro culinary theory—you get to decide what food to light on fire. There are classics like bananas foster, crêpes Suzette, saganaki, and baked Alaska—but don’t feel limited. Use your imagination. I took the spirit of bananas foster, in which the fruit swims in a brown sugar caramel before being turned into a rum-soaked fireball, and drastically improved it by taking out the banana and adding in bacon and Jameson.

Get your pan heated on medium high and start sautéing whatever you got going on. I started with bacon, then threw in brown sugar after the bacon fat rendered so the base of the caramel sauce could start forming. Measure out a shot or two of hard liquor—I used whiskey, but anything 70 proof or above will ignite just fine—and set aside.

Take your pan off the flame (REPEAT: FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, TAKE IT AWAY FROM THE GAS-FILLED DEATH BOX CALLED A STOVE), pour in your alcohol, then carefully place it back on the flame. Tilt the pan slightly downward until the vapors ignite. To be extra careful, and to avoid any legal liability on my end, tilt the pan away from your face.

After the whiskey fire died down from my bacon caramel, I gave it a good stir, and poured it over a bowl of ice cream. Because no sundae should go without protein and liquor.

Still hungry? Check out the other installments of Bite Club here.

Photos by Photos by Josh Scherer