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Flambe...ing, be afraid, be very afraid

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I m planning a special dinner and Im dead set on making the real boeuf bourguignon which involves flambeing cognac. Im terrified of the idea of flambeing a dish. I have never done it before. Any tips on how to handle this task besides not wearing polyester on that day?

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  1. Have no fear.

    No long, fluttery sleeves. If you have long hair, tie it back.
    Make sure you Remove the pan from the heat before adding the warmed cognac to set it afire. You don't want a firestorm, just a little flambe in the pan. Use a fireplace match.
    Keep a pan lid nearby, just in case.
    Follow the recipe.

    You'll be fine.

    11 Replies
    1. re: mcsheridan

      VERY important element in the previous post. "Just a little flambe in the pan". Don't add too much congnac because the more you use the greater amount of flame you will generate. Be careful not to flinch when the flame develops. That can cause you to spill your flambe and burning liquids spilled on guests (or yourself) is not a good thing.
      Many restaurants flambe in a chaffing dish or other vessel that is resting firmly in a rack at the table to minimize the chance of spillage.

      1. re: todao

        I don't have a chaffing dish, will that make a difference? What type of pan do I use then?

        1. re: CHEFINTHECLOSET

          You are not making bananas foster or presenting table side, in which case you would hopefully use a copper crepe pan.
          In either event when you are making bourguignon and opting to add the cognac it is usually added after the meat is browned in the same pan or pot you are cooking in. This is not a flambe for presentation. I do not suggest you use matches to ignite your flambe. One of the little butane grill lighters with the trigger that you can get at any grocery or hardware store will work nicely and you won't drop any thing in your pot. I typically use my Le Creuset for this.
          If you really want to get carried away Mauviel does make a flambe pan however this also is a presentation piece.
          You can remove the pan from the heat if you wish but the cognac should be warm/hot before you ignite it. Personally I just put it in the pan hot and tilt the pan to ignite if I need to. Nothing to it really.

          http://www.williams-sonoma.com/produc...

          1. re: Fritter

            Just to clarify that tilting the pan to ignite doesn't apply if the stove is electric - OP does not say if it is or isn't.

      2. re: mcsheridan

        thanks for the tips;D

        1. re: mcsheridan

          Be sure to measure out the cognac and pour it in a separate container. You never want to pour from a bottle because the flame can travel up the neck and can ignite the contents of the bottle. The results aren't pretty.

          I learned this from experience.

          1. re: Kelli2006

            I just found this site. OMG, what happened? I have to ask! I'm a little afraid of flambeeing too. The last time, it seemed like the flames kept burning FOREVER!

            1. re: drariella

              If flames get into a bottle it tends to explode with expected repercussions. I was lucky that i was wearing long sleeves and a hat but I did lose most of my eye brows for a month.

              1. re: Kelli2006

                Yikes! I'm glad it wasn't worse.

            2. re: Kelli2006

              I saw Cat Cora pouring directly from the bottle on Iron Chef America once and I wanted to call out to her through the TV not to do that!

              1. re: decolady

                You can get away with it if you are using low-proof spirits such as wine, but its much riskier when you are using rum or bourbon over a gas flame. I learned my lesson and I now pour all flambeing spirits into a Tom Collins glass.

          2. Do not pour the cognac from the bottle directly into the pan. Pour the amount you need into a small pan, and then pour it into the flambé pan. I don't bother to take the pan off the heat, but then I've done it lots of times.

            KEEP YOUR FACE WAY BACK FROM THE PAN. Develop longer arms, if necessary :-)

            1 Reply
            1. re: souschef

              Some helpful tips here. Thanks/;)

            2. Good advice above. But most of all, don't be afraid. Remember, alcohol burns fairly cool (as these things go). Do be careful, do have a fire extinguisher handy in case you need it, but don't get all freaked out about the flames. They're **relatively** harmless.

              1 Reply
              1. re: alanbarnes

                Good point about the cooler flames. I remember as a child going to a restaurant that made a specialty of flaming desserts prepared tableside. We kids got Bananas Foster and Cherries Jubilee, while Dad got Irish Coffee. The coffee was prepared with the added flourish of pouring the flaming liquid back and forth between two glasses. As the waiter was doing this, he accidentally poured flaming liquid down his arm! Without batting an eye, he quickly patted out the flame and kept on going. Alarmed, we asked if he was okay, and he said nonchalantly, "Oh, yes, I'm fine, those are cool flames."

                Nevertheless, they are flames, so some caution is still advisable.

              2. I second not using too much of the cognac! (I tried replying to poster below and couldn't for some reason...) When I was about 12 my adventerous aunt and I decided to make bananas foster...we had triple bananas so why not triple the rum? well, we almost ended up with no eyebrows and she almost got a new kitchen but ultimately all was fine and very delicious. My main rec would be if you are skittish about introducing a flame using one of those long automatic clicker lighters to give yourself some distance and keeping a tight fitting lid around - no oxygen means no flames!

                4 Replies
                1. re: kayowinter

                  If there are no flames there is no flambe'. ;)
                  Not that it really matters a whole lot for a bourguignon as the alcohol is going to cook out any how.

                  1. re: Fritter

                    I was kind of wondering if the whole flambe thing was really necessary-

                    1. re: DGresh

                      I found a lot of different recipes in french cookbooks. I've checked french cuisine forums. The most highly rated boeuf bourguignon recipes called for flambeing the meat in cognac....

                      1. re: CHEFINTHECLOSET

                        You really don't have to flambe the cognac to use it. The alcohol is going to cook out either way. OTOH there is no reason to fear it either.

                2. Don't have your hood fan on. It may have grease on it like mine and catch on fire, melting the plastic, and shooting melted plastic all over the place.

                  Lesson learned, lol.

                  14 Replies
                  1. re: spoggly

                    A plastic vent hood? Yikes.

                    1. re: Fritter

                      okay so now Im actuall sh......ing in my pants at the idea. I m turning into a coward as we speak... Im thinking maybe I need to find a recipe with no flambe ...ing involved. So I guess I won't be able to impress my guest;(

                      1. re: CHEFINTHECLOSET

                        Do you want to impress your guest with the taste or are they going to see the fire part? If the former, and you really don't want to play with fire, you could just skip that step. The cognac is going to be in there in any case.

                        1. re: DGresh

                          i'm already playing with fire, so just a little more will add up to the mood;))

                        2. re: CHEFINTHECLOSET

                          There is nothing to be afraid of by flambeing a entrée. What the forum is saying is that common sense safety precautions must be observed.

                          At 4:30 Alton Brown explains the safety precautions when flambeing a dish. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GuGVkq...

                          1. re: Kelli2006

                            Thanks for the tip. Most helpful.

                          2. re: CHEFINTHECLOSET

                            Start off with just a little bit of cognac; if you use, say, half the recipe amount at first, it won't flame much at all, and you'll get over your pyrophobia. Then add the rest and repeat the flambe-ing. What's the worst that can happen? (don't answer that).

                            1. re: Bat Guano

                              Yes Im all for safety and you are toooooooo funny;)

                              1. re: CHEFINTHECLOSET

                                "So I guess I won't be able to impress my guest"

                                I think there must be some confusion. When you put cognac in bourguignon there is nothing for your guests to see. You should be burning off the alcohol and then adding the wine and cooking for at least another hour. I don't think any one is going to be terribly impressed by burning alcohol and then waiting to eat for an hour and a half. Impress them by making the dish taste and look good.
                                Seriously your focusing on minutiae. Now wipe yerself and get back to work! ;)

                                1. re: Fritter

                                  okay so what is your recipe for a good boeuf bourguignon?

                                  1. re: CHEFINTHECLOSET

                                    I doubt there's any thing wrong with the recipe you have but the flambe in beef Burgandy has nothing to do with your guests or presentation.
                                    Google the Ina Garten version.
                                    The stove is exactly the place you should be doing this unless you have a very low hood with a plastic fan or one of those over the stove microwave units. I sincerely hope no one has low bare cabinets directly over their stove. You just need to use a moderate amount of alcohol at a time. At the risk of being totally redundant use the Cognac and don't ignite it. As has been noted already you will be adding more alcohol with the wine and cooking it down. If you use this method I suggest you reduce the amount of cognac by 1/2 - 2/3 (or not use it at all).
                                    Depending on the cut of beef you use you should be prepared to let this cook longer than the recipe indicates.

                                    1. re: Fritter

                                      This is a great tip. Thanks;)

                        3. re: spoggly

                          That happened to my brother - the plastic spinning bit in the hood (covered in grease as they all are) caught on fire, still spinning - plastic everywhere, and most of the hood iteself was totally destroyed. Very amusing (but not his landlord!!). Definitely don't flambe on the stove top under the hood (whether it is on or not!!).

                          1. re: spoggly

                            Holy cow! How did you put it out?

                          2. Don't do it underneath the upper cabinets!!!

                            1. It doesn't look like you're going ahead with this. What I'd try (at the risk of wasting precious booze) is a small amount of brandy in a previously empty pan, and using the tilting method described. When you know how much that flames, you have some reference point.

                              1. Avoir coeur mon ami. Just do it once with a little cognac and you will see that it is quite harmless. It flames up for moment and then the flames become much smaller. This is because it first catches all of the vaporized alcohol on fire but this quickly is consumed and then is more like a candle or gas stove if you can imagine that. Cognac has a relatively low alcohol content. You should be worried when you start playing around with vodka and the like because they make a big poof when ignited.

                                If you don't have a long lighter or long matches what I have found to be ver effective is to hold a match in a large pliers.

                                Once you become more comfortable with this, which I am sure you will, turn off the lights. Cognac makes a beautiful blue flame.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Will S.

                                  Depending on what OP decides, I think I may be the only weenie who will *never* do this myself at home. I might do it at someone else's home, LOL, but never *mine*.

                                  I wish I had the guts, and on most things I do, but not this. I enjoy the idea, not to mention the reality, of having a roof over my head. :-)

                                  1. re: Normandie

                                    I don't understand your concern. I have flambeed many times (chicken, crepes suzette, etc), and it is not dangerous. You just have to follow the tips in this thread.

                                    1. re: Normandie

                                      You might want to try it on the grill if you are concerned about the danger of fire inside of your home.