Wednesday, June 9, 2010
The Flambé Pan
As we all know that the Internet is a never-ending source of misinformation, but one site that does more than its share of spreading witless half-truths is Wisegeek.com.
I have found this site to be a nearly bottomless pit of wrong material, and it came up again this evening when I was searching for an old, gently used copper flambé pan. The wise geek, whoever he or she may be, offered a collection of characteristics that were, in essence, the properties of a skillet.
In truth, and in contradiction of the geek, a flambé pan may have straight, angled and sloped or curved sides and the handle is generally fairly short in relationship to the size of the pan so that the cook may have more direct control of the pan. The only characteristic that separates a flambé pan from a sauté is its breadth. Flambé pans have a very wide surface area and low sides, so that the sauce being flambéed is spread thinly, thereby allowing it to flame quickly and be finished. You do not want your flambé to go on any longer than necessary as it is a moderately dangerous exercise. You want to do it, get the "oohs" and "ahs" from the audience, and move on.
One final note regarding the wrongness of the geek in this case, he or she stated that the flambé function "adds the liqueur flavor to the dish without adding the harshness of alcohol." This is, of course, entirely incorrect. Whilst the flambé will burn off a percentage of the alcohol, you can never burn off all of the alcohol of the dish. The alcohol will be minimized, and for most purposes you may consider the dish to be alcohol free, but if you have a guest who has an alcohol allergy, the dish will not be suitable for him or her. Further, if you have guests who have a moral or religious aversion to alcohol, you should avoid the beauty of the flambéed dish and offer them something less dramatic.