Several TV chefs including, the late Julia Child, have advised against pouring liquor directly from the bottle to a pan to be ignited, as 'flames could travel up the stream and ignite the bottle' causing damage, injury or death.

Are there documented cases of this happening or is this simply "lawyering up"?

  • 1
    Surely you could get burned without it actually exploding, and without the part in the bottle having to combust; a good flare-up could still hurt.
    – Cascabel
    Feb 17, 2014 at 18:26
  • @CarlD to explain what happened to your question: our site (seasonedadvice.com, aka cooking.stackexchange.com) belongs to a larger network of question-and-answer sites on different topics. While the topic of your question is certainly about cooking, we moderators think that it is going to get more in-depth answers from the people who visit skeptics.stackexchange.com, so we migrated it to this site. It is still open to answers here, nothing bad has happened to it - but due to the rules, it can't be open here and on cooking simultaneously.
    – rumtscho
    Feb 17, 2014 at 22:15
  • Depends on the alcohol content of the liqueur in question.
    – GordonM
    May 15, 2017 at 8:29

2 Answers 2


Flame can travel up the stream, that is not news. There are many hospital admissions every year from people trying to add some meths (ethanol + methanol, "lighter fluid" in USA) direct from bottle to the BBQ to get it going properly

The problem occurs more often if the bottle has a wide opening, then you get easy flame transfer up the stream and into bottle. The expanding gases of the flame pushes out the rest of the fuel. Very ugly!

With a smaller bottle opening this effect is somewhat reduced (hence USA "lighter fluid" sold in squirt bottle), or using a "nip" pourer on a liquor bottle. But it is still a problem

Liquor is typically around 40% alcohol, so less violent, but still very hazardous. Do what chefs do, and pour out a measured amount into a small glass (they have to account for the cost too)

Dailymail - Family suffer horrific burns from flambe

  • Could you provide some links for the initial claim, just pedantry's sake?
    – JAB
    Nov 4, 2016 at 16:26

No. even if you had a high proof alcohol, with an open neck, and held your match to the neck of the bottle, the most you will get is a brief shoot of flame from the neck of the bottle. The path for the flame to enter the bottle also means that the flame isn't contained - which means no explosion (and alcohol isn't energetic enough to overcome that open neck). There is a risk that the very short burn could startle you into dropping and smashing the bottle - which is an obvious fire risk - but you are never going to explode the bottle.

See several YouTube videos where this is done deliberately (using pure alcohol) for a rocket effect: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5RvwNBFMOY

  • 1
    Note that to 'ignite the bottle' (as in the original claim) you don't need to 'explode the bottle' itself. The former is enough to potentially cause damage and make this unadvisable.
    – Emil
    May 15, 2017 at 7:57
  • Please, please don't try to test this at home.
    – T. Sar
    May 15, 2017 at 13:11
  • Ironically the YouTube you are citing to say that it is safe comes with a big warning saying that it "can easily result in serious burns and damage to property", which kind of negates the point. May 15, 2017 at 21:33
  • Note: you definitely can set your own face on fire when attempting a "flaming shot," especially if already intoxicated and the shot glass is very, very full to the point of dribbling........ or so I've heard about it happening to other people who definitely are not me..... May 18, 2017 at 17:24

You must log in to answer this question.