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When I appeared on Food Network’s BBQ Brawl, I knew I wanted to make this sweet sabayon if I had the chance. It’s rich, luscious, fresh and kissed with a touch of cherry wood smoke.
What is sabayon?
Sabayon is a custard-like dessert made by whisking together egg yolks, sugar and wine in a bain-marie (or double boiler). When whisked over heat, air is introduced to the eggs and they become light and airy as they cook.
The Italian version of sabayon (or zabaione) is usually made with sweet wine like marsala or cognac. The French version is sometimes made by stirring in champagne at the end.
You can make sabayon with any type of liquor or none at all for a non-alcoholic version. This recipe uses bourbon that has been smoked with Cowboy Charcoal cherry wood chips.
What happened when chefs on Food Network tasted this recipe
I had the opportunity to compete on Food Network’s BBQ Brawl in Season 4. For the first team challenge, we were asked to create a California BBQ Feast. I prepared the Santa Maria Style Tri Tip, but I also wanted to showcase a dessert.
Because California is known for its amazing wines and fresh fruit, I stepped up to create Sabayon.
Unfortunately when I ran to the pantry, I couldn’t find any sweet wine or dry white wine, so I grabbed the bourbon and fresh berries.
I was excited to show the judges that I could create this classic European dish on a grill. First, I smoked the bourbon on an offset smoker with cherry wood. Then, I whisked the smoked bourbon, egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl right on the Santa Maria grill.
The standard formula for sabayon is 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 tablespoon of wine for every egg yolk that is used, so I went with those same proportions.
When my team captain Chef Anne Burrell tasted the custard, she said it was good, and then the bourbon hit her. She said, “That’s got a nice burn to it. I have to say I appreciate that.”
The judges for BBQ Brawl include Chef Brooke Williamson, Pitmaster Rodney Scott and Tastemaker Carson Kressley.
When they took a bite, the bourbon definitely stood out – maybe a little too much. But Brooke said it was really creative and she loved that I went there with my head.
Based on that feedback, I have adjusted the recipe and reduced the bourbon significantly. Now, this recipe is smooth, rich and custardy, just like I intended.
- Large Egg Yolks: Use fresh eggs. Save the egg whites for an egg-white omelet or meringue.
- Granulated Sugar: You will use a 1/2 cup sugar for the custard and 2 teaspoons to finish the top with a brûlée.
- Bourbon or Whiskey: In place of traditional marsala wine or sweet wine, use bourbon or whiskey. I’m a fan of Gentleman Jack for this recipe.
- Fresh Berries: Raspberries, blackberries and blueberries are my berries of choice for this dish. If you use fresh strawberries, cut them into smaller pieces.
- Mint: Freshly chopped for a garnish.
- Orange Zest: Also an optional, colorful garnish.
Add Ons: You will also need cherry wood chips to create the smoked bourbon.
See the full recipe card below for servings and a full list of ingredients.
How to prepare smoked sabayon
- STEP ONE: Place Cowboy Charcoal cherry wood chips in a smoke box or foil pouch and place that on the grill over direct high heat. They should start smoking in a few minutes.
- STEP TWO: Place the bourbon in a small metal bowl. Once the chips are smoking, add the bowl of bourbon to the grill over indirect heat. You don’t want to cook the bourbon, you just need to smoke it for 10-15 minutes. Then, remove it from the grill and let cool.
- STEP THREE: Combine egg yolks, 1/2 cup of sugar and the cooled smoked bourbon in a metal heatproof bowl or pot and whisk them together.
- STEP FOUR: Adjust the grill to medium-low heat and place bowl or pot on the grill grates over the direct heat. Whisk continuously for 15-20 minutes, until the custard has doubled in size, is thick and ribbony and coats the whisk.
OPTION: Instead of cooking this on a grill, you can also use the traditional method. Place the ingredients in a metal bowl and place that over a medium saucepan of simmering water. Whisk as described above.
PRO TIP: The bowl will get hot to the touch. Use an oven mitt or towel to keep a grip on the bowl, but be sure to keep the mitt or towel away from the flames.
- STEP FIVE: Place half of the berries on a rimmed platter or large shallow bowl and pour the cooked egg mixture on top.
- STEP SIX: Top with the remaining fresh berries and 2 teaspoons of sugar.
- STEP SEVEN: Use a kitchen torch to caramelize or brûlée the sugar, so it becomes crispy. Garnish with fresh mint and orange zest.
How to serve sabayon
This sabayon recipe should be served immediately. Otherwise, it may start to separate.
You can serve it on a large platter as a dessert centerpiece, or you can assemble it in small glasses for individual desserts.
Technically, you can refrigerate sabayon for a couple of days, but it’s best served and eaten immediately because the custard will start to separate and lose its volume.
GCG Pro Pitmaster Tips
- Smoke the bourbon with cherry wood for added flavor
- Allow the bourbon to cool, so you don’t overcook the eggs
- Use a grill for heat, instead of a pot of water
- Layer the sabayon with berries for brightness
- Finish with torched sugar for added crunch
Frequently Asked Questions
Hollandaise is a rich egg sauce made with egg yolks, melted butter and lemon juice. It’s often served on savory dishes like eggs Benedict. Sabayon is made with egg yolks, sugar and sweet wine and is usually served as a dessert.
Sabayon is a rich custard dessert often served over fresh fruit.
Yes. If you want to serve sabayon cold, remove the bowl of fully whisked eggs from the heat and place it in an ice bath (a larger bowl of ice water). Continue whisking until the custard cools. Be careful not to get ice water in the custard.
Sabayon is made with egg yolks. The USDA recommends cooking eggs until the yolk is firm. This recipe doesn’t take the yolk that far. It’s more like eating a sunny side up or over easy fried egg. Because of that, this recipe is not recommended for young children, older adults, pregnant women or people with weakened immune systems.
More recipes I prepared on BBQ Brawl
More Dessert Dishes
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Smoked Cherry Bourbon Sabayon
- Cowboy Charcoal cherry wood chips
- 2 tbsp bourbon or whiskey
- 8 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cups berries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries
- 2 tsp granulated sugar
- 1 sprig fresh mint, chopped
- 1 tsp orange zest
- Create Smoke: Place wood chips in a smoke tube or foil pouch and place on a grill over high heat.
- Smoke Bourbon: Place the bourbon or whiskey in a small metal bowl. Once the wood chips start smoking, add the liquor to the grill over indirect heat. Close the lid and smoke for 15 minutes. Remove and let cool.
- Adjust Grill: Reduce the grill temperature to medium-low heat.
- Whisk: Place the egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar and smoked bourbon in a metal bowl or pot. Place the bowl on the grill and whisk continuously for 15-20 minutes, until the sabayon becomes frothy, thick and about double in size.
- Plate: Place half of the berries on a rimmed platter or large shallow bowl. Pour the sabayon over the berries. Add the remaining berries on top.
- Brûlée: Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of sugar over the berries. Brûlée with a kitchen torch to create a crackling topping.
- Garnish: Sprinkle with fresh mint and orange zest.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.