Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cooking with Alcohol

Question: “When cooking with alcohol, is all, or nearly all alcohol removed through evaporation? Can you quote research, with tables, that confirm the amount of alcohol remaining after certain types of cooking have taken place?”

This is not a common question but an interesting one. Many times recipes call for alcohol, and we don’t give much thought to it. For those who are interested, here are the answers, as best I could find:

How much alcohol is removed with cooking?

Alcohol boils at about 140 degrees Fahrenheit so will boil off during cooking, leaving some of the flavor from the drink in the food.

Alcohol is changed with exposure to heat. Some is evaporated during cooking. Evaporation depends on:

• How much alcohol was used

• The severity of the heat

• The length of cooking time

• The pot's surface area - the bigger the pan, the more surface area, the more alcohol evaporates

• The type of alcohol - Chefs at Washington State University found wine 'burns off' more easily than beer or hard liquor.

The Table (from the USDA) (CHART)

Preparation method and Percent retained

Alcohol added to boiling liquid and removed from heat 85%

Alcohol flamed 75%

No heat, stored overnight 70%

Baked, 25 minutes, alcohol not stirred into mixture 45%

Baked/simmered, alcohol stirred into mixture

- 15 minutes 40%

- 30 minutes 35%

- 1 hour 25%

- 1.5 hours 20%

- 2 hours 10%

- 2.5 hours 5%

Depending on your method of cooking, expect 45 – 75% alcohol in the final dish.

Some Examples:

• Beef stew that uses red wine and is simmered for a couple of hours has very little alcohol left

• Fruit cake that has rum added after baking has most of its alcohol content

• Cherries jubilee doused with brandy, then ignited has about three quarters of its alcohol


Augustin, J. et al. Alcohol retention in food preparation. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 92(4):486-488, 1992.

Why should we care about the alcohol content of foods?

Alcohol does have health benefits; however, it is seldom added to dishes to lower cholesterol levels, etc. but for added flavor.

We need to avoid alcohol in dishes when we are feeding:

• Teetotalers

• Pregnant women

• Children

• Former alcoholics

• People who avoid alcohol for religious reasons

• People with high blood pressure, high blood triglycerides, liver disease, ulcers, severe acid reflux or sleep apnea.

This is when you sacrifice flavor for a friend. Cook with a nonalcoholic wine.

I hope you find this information as interesting as I did.