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"Does alcohol disappear when it’s cooked?"

Dear Anne and Sue,

What happens to alcohol in cooking? Does it disappear?

Steve

 

Still have more questions? You'll find more answers in our archived monthly feature articles by the Inquisitive Cooks.

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Hi Steve,

A little Calvados on the roast pork loin, a few tablespoons of dark rum in the chocolate sabayon. . . . There’s little doubt that alcohol, with its unique nuances in flavor, adds richness and depth to many foods. Alcohol also dissolves and carries the flavors of other ingredients, and its acids help tenderize meat and poultry.

Alcohol’s boiling point is lower than that of water, and many cooks assume that little or none of its potency remains after cooking. Research tells a different story.

Cooked food can retain from 5 to 85 percent of the original alcohol. The amount of alcohol left depends on how the dish is prepared, when the alcohol is added, and how thoroughly it’s incorporated with other ingredients.

In general, the longer the cooking time, the less the amount of alcohol that remains. Fast methods of cooking, such as flambéing, leave about 75 percent of the alcohol in the food. In contrast, a dish that has been baked or simmered for fifteen minutes contains about 40 percent of the original alcohol. After two hours of cooking, roughly 10 percent of the alcohol remains.

If you wish to avoid alcohol in cooking, there are substitutes, but substitutes don’t contribute the same depth of flavors as liqueurs and wines. Use 7/8 cup of meat or vegetable broth (or apple, tomato, or white grape juice) for each cup of wine in a savory dish. To mimic wine’s acidity, add 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or vinegar. In desserts, replace the wine with fruit juice plus a dash of balsamic vinegar. If a recipe calls for orange liqueur, try frozen orange juice concentrate and the grated zest of fresh orange instead.

We hope this information has been helpful, and we invite anyone to add suggestions to the Forum.

Best Wishes for the New Year,
Anne & Sue

 

 

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