Does Alcohol Really Cook Out of Food?
I’m an alcoholic who has been sober for three years. I’m wondering about alcohol used in cooking. Does it really evaporate as I’ve been told, or should I make a point of asking whether food I’m being served contains alcohol?
– MARCH 11, 2011
Wine, spirits, and beer are used in cooking to enhance the flavor and aroma of dishes. Contrary to what most people believe, the entire alcohol content doesn’t always evaporate or boil away before the food is served. A study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Nutrient Data Laboratory showed that it can take longer than two and a half hours for all the alcohol to be cooked out of food to which wine or some other alcoholic beverage has been added. The study showed that the amount of alcohol remaining depends in part on the cooking method. For example, after brandy has been “flamed” – poured on foods and then set alight – approximately 75 percent of the alcohol remains after the flames have died down.
The study also revealed that alcohol content diminishes with cooking time. After being added to food that then is baked or simmered for 15 minutes, 40 percent of the alcohol will be retained. After cooking for an hour, only about 25 percent will remain, but even after 2.5 hours of cooking, five percent of the alcohol will still be there. Of course, the amount of alcohol in an individual serving will be quite low.
People need to avoid alcohol for various reasons, such as to guard against alcoholic relapse, to protect a fetus, or to avoid adverse reactions that might be brought on by certain medications. The best bet for such people would be to ask if a particular dish is cooked with wine or spirits before ordering in a restaurant. If you’re a dinner guest, you could let the host or hostess know in advance that you’re avoiding alcohol in food as well as drink.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Alcohol Evaporation in Cooking and Baking
When you use alcohol in cooking a dish, how long does it take for alcohol to burn off? Is the time the same for all forms of alcohol?
I baked a rum cake. 1/2 cup of rum went into the batter then was baked for 1 hour. glaze was put on top using 1/2 cup rum, 1/4 water, and 1 cup sugar. Will the cake have active alcohol presents or does cooking the rum take out the alcohol leaving only the rum flavor?
When using alcohol in a recipe, for example a sauce, how long does it take or how can you be sure that you have cooked off all the alcohol and are only leaving the flavor of the alcohol behind without any actual alcohol. I made a sauce for chicken last night, which had wine in it, and today I suspect that perhaps I did not cook off all the wine in the sauce. I did not drink any alcohol last night, so that was the only source of alcohol if I have any in my system today. I don’t feel like I have a hangover, but I am extremely tired, as if I had been drinking. Any guidelines for working with alcohol and how long to cook something to ensure that all the alcohol cooks off?
The conventional wisdom accepted by just about everyone in the food world is that all the alcohol you add to a dish evaporates or dissipates during cooking. It is wrong. In fact, you have to cook something for a good 3 hours to eradicate all traces of alcohol. Some cooking methods are less effective at removing alcohol than just letting it stand out uncovered overnight. (see chart below)
Chefs and cooks can not assume that when they simmer, bake, or torch (flambé to the more sophisticated cook) with alcohol that only the flavor remains when they are ready to serve.
A study conducted several years ago showed that alcohol remained in several recipes after the preparation was complete. In the study, a pot roast was simmered with burgundy for 2 1/2 hours; a chicken dish was simmered for only 10 minutes after the burgundy was added; scalloped oysters made with dry sherry baked for 25 minutes; and cherries jubilee was doused with brandy, then ignited. The results showed that anywhere from 4 to 78 percent of the initial amount of alcohol remained when the dishes were done. The study’s authors concluded that cooking will result in the removal of some, but not all, of the alcohol.
Important: The fact that some of the alcohol remains could be of significant concern to recovering alcoholics, parents, and others who have ethical or religious reasons for avoiding alcohol.
In the same study, the extent of alcohol loss depended on a couple factors:
First – how severe the heat was when applied in the cooking process;
Second – the pot’s surface area. The bigger the pan, the more surface area, the more alcohol that evaporates during cooking.
James Peterson, a cookbook writer who studied chemistry at the University of California at Berkeley, stated in his encyclopedic cookbook called Sauces:
You need to cook a sauce for at least 20 to 30 seconds after adding wine to it to allow the alcohol to evaporate. Since alcohol evaporates at 172°F (78°C), any sauce or stew that is simmering or boiling is certainly hot enough to evaporate the alcohol.
Check out my web page on alcohol substitutions in cooking (click on the underlined): Alcohol Substitutions In Cooking
When the final verses of the wise three-stage prohibition came down, some poured out their containers, others their cups, others spat it out, yet others went as far as inducing vomiting, some others couldn't or wouldn't stop and sometimes got caught and punished - but were again treated as members of the community of believers.
Although it won't make a person a kaafir unless they consume it out of rebellion to Allah :swt: - there are grades and levels of devoutness and carelessness which are taken into account too.
Intentions are best checked before Allah :swt: Who is sifting carefully before handing out results and grades.