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Alcohol and Cooking

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Alcohol and Cooking

Alcohol can be found as an ingredient in many recipes. It can be added as an ingredient to add specific flavors or it can be part of an ingredient, such as extracts. Many cookbooks and cooks tell the consumer that the “alcohol will have burned of," however the process is more complicated than this simple statement implies. Alcohol does boil at a lower temperature than water - 86 degrees centigrade vs. 100 degrees C. for water, though one may have to boil a beer for 30 minutes to get it down to the NA or nonalcoholic category, which by law means it contains less than .5 percent alcohol.

Nutritionists from Washington State University, the University of Idaho and U.S. Department of Agriculture experimented with cooking with alcohol, though not with beer, but with wine and sherry. They cooked two Burgundy-laden dishes similar to boeuf bourguignon and coq au vin, plus scalloped oysters with sherry. Depending on the method (simmering or baking), the temperature, the time and even on the size of the pan anywhere from 4 percent to 49 percent of the original alcohol remained in the dish. Long simmering in a wide pan was the most effective way to remove alcohol; baking appeared to be the least.  

Alcohol Burn-off Chart - US Dept of Agriculture
Preparation Method Percent Retained
alcohol added to boiling liquid & removed from heat 85%
alcohol flamed 75%
no heat, stored overnight 70%
baked, 25 minutes, alcohol not stirred into mixture 45%
Baked/simmered dishes with alcohol stirred into mixture:
15 minutes cooking time 40%
30 minutes cooking time 35%
1 hour cooking time 25%
1.5 hours cooking time 20%
2 hours cooking time 10%
2.5 hours cooking time 5%

Taste is what alcoholic beverages add to food when used as part of the ingredients. Alcoholic beverages are not added to the recipe for the intoxicating effect of the alcohol. Extracts on the other hand use alcohol for other reasons. An extract is a concentrated solution made from extracting (washing or pulling) constituents out of the structural matrix of the original compound. The alcohol in extracts can vary form 20% to 90%, with the higher concentrations needed for the constituents that are the least water soluble. The alcohol in an extract can serve as a preservative and should preserve the aroma and taste of the original ingredient that it is made from. It also acts as a carrier across mucous membranes, thus facilitating absorption into the bloodstream. Extracts contain a very high percentage of alcohol, but the total dose of alcohol is low, so that the amount of alcohol actually consumed is very low. If one mixed 30 drops of a common extract into 2 ounces of water, the resulting alcohol content would be 0.59% which is the equivalent of consuming 1/65th of a bottle of beer or 1/85th of a glass of wine.

Even if the alcohol in food is likely to be cooked off, for some people having just a tiny bit of alcohol or the taste of alcohol may be enough to act as a powerful cue. Similar to blowing smoke at a former smoker, using alcohol in cooking should be carefully thought out and guests should be informed as it could do a great disservice to a recovering alcoholic.

Alcohol Cooking Substitutions

Alcoholic Ingredient
Description
Substitution
Amaretto Italian almond-flavored liqueur Almond extract.
Beer or ale Various types. For light beers, substitute chicken broth, ginger ale or white grape juice. For heavier beers, use a stronger beef, chicken or mushroom broth or stock. Non-alcoholic beers may also be substituted.
Brandy Liquor made of distilled wine or fruit juice. Scotch or bourbon. If a particular flavor is specified, use the corresponding fruit juice, such as apple, apricot, cherry, peach, raspberry etc. or grape juice. Corresponding flavored extracts can be used for small amounts.
Calvados Apple brandy Apple juice concentrate or juice.
Chambord Black raspberry liqueur Raspberry juice, syrup or extract.
Champagne Sparkling white wine. Sparkling white grape juice, ginger ale, white wine.
Claret Light red wine or Bordeaux. Non-alcoholic wine, diluted currant or grape juice, cherry cider syrup.
Cognac Aged, double-distilled wine or fermented fruit juice. Cognac is considered the finest brandy. Other less expensive brandies may be substituted, as well as Scotch or whiskey, or use peach, apricot or pear juice.
Cointreau French, orange-flavored liqueur. Orange juice concentrate or regular orange juice that has been reduced to a thicker consistency.
Curacao Liqueur made from bitter Seville oranges. Orange juice frozen concentrate or reduced fresh orange juice.
Creme de menthe Thick and syrupy, sweetened mint liqueur. Comes both clear and green. Mix spearmint extract or oil with a little water or grapefruit juice. Use a drop of food coloring if you need the green color.
Framboise French raspberry liqueur. Raspberry juice or syrup.
Frangelico Italian hazelnut liqueur. Hazelnut or almond extract.
Galliano Golden Italian anise liqueur. Licorice extract.
Grand Marnier French liqueur, orange-flavored. Orange juice frozen concentrate or reduced fresh orange juice.
Grappa Italian grape brandy. Grape juice or reduced red wine.
Grenadine Pomegranate syrup, sometimes alcoholic. Pomegranate syrup or juice.
Hard Cider Fermented, alcoholic cider. Apple cider or juice.
Kahlua Syrupy Mexican liqueur made with coffee and cocoa beans. Strong coffee or espresso with a touch of cocoa powder.
Kirsch (Kirschwasser) Colorless liqueur made of cherries. Black cherry, raspberry, boysenberry, currant, or grape juice or syrup, or cherry cider.
Red Burgundy Dry French wine. Non-alcoholic wine, red wine vinegar, grape juice.
Red wine Sweet or dry wine. Non-alcoholic wine, beef or chicken broth or stock, diluted red wine vinegar, red grape juice diluted with red wine vinegar or rice vinegar, tomato juice, liquid from canned mushrooms, plain water.
Rum Liquor distilled from molasses or sugar syrup. For light rum, use pineapple juice flavored with almond extract. For dark rum, use molasses thinned with pineapple juice and flavored with almond extract. Or use rum extract flavoring.
Sake Fermented rice drink. Rice vinegar.
Schnapps Flavored, colorless liquor. Use corresponding flavored extract such as peppermint, peach, etc.
Sherry Fortified dessert wine, sweet or dry, some with a slightly nutty flavor. Orange or pineapple juice.
Southern Comfort Bourbon mixed with peach liqueur. Peach nectar mixed with a little cider vinegar.
Tequila Liquor made of the agave plant. Cactus nectar or juice.
Triple Sec Orange-flavored liqueur. Orange juice frozen concentrate or reduced fresh orange juice.
Vermouth Wine-based drink infused with herbs, sweet or dry. For sweet, use non-alcoholic sweet wine, apple or grape juice or balsamic vinegar. For dry, use non-alcoholic white wine, white grape juice or white wine vinegar.
Whiskey (whisky) Distilled liquor. Bourbon, Scotch and whiskey may be used interchangeably. Small amounts may be eliminated. Large amounts cannot be effectively substituted.
White Burgundy Dry French wine. Non-alcoholic wine, white grape juice diluted with white wine vinegar.
White wine Sweet or dry wine. Non-alcoholic wine, chicken broth or stock, diluted white wine vinegar or cider vinegar, white grape juice diluted with white wine vinegar, ginger ale, canned mushroom liquid, water. For marinades, substitute 1/4 cup vinegar plus 1 Tbsp sugar plus 1/4 cup water.