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Does the Alcohol Evaporate During Cooking?

Does the Alcohol Evaporate During Cooking? This has been bantered around a lot over a very long time. Here are some facts. I was always under the impression, possibly by people who wished it so, like myself, that when you cooked something that contained alcohol as an ingredient, the cooking process rendered the alcohol impotent (like alcohol does to some guys I know) and dear critic group, how's that for a run-on sentence?

As it turns out, some studies done, in particular the one I'm citing below, lately have disproven this theory. Here is some info to help you serve food responsibly...Yes really. I can tell you that since we do random drug testing at work I don't take the stuff from 365 Days Of Cooking With Alcohol in to work for people to test. No one wants to get fired over a cookie and I certainly don't want them to.


In 1992 a team of researchers* at the University of Idaho, Washington State University, and the United States Department of Agriculture decided to look into this and get an answer for us. Here's what they found. "In their study, six recipes were used that had various types of alcohol including Burgundy wine, dry sherry, brandy, creme de cocoa, and Grand Marnier." (All my favorites to cook with!)

"They used a variety of cooking methods including no heat and refrigerating overnight, adding alcohol to a heated sauce, flaming, oven baking, and simmering (both 30 minutes and 2 1/2 hours)."

Alcohol retention for the finished items ranged from 4%-85% and depended on a few factors like cooking temperature, size of the cooking vessel, cooking time, and other ingredients in the prepared dish. For instance, breadcrumbs, that might possibly absorb some of the alcohol and prevent it from evaporating. The cherries jubilee recipe ended up having one of the highest alcohol retentions at 77%-78% even after the flaming was finished!

The researchers said that "with a flaming dish, alcohol loss is primarily the result of alcohol combustion. The alcohol continues to burn as long as minimum alcohol vapor pressure is maintained. Once this vapor is reduced below a certain point, the alcohol ceases to burn, which happens during flaming and thus accounts for the relatively high retention of alcohol during the process".

After reviewing their data, the research team's conclusion was that "the assumption that all alcohol is evaporated when heat is applied during cooking is not valid."

As we love to cook for friends and family and heck, even people we don't know, this is information we need to consider. Along with recovering friends, who have a disease, we who are not afflicted, cannot even begin to understand and the way alcohol affects their minds and bodies. Also, consider that approx 8% of the US population are diabetics. (You can look that up yourself.)

Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, CDN, National Spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and Director, BTD Nutrition Consultants, cautions, if the alcohol remains, so do the calories associated with it. She said that if you are substituting alcohol of any sort for fats or oils in your cooking in the hopes that the alcohol and the calories that come with them will "all burn out and just leave the flavor behind", that's not happening. You will still have to count and consider the calories from the added wine or spirits.

What I do is label stuff when I take it places. Then people will know. In the case of the strawberries I also put what was in them. Loaded-Champagne, Loaded-Grand Marnier, Unloaded etc.

We love doing what we do but it's all in good fun and we don't want anyone getting hurt! *Jorg Augustin, PhD, Evelyn Augustin, MS, Rena L. Cutruffelli, Steven Hagen, PhD, and Charlene Teitzel. Alcohol Retention in Food Preparation, Journal of the American Dietetic Association, April 1992, Volume 92, Number 4.

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