Steaks marinated in whiskey, chicken cooked in red wine; liquor-laced recipes are popping up more and more thanks to the unique flavors that the alcohol adds to the cooked meat. Whether you enjoy the taste of beer-basted ribs or a lemon-vodka cake, eating alcohol responsibly is just as important as drinking responsibly. The amount of alcohol that actually burns off during cooking depends on how long the food item cooks. The less it cooks, the more likely you are to get a bit tipsy -- or drunk.
It seems so fun and delectable, peaches ablaze with rum syrup, poured over ice cream when the flames go out. But, that flambé holds a dirty little secret that many people may not be aware of. Since the flames of a flambé die down quickly, the alcohol only burns for a minute or less. This is not enough time to burn down the alcohol content in the dessert. If you’re concerned about alcohol content, you may want to skip dessert. According to Washington State University, 75 percent of the alcohol used in the flambé remains in the food.
Wine and beer are sometimes added to soups and stews to enhance flavor. The common misconception with this type of cooking is that the boiling process burns off all the alcohol. According to Leslie Shallcross, home economics agent at the the University of Alaska Fairbanks cooperative extension service, citing info from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and several other studies, this is a fallacy. When you add alcohol to a recipe boiling on the stove, 85 percent of the original alcohol content remains when the cooking is over. Although this may be less alcohol than having a drink at dinner, if you are sensitive to the effects of alcohol, 85 percent alcohol remaining in a dish may be unappealing.
Baked and Simmered
A bourbon-glazed ham baking in the oven is a delight to the taste buds but, depending on how long it’s cooked, it may contain higher amounts of alcohol than you would think. According to Shallcross, baking or simmering for 15 minutes only removes 60 percent of the added alcohol. Baking or simmering for 30 minutes to one hour leaves 25 to 30 percent alcohol in the dish. An alcoholic dish that bakes or simmers for one and a half to two hours comes away with 10 to 20 percent alcohol. And, if you bake or simmer for two and a half hours, 5 percent of the original alcohol content remains in the food. Bottom line: If the remaining alcohol content concerns you, bake and simmer as long as possible to remove the most alcohol from your foods.
If getting drunk off your dinner or dessert is something that you would like to avoid, you may want to experiment with nonalcoholic wines and beers in your recipes. According to Shirley Perryman, extension specialist at Colorado State University, writing in a newsletter on the school's website, a brandy-flavored or other alcohol-flavored extract may give your foods the intoxicating tastes you are looking for. If it’s acidity that you are looking for, substitute lemon juice or vinegar for wine. Instead of fancy liqueurs, substitute orange, lime or lemon zests in your desserts.