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Is Alcohol Really Cooked Out of Food?

Posted on 19/02/19

Wine, spirits and beer are often used in recipes to enhance the flavour and aroma of dishes. Whether intended or not, sometimes even a slight trace of alcohol can cause the body to suddenly crave more. It’s an allergic reaction that’s involuntary. A person does not know how much or how little will cause this reaction, so abstinence is the watchword.  

I have often heard people say ‘the alcohol has been cooked out’, but I’m not entirely convinced…

“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.” – Dr. Weil. 

(Read the full article here:

I found Dr. Weil’s article interesting but I still wanted to find some hard facts on the matter. Whilst scrolling through the internet I came across Graham Lawton’s video. Graham is deputy editor at New Science and his video was very interesting to watch:

In his video, he eats several dishes, all of which have been sautéed, flambéed, or baked with booze. After each plate, he uses a hand-held breathalyzer to measure his blood alcohol content. After the first dish he is quoted saying: 

"Believe it or not, "I'm already over the drink-drive limit, simply by eating that flambéed chorizo."

(Watch the full video here:

I went on to look for an answer to avoiding alcohol in foods and found a website called ‘Spruce Eats’ which offers alternatives to cooking without alcohol. Have a look and hopefully something will inspire you:

Amaretto - almond extract. Use one-half teaspoon extract for every two tablespoons of Amaretto

Beer - For light beer: chicken broth, white grape juice or ginger ale. For dark beer: beef broth or mushroom stock. Non-alcoholic beer can also be used. When the beer is being used as a meat tenderizer, substitute root beer or cola. 

Bourbon - vanilla extract and water. Use one part vanilla and two parts water.

Brandy - apple juice, apple cider or white grape juice. If the recipe calls for a particular type of fruit brandy (ex. apricot), try to use the same type of juice

Champagne - ginger ale or sparking white grape juice

Coffee Liqueur - espresso or strong coffee, coffee extract, coffee syrup or instant coffee (mix one teaspoon of coffee granules with two tablespoons of water to replace two tablespoons of liqueur). If you have chocolate extract or cocoa on hand, add a small amount to round out the flavour

Cognac - peach, pear or apricot juice. 

Creme de Menthe - spearmint extract. Other mint extracts can also be used, as can mint coffee syrup or soda syrup

Curacao - orange juice concentrate. Use one-half teaspoon extract for every two tablespoons called for. 

Grand Marnier/Orange Liqueur - orange juice concentrate, orange extract. Use one-half teaspoon extract for every two tablespoons of liqueur.

Hard cider - apple juice or sparkling apple juice

Kahlua - espresso or strong coffee, instant coffee granules – use one teaspoon of granules diluted in two tablespoons of water to replace two tablespoons, coffee extract or coffee syrup. Add a bit of powdered cocoa of coffee extract to whatever you use

Kirsch - syrup or juice from cherries, raspberries or boysenberries

Port - Concord grape juice or grape juice concentrate. Use orange or apple juice for light ports

Red Wine - beef broth, red grape juice or unsweetened cranberry juice

Rum - mix white grape juice, pineapple juice, apple juice, or water with a small amount of almond extract. For dark rum, mix molasses and juice together; then, add a bit of almond extract.

Sake - rice vinegar

Schnapps - Use the same flavoured extract – peppermint, peach, etc. Juice can also be substituted.

Scotch - vanilla extract and water. Use one part vanilla and two parts water to replace the Scotch.

Sherry - orange, pineapple juice or apple juice. A teaspoon of vanilla can also be used in place of a tablespoon of sherry

Tequila - Agave juice

Triple Sec - orange juice concentrate, orange extract (one-half teaspoon per two tablespoons) or orange zest. 

Vermouth - Dry vermouth substitutes: white grape juice, white wine vinegar or non-alcoholic white wine. Sweet vermouth substitutes: apple or grape juice, balsamic vinegar or non-alcoholic sweet wine. 

Vodka - Replace small amounts with water. There are no good non-alcoholic substitutes for large amounts of vodka

Whiskey - Omit it, if it's a small amount. There are no good substitutes for large amounts.

White Wine - chicken broth, apple juice, white grape juice, ginger ale or water (for small amounts)

Personally I have always stayed clear from foods/recipes that require alcohol for taste! There are plenty of tasty dishes and good restaurants that don’t use alcohol in food. In an era where special requests have become the norm, people barely think twice when someone avoids wheat, nuts, shellfish or dairy. So a request for an alcohol-free experience is unlikely to cause a ripple. 

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