Cooking with Alcohol

Alcohol is often used in cooking and baking recipes to cause certain foods to release flavors that would not otherwise be experienced without the alcohol interaction. In some recipes, the alcoholic beverages can help break down tough fibers via marinades, while in others; the alcohol is an essential component to achieve a desired chemical reaction in a dish. For example, wine and Kirsch were originally added to fondue because the alcohol lowers the boiling point of the cheese, which helps prevent curdling.


A study by the USDA disproved the widely held belief that alcohol evaporates when heated. The study showed that five to eighty five percent of alcohol might remain in a cooked dish, depending on the cooking time, how the food was heated, and the source of the alcohol.

Alcohol Removed by Cooking

The quantity of alcohol remaining in the dish depends on the method of cooking and the total cooking time. A quick flambé may not burn off all the alcohol, while a wine reduction sauce will leave little if any alcohol content. Temperature and time are the determining factors. Pure alcohol boils at 173 degrees Fahrenheit, a lower temperature than water, which boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Consequently, you will find that recipes where the intention is for some of the alcohol to remain will have instructions to add it towards the end of the cooking process so it will not boil out. Obviously, uncooked recipes will hold on to the majority of the alcohol.

When it comes to liquors and liqueurs, rarely is more than a quarter cup used in a recipe so as not to overpower the dish. Longer cooking time and/or higher heat gets rid of even more alcohol. Always tell your guests when you are cooking with alcohol in case they have allergies or health problems. Some folks may be concerned about serving a dish cooked with alcohol to a child. However, alcohol is a naturally occurring substance in many foods, particularly fruits with high sugar content such as very ripe apples. Remember that the amount of liquor used in a recipe is usually minimal and is spread out over a large volume of food, comparatively speaking. It is a good idea for those on anti-abuse medications for alcohol problems, to avoid foods cooked with it. In many cases, you can make some non-alcoholic substitutions.

Food and Liquor

Moderation is the key when adding liquor to food. Start with a little and you can always add more. After adding liquor to a dish, allow enough cooking time to remove the harsh taste of the alcohol. That only takes about three minutes in a boiling mixture, but can take up to thirty minutes in one that is simmering or baking. Full-bodied potables contribute more flavor than their lighter counterparts do.

  • Wine is the most widely used since it makes nice reductions such as light sauces similar to a broth with a more intense flavor.
  • Bourbon makes a nice basic marinade and can be added to a beefy stew.
  • Whiskey can be used in many chicken recipes that call for tequila – just substitute the same amount of whiskey in place of the tequila.

Some recipes, such as marinades, vinaigrettes, and uncooked desserts, will retain more alcohol than others, so use your best judgment based on both the cooking time and method when considering your guests. Remember that alcohol has a lower freezing point than water, so you may not want to add a little extra kick of alcohol to a frozen dessert, as it will not freeze properly. There is no need to buy an entire large bottle of tequila and most other liquors just for a recipe. The small single serving size is right for most recipes and available at most liquor stores.

There are a vast number of recipes, which use some form of alcohol as an ingredient or as a main flavor ingredient. You will find that using a variety of alcohol adds an interesting personal touch to your cooking recipes.