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Dr. Tim Says...



Cooking with Alcohol

A lot of my recipes use wine or other alcoholic beverages as important ingredients. Many people don’t wish to use any alcohol, however, and fortunately there are many alternatives now.

With the cooking process, most of the alcohol evaporates, but never completely. Quite simply, it depends on how long you cook a particular recipe. Keep in mind that there's less than a half-teaspoon of alcohol in a tablespoon of wine. Alcohol evaporates faster than the water in the wine, but there will still be a little alcohol left after cooking.

The amount that remains depends on what is being cooked, as noted in the table below. A stew, such as beef bourguignon, that cooks for a few hours will have time for more of the alcohol to burn off. On the other hand, a dish that is rapidly cooked, such as chicken piccata, may have as much as 50% of the alcohol remaining. So you could be getting as much as 1/4 teaspoon of alcohol in a serving of chicken piccata made with white wine. The same serving of the beef bourguignon will have about the same 1/4 teaspoon of alcohol, even though the recipe begins with 2 cups of wine.

Scientists at the USDA measured the alcohol content of foods prepared by different methods. This table shows the results of those experiments.

Preparation Method

% of Alcohol Retained

Alcohol added to boiling liquid & removed from heat

85%

Flamed (as with a flambé)

75%

No heat and stored overnight

70%

Baked for 25 minutes with the alcohol not stirred into mixture

45%

Baked or simmered with the alcohol stirred into mixture depends on the amount of time:

15 minutes

40%

30 minutes

35%

1 hour

25%

1 1/2 hours

20%

2 hours

10%

2 1/2 hours

5%

There are some very good non-alcoholic wines on the market -- some made by the better California vineyards. A long time friend and reader of this newsletter sends his comments on different choices and these are included as a separate article in this week’s newsletter. He was one of my first students in cooking class (I hope that’s not why he has chosen to use a pen name for his review).

To replace rum or bourbon, you can use extracts that have similar flavors. Extracts are concentrated liquids that flavor recipes but have little flavor of their own. They are made in a number of ways. Some flavors require distillation as with bourbon or vanilla extract and these are usually suspended in a small amount of alcohol. As a rule of thumb I factor about 1/2 teaspoon of extract in 2 tablespoons of water per serving in a dish such as the Pork Chops with Bourbon Pecan Sauce.

For a lot of people even the 25% contained in an extract is more than they wish to use but in that 1/2 tsp. there’s only 1/8 tsp. of alcohol. In a dish such as this, about 40% will burn off, leaving just over 1/16 of a teaspoon.

Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!

Dr. Gourmet
September 24, 2007

Last updated: 09/24/07