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Food for Thought: What to Know About Cooking with Alcohol

What is the secret ingredient that makes your favorite dish so flavorful? For some it is a special seasoning. For others it might be alcohol. Many believe cooking with alcohol provides benefits such as improved flavors and tenderness in dishes. Due to alcohol’s chemical make-up, alcohol quickly connects the aroma of food to the smell receptors in your nose. Cooking with alcohol enhances the aromas associated with the food as it cooks, as well as the flavor while you are actually eating it. Your sense of taste and smell work together to enrich your perception of the food’s flavor.

Did you know?

Alcohol might not completely "burn off" during cooking. Alcohol could still be in the food, depending on the amount of alcohol added, amount of heat used while cooking, the length of cooking and standing time, and the shape and size of the cookware. For example, a boiling dish that has alcohol added will retain 85% of the alcohol. Using a flame to burn the alcohol will leave 75% of the alcohol behind. While a normal meal may not contain enough alcohol to put an individual over the legal limit, it can still be enough for them to experience slight intoxication.

Consider your guests.

Just as when you are cooking for people with food allergies, knowing who will eat your dishes is key. Informing your guests that the meal contains alcohol is an important part of everyone enjoying your dish. Failure to do so could be extremely inconsiderate to someone with alcohol related issues, or who simply chooses to abstain from alcohol.

If you want to be sure that you have “cooked away” most of the alcohol prior to serving a meal to your guests, use the chart below from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help determine the proper cooking method and time:

If you or someone you know has alcohol related issues, please contact your local Substance Abuse Counseling Center.

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