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Home » Content » Tips From Chef Dave

Does Alcohol Really Cook out of Foods?

Does Alcohol Really Cook out of Foods?


“When Wine enters, out goes the Truth.”
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) Poor Richard's Almanac


A note from Chef Dave…

For many years now I have been asked about alcohol in cooking.  In addition a majority of people think that once heat is added all the alcohol is removed and only the flavor is left.  In this month’s newsletter you will see that this statement couldn’t be farther from the truth.  It is very important that before imbibing on any alcohol when being used in your favorite dish, to consult your physician first. 

Wishing you a Happy New Year…

Chef Dave


Why use alcohol in cooking?

Universally the main reason alcoholic beverage are used in recipes is to add flavor. After all, the most premium of extracts with the most concentrated flavors are alcohol-based, particularly vanilla.

In many recipes, the alcohol is an important component to achieve a desired chemical reaction in a dish. Alcohol causes many foods to release flavors that cannot be experienced without the interaction of alcohol. Beer contains yeast which leavens breads and batters. Alcoholic beverages also helps break down tough fibers in marinades. Lastly other dishes use alcoholic content to provide entertainment, such as flambé and flaming dishes. As for fondue, Wine and Kirsch are added because it lowers the boiling point of the cheese which helps prevent curdling.

Does the alcohol burn off?

Alcohol not only evaporates without heat, but the majority also burns off during the cooking process. How much remains in the dish depends on the cooking method and amount of cooking time. Those alcohol-soaked fruitcakes would have to turn into solid bricks before the alcohol evaporates. A bottle of beer in a long-simmered stew is not going to leave a significantly measurable alcohol residue, but will add a rich, robust flavor. A quick flambé may not burn off all the alcohol, whereas a wine reduction sauce will leave little if any alcohol content. Heat and time are the keys. Obviously, uncooked foods with alcohol will retain the most alcohol.

Alcohol Burn-off Chart

The following chart data comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture with information on how much alcohol remains in your food with specific cooking methods. Keep in mind that this is the percentage of alcohol remaining of the original addition.

Alcohol Burn-off Chart

 Preparation Method

 Percent Retained

alcohol added to boiling liquid & removed from heat


alcohol flamed


no heat, stored overnight


baked, 25 minutes, alcohol not stirred into mixture


Baked/simmered dishes with alcohol stirred into mixture:

15 minutes cooking time


30 minutes cooking time


1 hour cooking time


1.5 hours cooking time


2 hours cooking time


2.5 hours cooking time



Cooking with alcohol tips and hints

In most cases you have to use your own judgment on substituting alcohol in recipes. Sweet recipes will require different substitutions than savory. Amounts will also make a difference. You wouldn't want to use a quarter cup of almond extract to replace the same amount of Amaretto liqueur. And remember, the final product will not be how the original recipe was intended.

· Look at the main liquid of your recipe. Usually the main liquid ingredient can be extended to cover a small amount of required alcoholic ingredient.


· if less than a tablespoon of alcohol is needed; it can be omitted although flavor will be different.

· any variety of juices and/or tomato juice can often be substituted in marinades.

· Non-alcoholic wine or wine vinegar can be substituted for wine.

· Add a small amount sugar substitute to imitate sweeter wines.


· Extracts, flavorings, syrups, and juices can be substituted for flavor-based liquors and liqueurs. In addition extract     may need be diluted.


· Use non-alcoholic wines instead of cooking wine or sherry. It should be drinkable or don’t use it. All cooking wines and Sherries are loaded with sodium which detracts from flavor and adds a salty and vinegar flavor to the food.


·  To help burn off more alcohol and reduce potential injuries when using it for flamed dishes, be sure to warm the liquor before adding to the hot (the food must also be hot!), and use a long match or lighter to ignite it. Always tilt the pan away from you when igniting. The liquor should be added very last possible moment and lit as quickly as possible to avoid the liquor soaking into the food. Let the alcohol burn off enough so the flavor does not overpower the dish.


· when using milk or cream in a sauce containing alcohol, make sure to burn off the alcohol before adding the cream or the sauce may curdle.

· if the alcoholic ingredient in the recipe is intended to be the main flavor and you must avoid alcohol, find another recipe. It just won't taste the same.



Alcoholic Ingredient




Italian almond-flavored liqueur

Almond extract.

Beer or ale

Various types.

For light beers, substitute chicken broth, ginger ale or white grape juice. For heavier beers, use a stronger beef, chicken or mushroom broth or stock. Non-alcoholic beers may also be substituted.


Liquor made of distilled wine or fruit juice.

Scotch or bourbon. If a particular flavor is specified, use the corresponding fruit juice, such as apple, apricot, cherry, peach, raspberry etc. or grape juice. Corresponding flavored extracts can be used for small amounts.


Apple brandy

Apple juice concentrate or juice.


Black raspberry liqueur

Raspberry juice, syrup or extract.


Sparkling white wine.

Sparkling white grape juice, ginger ale, white wine.


Light red wine or Bordeaux.

Non-alcoholic wine, diluted currant or grape juice, cherry cider syrup.


Aged, double-distilled wine or fermented fruit juice. Cognac is considered the finest brandy.

Other less expensive brandies may be substituted, as well as Scotch or whiskey, or use peach, apricot or pear juice.


French, orange-flavored liqueur.

Orange juice concentrate or regular orange juice that has been reduced to a thicker consistency.


Liqueur made from bitter Seville oranges.

Orange juice frozen concentrate or reduced fresh orange juice.

Creme de menthe

Thick and syrupy, sweetened mint liqueur. Comes both clear and green.

Mix spearmint extract or oil with a little water or grapefruit juice. Use a drop of food coloring if you need the green color.


French raspberry liqueur.

Raspberry juice or syrup.


Italian hazelnut liqueur.

Hazelnut or almond extract.


Golden Italian anise liqueur.

Licorice extract.

Grand Marnier

French liqueur, orange-flavored.

Orange juice frozen concentrate or reduced fresh orange juice.


Italian grape brandy.

Grape juice or reduced red wine.


Pomegranate syrup, sometimes alcoholic.

Pomegranate syrup or juice.

Hard Cider

Fermented, alcoholic cider.

Apple cider or juice.


Syrupy Mexican liqueur made with coffee and cocoa beans.

Strong coffee or espresso with a touch of cocoa powder.

Kirsch (Kirchwasser)

Colorless liqueur made of cherries.

Black cherry, raspberry, boysenberry, currant, or grape juice or syrup, or cherry cider.

Red Burgundy

Dry French wine.

Non-alcoholic wine, red wine vinegar, grape juice.

Red wine

Sweet or dry wine.

Non-alcoholic wine, beef or chicken broth or stock, diluted red wine vinegar, red grape juice diluted with red wine vinegar or rice vinegar, tomato juice, liquid from canned mushrooms, plain water.


Liquor distilled from molasses or sugar syrup.

For light rum, use pineapple juice flavored with almond extract. For dark rum, use molasses thinned with pineapple juice and flavored with almond extract. Or use rum extract flavoring.


Fermented rice drink.

Rice vinegar.


Flavored, colorless liquor.

Use corresponding flavored extract such as peppermint, peach, etc.


Fortified dessert wine, sweet or dry, some with a slightly nutty flavor.

Orange or pineapple juice.

Southern Comfort

Bourbon mixed with peach liqueur.

Peach nectar mixed with a little cider vinegar.


Liquor made of the agave plant.

Cactus nectar or juice.

Triple Sec

Orang-flavored liqueur.


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