Ask The Chef
The following question came into The Food Channel:
We had a debate while sitting around the grill and need a tie-breaker. Can you tell us if the alcohol in a recipe burns off when it’s cooked?
There are a number of reasons to be informed about this, so thanks for the question. While the alcohol content in any single portion will be low regardless, all of the alcohol likely will NOT “burn off” in cooking.
In fact, the high intensity of grill cooking means the food doesn’t cook very long, and that’s the key: more of the alcohol will dissipate the longer you cook something. The reality is that it could take 2-3 hours before the alcohol content drops to the minuscule level.
There is actually an official ruling on this subject from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. Their brief states, in part, “Contrary to popular belief, when cooking with alcoholic beverages, the alcohol does not all disappear. Some alcohol evaporates or is burned off, but some remains. It is usually too little to cause concern to most people.”
If it worries you, a good list of substitutes for alcohol can be found here.
If you are cooking for friends and plan to include liberal doses of alcohol in the food, be sure you are sensitive to the needs of those who may be sensitive to the use of alcohol, even in small doses!
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