Tuesday, December 24, 2013

How Much Alcohol Cooks Off?

In my last post, a recipe for mulled wine, I mentioned that simmering the wine on the stove for 5 minutes would leave most of the alcohol in tact.  I've been reading up on this issue lately, and thought I'd share what I found.

The USDA did a study on this and released the following findings.  (I'm using the chart as reproduced in this informative article.)

Preparation MethodPercent of Alcohol Retained
alcohol added to boiling liquid & removed from heat85%
alcohol flamed75%
no heat, stored overnight70%
baked, 25 minutes, alcohol not stirred into mixture45%
baked/simmered, alcohol stirred into mixture:
  • 15 minutes
  • 30 minutes
  • 1 hour
  • 1.5 hours
  • 2 hours
  • 2.5 hours

The alcohol cooks off much more slowly that I had previously thought.  This is very good to know if you're cooking something that will be eaten by kids or by someone who is avoiding alcohol for any reason.

Alton Brown mentions this at the end of an episode of Good Eats on the subject of cooking with wine and beer - "Fermentation Nation" from season 13.  The episode has a great introduction to wine and beer and guidelines for how to cook with each.  And if you've never seen the yeast sock-puppets belching out carbon dioxide, you are missing out!  I believe it is available to watch on HuluPlus, AmazonPrime, or YouTube for a small fee.

P.S.  The Good East episode "The Proof is in the Pudding," also from season 13, is about cooking with spirits and is not to be missed!

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