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Does the Alcohol Really “Cook Off”?

Many foods are cooked with alcohol. The common assumption is that the alcohol cooks off before anyone digs in. It’s a reasonable assumption, given that alcohol evaporates at a much lower temperature than water, but it’s not correct. Most food is heated at a temperature higher than 212 degrees fahrenheit–the boiling point of water. How much of our cooked food has no water in it? Similarly, some of the alcohol will usually boil off during cooking, but not all of it, and in some cases, hardly any of it.

How much alcohol remains depends on three factors: how much alcohol you start with, the heat used in cooking, and how long it cooks. If two dishes have the same amount of alcohol and are cooked at the same temperature, the one cooked longer will have less alcohol when it’s finished. You might be surprised how much typically remains. A flamed dish, like Bananas Foster, will retain about 75 percent of the alcohol, while a dish that cooks for half an hour will retain about 35 percent of the alcohol.

In real terms, that may not be very much. For example, four servings of Bananas Foster uses a quarter cup of rum, or about a half an ounce per serving. That means a standard serving of Bananas Foster contains about a third of an an ounce of rum.

For most people, that’s only just enough alcohol to notice, and certainly not enough to get anyone drunk, but for someone recovering from alcohol addiction, it could be a problem. The smell alone could trigger cravings. If you are recovering from alcohol addiction, here are some foods that still contain alcohol.

Flambes. Popular flambe foods include Crepes Suzette, Cherries Jubilee, Bananas Foster, Baked Alaska, and Coq au Vin.

Meat sauces and marinades. Alcohol helps tenderize meat, so it’s often used in marinades. Many sauces and glazes contain whiskey or port. Watch out for chicken or beef marsala, chicken piccata, and risottos. Meats are often braised in wine using low heat.

Soups and stews. Beer is often used as ingredient in soups and stews, either in the dish itself or in grilling the meat. The menu typically says when a soup or stew contains alcohol.  

Desserts. Vanilla extract is mostly alcohol and is used in many baked goods. Typically, though, the alcohol is undetectable in the finished product. A bigger concern would be foods like chocolates filled with liqueurs, such as cherry cordials, or tiramisu–foods with a prominent alcoholic flavor.

Generally speaking, if a food was cooked with alcohol, it’s best to assume most of the alcohol remains. If you have any concern about what is in your food, don’t hesitate to ask your server or dinner host. If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help you detox and decide on a treatment strategy. Call us today at 844-828-1050 or email us at to learn more.