After years of swirling, sniffing, and swishing, you’ve (sort of) figured out what you like in a bottle of merlot. Now, you’re looking to kick things up a notch by jazzing up your dinner recipe with a splash of your favorite vino. However, if you’re worried about raising a toast without sounding too tipsy, we’ve got the inside scoop on the question you’re asking: “Does alcohol cook out of my food?”
Although your cookbook may have promised that alcohol simmers off after being exposed to high heat, we consulted an expert to demystify this popular misconception. “You never really cook all of the alcohol out of the food, no matter how long you cook it,” certified sommelier and Food and Wine Editor of Best Life, Shana Wall, told us via email. “However, with that said, alcohol evaporates at three times the rate of water. So the longer you cook it, the more alcohol that will cook out. But the lowest amount of alcohol you can ever achieve in liquids is five percent.”
According to a USDA study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, you’d have to cook your food for a lengthy two-and-a-half hours to get its alcohol content down to five percent. Not looking to spend too much time babying coq a vin? Alcohol that’s cooked with food for 15 minutes will retain 40 percent of its alcohol content.
Here’s a helpful pattern to follow when flambeing: starting at 30 minutes of cooking time, alcohol content decreases by 10 percent following each additional half-hour of cooking time up until a maximum of two hours of cooking. So while a spiked dish requires 30 minutes of cooking to boil the alcohol down to 35 percent, you can decrease alcohol level to 25 percent by cooking it for an hour. Two hours of cooking will yield a 10 percent alcohol content.
“I always tell people to cook only with good quality wine that you would love to drink,” Wall tells us. “Because, while the alcohol cooks down, the flavor profile of the wine actually intensifies. So if you cook with a bad bottle of wine, you will have a bad sauce! If you cook with a great bottle of wine, you will have an elevated sauce.”
Before taking on a demanding beef bourguignon, make sure that booze complies with your dinner guests since your dish will still retain some of the alcohol. And before you find yourself decoding aromas and flavor notes, don’t miss our little Secret to Drinking Booze Without Getting Fat.