Cooking with Alcohol – Why and How Do We Do It?
Alcohol is used in plenty of recipes out there, and you can use basically any type of alcoholic drink to bring some extra flavors to your food. But what’s the reason for cooking with alcohol? And does it burn off when cooked or does it stay in your system?
I’m not much of a drinker anymore, because I feel that as I’m getting older, my body is way too confused by it. So when I go out I have a cocktail or a glass of wine or cider at most because I know that if I go overboard, I will curse my hangover in the morning. That doesn’t mean that I don’t use it when cooking, especially since it’s such a popular ingredient. And it has its chemistry purpose anyway. I’m sure you have questions, too, about what and cooking with alcohol, and I’ve tried to provide you some answers.
Why cooking with alcohol?
The answer is simple enough: chemistry. Alcohol has a great hand in amplifying the flavor of a dish. And this happens because its properties make it easy for it to bond with water and fat molecules. That means that it acts as a conduit between flavor and meat. It absorbs the flavor of ingredients that are soluble in water like garlic, herbs, and aromatics. Then it transfers those flavors to your meat.
That’s the reason we have beer-crusted chicken, veal Marsala with Marsala wine, tequila caramel popcorn, pear sake sorbet, rum risotto, and many more.
Try this dark beer chicken wings and see how great it is.
Deglaze with alcohol
When you cook something and remove it from the pan, you always have leftovers in the bottom of the pan. And those leftovers are always pretty much delicious, so why should they go to waste? That’s where deglazing comes in.
When you add beer, wine or any spirits to the pan, thanks to its properties, the alcohol dissolves what’s left in the pan and just like that, an amazing and flavorful sauce is created. Try it ASAP!
Don’t use too much of it
Now, you don’t want to pour a whole bottle of alcohol in your pan. Just a little bit, a splash or two, is more than enough for the task of cooking with alcohol. If you add too much, you risk that the whole thing will taste of alcohol, and reek of it, too, with disastrous results.
Does the alcohol burn off the food?
Plenty of people seem to think that under heat the alcohol burns off. But the truth is that the food you cook in alcohol retains most of it. That means, under certain terms, that you shouldn’t eat alcohol laden food and drive, because you will absorb the alcohol in your body. And also, your kids shouldn’t have too much of that food or dessert, either.
But it’s also true that, the longer the cooking time, the more alcohol evaporates. For instance, when you stir and simmer a dish with alcohol, it retains about 40 percent of it in the dish for a 15-minute cook time. If you simmer for two hours and a half, the alcohol retention will be significantly lower, about 5 percent.
If you’re left with a lot of alcohol after cooking with it, why not make some lovely drinks? You get your picks from our dedicated category.