If I'm watching my alcohol intake, should I be concerned about foods that are prepared with wine?

Mar 17, 2016

Q: I'm careful about my alcohol intake. Should I be concerned about foods that are prepared with wine or other alcoholic beverages? Doesn't cooking burn off the alcohol?

A: It's a common perception that alcohol "cooks off" when used in food preparation for dishes like bananas Foster or rum cake, but in truth, only some of the alcohol evaporates, and that percentage is largely dependent on the amount of time a dish is cooked and the amount of heat applied to it.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Table of Nutrient Retention Factors, the amount of alcohol retained in food varies according to the type and duration of cooking method used. For a flambéed dish like bananas Foster, or steak au poivre with a flambéed Cognac sauce, only a quarter of the alcohol content burns off. On the other hand, for a dish that is braised in wine for an extended period of time, such as coq au vin or boeuf Bourguignon, nearly all of the alcohol has evaporated by the time the dish is ready to serve.

Check out the lists below for the USDA's findings on alcohol retention in prepared foods. With this data you can take better precautions when eating foods that include alcohol.

Food Prepared with Alcohol 
No heat applied, stored overnight: 70% alcohol retained
Flambée: 75% alcohol retained

Foods Prepared with Alcohol Stirred In and Baked or Simmered
15 minutes: 40% alcohol retained
30 minutes: 35% alcohol retained
1 hour: 25% alcohol retained
1.5 hours: 20% alcohol retained
2 hours: 10% alcohol retained
2.5 hours: 5% alcohol retained
 

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