Does Alcohol Evaporate During Holiday Cooking?

Dinner table during the holiday season

Thanksgiving is one of the few holidays that actually says exactly what it is: a time to give thanks for what’s positive in our lives. It’s also a time when cooks dig out their tastiest recipes. However, for anyone who’s alcohol-conscious during the holidays, food can be tricky. Many tasty dishes involve alcohol in cooking. That presents an interesting question for hosts and guests alike: Does alcohol evaporate during holiday cooking?

We’ll defer to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and their answer is no (or at least not much).

What Affects Alcohol Evaporation During Holiday Cooking?

A surprising number of recipes use alcohol as an ingredient. They sound delicious, whether it’s beer biscuits or bourbon sweet potatoes. However, in the USDA’s study of six recipes, those dishes retained between 5% to 85% of the alcohol content after being prepared.

USDA holiday alcohol cooking chartA great deal depends on a number of factors, including:

• How long the dish is being cooked.
• The method of preparation.
• What type of alcohol is being used.

The latter is particularly important, since even common baking ingredients can contain alcohol. In particular, pure vanilla extract can contain up to 35% alcohol, although alcohol-free options are available.

What Should I Do If I’m Cooking?

Think about your guests. Let everyone know beforehand when a dish is made with alcohol. Consider it with the same mind-set as cooking or serving for people with food allergies or gluten sensitivity.

If you decide to offer a dish that includes alcohol as an important ingredient, consider non-alcoholic alternatives. For example:

  • Non-alcoholic almond extract can take the place of Amaretto.
  • Chicken or beef broth can often take the place of beer.
  • Juice from apricots, pears, or peaches can substitute for cognac.

What non-alcohol “mocktails” can I offer for holiday guests?

What Should I Do if I’m Eating?

Some dishes that contain alcohol are easy to spot. If its name involves booze – like bourbon gravy or penne with vodka sauce – then it’s easy to stay away.

Other dishes can be a little harder to identify. Don’t be shy: Ask your host, or the person who brought the dish.

When in doubt, stick to the main road. Holiday staples like turkey, ham, dressing, mashed potatoes, vegetables, chips and rolls are much less likely to contain alcohol than more exotic dishes or desserts. Even then, watch for glazes or spreads that might include alcohol.

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