This is a debate that circulates cooking shows, pop culture, and LDS members' discussions. Can Mormons cook with alcohol and still obey the Word of Wisdom? Well, I think it's really up to you, BUT you should have all of the facts before you make that decision.
FACT: Alcohol DOES NOT completely cook out. Ever.
I know, I know, they say it on cooking shows, in recipes, on TV.
But here's the real deal in case you're interested.
Because alcohol (ethanol) has a lower boiling point (78.5 degrees C) than water (100 degrees C) the presumption among many home cooks and culinary professionals has been that the alcohol cooks out when it is exposed to heat. But in 1992, a team of researchers at the University of Idaho, Washington State University, and the United States Department of Agriculture set out to confirm this assumption and found the assumption did not hold true.
In their study*, six recipes were prepared using various sources of alcohol including Burgundy wine, dry sherry, brandy, crème de cocoa, and Grand Marnier. A variety of preparations were used including applying no heat and refrigerating overnight, adding alcohol to a hot sauce, flaming, oven baking, and simmering (both 30 minutes and 2 ½ hours). Alcohol retention, after preparation, ranged from 4%-85% and was dependent upon a number of factors such as cooking temperature, size of the cooking vessel, cooking time, and the presence of other ingredients in the prepared dish. Breadcrumbs, for instance, which might absorb some of the alcohol and prevent it from evaporating.
Interestingly enough, the cherries jubilee recipe had one of the highest alcohol retentions at 77%-78% after the flames died out! The researchers explained this by saying that “with a flaming dish, alcohol loss is primarily the result of alcohol combustion. The alcohol continues to burn as long as minimum alcohol vapor pressure is maintained. Once this vapor is reduced below a certain point, the alcohol ceases to burn, which happens during flaming and thus accounts for the relatively high retention of alcohol during the process.”
After they reviewed their data, the research team concluded that “the assumption that all alcohol is evaporated when heat is applied during cooking is not valid.”
As you can see, contrary to what most people believe, and that includes most professionals, when using beer, wine or other alcoholic beverages in recipes, a lot of alcohol is left after cooking. Here are the facts from the Agricultural Research Service of the USDA (1989).
Alcohol remaining after preparation:
100% Immediate consumption
70% Overnight storage
85% Boiling liquid, remove from heat
Alcohol remaining after being baked or simmered:
40% 15 min.
35% 30 min.
25% 1 hour
20% 1.5 hour
10% 2 hours
5% 2.5 hours
Suggested substitutions for Alcoholic Beverages in Recipes
Choose the substitute considering the sweetness of the dish you are preparing. Many times for a savory dish I just add additional stock.
White Wine substitutes in recipes
• Apple juice or carrot juice.
• Vegetable stock or Chicken stock straight or with a little white wine vinegar
• 1/2 cup rice vinegar and 1 tablespoon white grape juice.
Red Wine substitutes in recipes
• 1/2 cup of grape juice with 2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar.
• 1/2 cup water and 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar.
• Gerber single serving size cherry juice for babies.
• Beef stock or chicken stock straight or with a little red wine vinegar.
Champagne substitutes in recipes
• Ginger ale, sparkling grape juice.Brandy substitutes in recipes
• Apple juice, peach juice, white grape juice, pear juice.
Marsala substitutes in recipes
• Orange juice
• Peach juice
• Pear juice
Orange Liqueur substitutes in recipes
• Frozen orange juice concentrate.
Beer substitutes in recipes
• Chicken broth
• Beef Broth
• Ginger Ale
If you're a super-science-genius and want to read the USDA's official burn-off rate study click here.
*Jorg Augustin, PhD, Evelyn Augustin, MS, Rena L. Cutruffelli, Steven Hagen, PhD, and Charlene Teitzel. Alcohol Retention in Food Preparation, Journal of the American Dietetic Association, April 1992, Volume 92, Number 4.