Improve Your Cooking with Alcohol.
I am not saying get your guest drunk before they eat, so they think you are a good cook, but cooking with alcohol. You will see many recipes that call for the use of alcohol. Beer, wine, and even spirits are used in cooking. I am sure everyone has tried a nice rum cake or beer batter fish fry. These magic liquids not only add their own subtle taste but also enhance other flavors. However, you need to remember that having alcohol is a personal choice. Some people do not indulge for religious reasons, others to avoid conflict with medication, and some are concerned with addictions.
I recently saw a posting online with several comments about food with alcohol. Most of the comments were based on wrong information. The original situation concerns an individual watching a friend’s teenage child and fixing pasta for dinner. The child loved the sauce and convinced the mother to request the recipe. When she got the recipe, she got angry when she saw that there was wine in the sauce. Most of the comments stated the mother overreacted because cooking causes the alcohol to burn off, but does it?
It is common knowledge that alcohol burns off in cooking. Unfortunately, that is not entirely true. Yes, cooking does burn off alcohol, but it does so at a rate that is slower than what you may believe. If you do the Banana Foster desert, you will set it aflame. The flames will die off in a minute or two. While the alcohol content drops below the level to maintain the flames, only 25% of it has burned off.
The method and length of time that you cook will impact how much alcohol is left. Baking or simmering for 15 minutes will reduce the alcohol to 40%. In an hour it will be down to 25%, and in two and a half hours 5% will be remaining.
We all “know” that the things we read on the internet are true. I recently read an article that in the opening stated it is perfectly alright to feed children food cooked in alcohol because all the alcohol is cooked off in the preparation of the food. However, later in the same article, it mentioned the same USDA stats I mentioned above.
Cooking To Impress with Alcohol
In my Book, Cooking To Impress, there are a few recipes that include alcohol in the preparation. The Portuguese Chicken, Garlic Mushrooms, and the Baked Pasta dish have some wine, and the Banana Foster has rum. You will even find some here on this website, such as the Coq au VinChicken. Most of my alcohol consumption is in my food. I may not have a glass of wine or other alcohol for weeks, still, I will generally have one or two meals a week that include wine in the preparation.
If I am making a pasta dish with a tomatoes-based sauce, I will add a little wine. Adding a splash of wine can turn an ordinary dish into something more interesting. One of my favorite movies is “Last Holiday” with Queen Latifa. In one of the early scenes, she is cooking a meal, following along a TV chef. The chef tells the viewer to “add a splash of wine”, and then after a pause says “a little more” pouring a generous amount.
I will sometimes fix some chicken in a slow cooker, which I will add a prepared pasta sauce to have over the pasta. A slow cooker is a great way to prepare a meal without constant attention. It will tenderize tough cuts of meat and infuse flavors. However, as moisture is trapped in the slow cooker, it also traps the alcohol. So, if cooking with alcohol in a slow cooker, you must at times allow the moisture to release.
Can Children Have Food Cooked With Alcohol?
You may see two questions that when answered seem to contradict themselves. Can you get a DUI from eating food cooked with alcohol and Can you serve children food cooked with alcohol, the answer is “YES”. There are three points that need to be considered when you evaluate the impact of alcohol. They are the amount of alcohol, the alcohol content, and the duration of cooking. You also need to consider if you start with an empty stomach.
Let’s start with the question can you serve food cooked with alcohol to children, and relate it to the pasta sauce concern mentioned above. We all “know” that the things we read on the internet are true. I recently read an article that in the opening stated it is perfectly alright to feed children food cooked in alcohol because all the alcohol is cooked off in the preparation of the food. However, later in the same article, it mentioned the same USDA stats I mentioned above.
Another article, written by a person who stated he was a doctor, stated that under no circumstances were children to have any alcohol. The article mentioned many complications to child development that alcohol can cause, as well as a child’s tolerance levels. He specifically mentioned food cooked with alcohol. However, in my view, the issue is not cut and dry. There are many cultures that introduce alcohol to children while they are young. The actress Emma Watson recently commented that she was shocked at the attitude of some teenagers she meets when she was a teen concerning alcohol. They saw it as a challenge, even a writ of passage obtaining some and getting drunk. While she had been having wine with dinner since being a child. At first diluted, moving to a regular serving as she grew.
The other issue I had with the doctor’s article, was he seemed to not read or selectively read some of the references he cited. One portion that seem to be passed over was a study of alcohol in food that we would not expect. Part of that is alcohol content can appear from different processes but reporting it is mostly concerned with what we drink and not eat. The study of alcohol in food stated one of the highest alcohol-content foods readily available is American Style Hamburger buns. (it was a German study). The study showed that the average alcohol content of hamburger buns at 1.28%. If we use the grams figure it shows that 15 buns equal a single serving of beer.
How Much Alcohol Do You Have When Cooking with Alcohol
Would you allow a child to drink a low-alcohol beer? Or a half pint of regular ale? How about a quart of ice-cold orange juice on a hot afternoon? While regulations vary slightly by region, for a beer to be labeled as no alcoholic it needs to have less than .5% alcohol. Low Alcohol beer would have an alcohol content greater than .5% up to 3.5%. In the past, many states allowed 3.2% beers to be sold without a beer license and to buyers slightly younger than for regular beers. When I was doing my basic training many years ago in New Jersey at 18, I was able to purchase 3.2 beer, but not a 5% alcohol beer. Current US federal law considers anything over .5% as an alcoholic beverage and can only be purchased by those 21 years of age and over. The Federal law does not apply to drinks below .5%, however, some states restrict the sale of no alcohol beers.
Let’s talk about that morning glass of juice you give your children. If you are generous and do not mind the sugar rush, you may give them a nice 8 oz glass of juice. If they drink it first, it is on an empty stomach, and we all know you should not drink alcohol on an empty stomach. We are talking juice, not beer, what does it matter? Orange, apple, and grape juices all come in from .85 to 1.8% alcohol content. Yes, in the same range as a low-alcohol beer. A 2 oz light ale and an 8 oz orange juice have about the same amount of alcohol.
Let’s talk about adding wine to pasta sauce. I will add 4 oz of wine to a bottle of prepared pasta sauce. Contrary to the bottle’s label, it will give me 4 servings. So, we are looking at 1 oz of 12% wine per serving. Simmering the sauce for 20 minutes brings the alcohol down to about 5%, Aka less than a glass of orange juice.
Can You Get A DUI From Food
One dish is not very likely to be able to elevate your blood alcohol content into the DUI range, but multiple dishes may, or eating an entire rum cake yourself. As mentioned above: There are three points that need to be considered when you evaluate the impact of alcohol. They are the amount of alcohol, the alcohol content, and the duration of cooking. You also need to consider if you start with an empty stomach.
A piece of cake that has absorbed 2 oz of rum after it was baked will not be much different them drinking a double shot of the same rum. However, adding the rum to the batter and then baking the cake will reduce the rum to just 33% of the strength but still have all the flavor.
Here is a nice video that shows someone testing their Blood Alcohol Content over the course of a meal. This article gives a little more detail on the dishes enjoyed in the video.
Keep on Cooking with Alcohol
As I mentioned before, cooking with alcohol is a personal choice, but one that I feel can greatly improve your cooking.