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Volume II
June 30, 2004

Cook'n Sober

Desiri Wightman, RD

Various reasons for avoiding the drinking of or even cooking with alcohol reign in the multiple intricacies of our lives. Religious commitments, designated driver status, family changes, weight loss, sobriety goals, and additional health or personal issues advocate learning how to do without any intoxicating ingredient in our diets.

The long-established theory that the alcohol used in cooking evaporates during the cooking process has been disregarded in recent years. Variables such as pot size, cooking time, heat intensity, sitting time, and so forth all affect alcohol retention in cooked foods. In 1989, the Agricultural Research of the USDA established alcohol levels retained in food prepared with alcohol (see table below). You'll notice that even when food is cooked for an extended period (2-1/2 hours), some alcohol (though minimal especially when portioned) is still present. This may be of concern when cooking for children or for guests with health or allergy issues.

Cooking Method
Remaining Alcohol after Preparation
No heat or setting time/immediate consumption
No heat/overnight storage
Alcohol added to boiling liquid; removed from heat.
Baked (about 25 minutes) with alcohol on top of mixture (not stirred in)
Baked or simmered with alcohol stirred into mixture:
15 minutes
30 minutes
60 minutes
90 minutes
120 minutes
150 minutes


So how can a sober cook avoid any alcohol in his/her food without compromising the unique properties it imparts? Just leaving it out isn't the answer. Alcohol is used not only for deep embodied flavor, but also for leavening, tenderizing, and flame. Recipes, in which the alcohol carries a role beyond flavor, may need to be discarded for something less spirituous. However, in the many more recipes requesting a tablespoon or two of intoxicants, a suitable substitute may be found.

The following guide will help you decide whether the recipe is bound for the round file or a permanent spot in your recipe box. Some amounts are listed below on the chart. Some however will need your cook's ingenuity and taste buds to determine a suitable amount of the substitution to add. For example, you'd never want to add a 1/4-cup rum extract to replace 1/4-cup rum called for in a recipe. Instead, you'd need to use your cook's judgment to add a fourth to one teaspoon of the extract, depending on how much of the rum flavor you wish to come through in the final product. Other ingredients may be substituted across the board. When this is possible, it will be noted on the table. When more than one option is given, let the sweetness of the dish guide you in choosing the more appropriate substitution.

Substitutions for Alcohol in Recipes
Type of Alcohol
Almond extract
Equal amounts of chicken of beef broth, ginger ale
1-2 tsp. vanilla per 2 tbsp. bourbon
Equal amounts of apple, pear, peach, or white grape juice
Equal amounts of grape juice or red wine vinegar for red; white grape juice with touch of white wine vinegar for white
Chambord or Framboise
Raspberry syrup, juice, or extract.
Equal amount of sparkling grape juice; ginger ale
Creme de menthe
Grapefruit juice or water mixed with dash of spearmint extract and green food coloring.
Almond or hazelnut extract
Anise extract
Grand Marnier
Equal amounts of orange juice concentrate.
Equal amounts of pomegranate syrup or juice; or nonalcoholic grenadine syrup
Strong coffee with dash of baking cocoa powder
Equal amounts of orange, peach, or pear juice
Red Wine
Equal amounts in these ratios: 1/4 c. grape juice + 1 tsp. red wine vinegar; 1/4 c. water + 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar; beef or chicken stock with shot of red wine vinegar; tomato juice
Rum extract; 'Light rum': pineapple juice with almond extract; 'Dark rum': molasses thinned with 'light rum'
Equal amounts of apple, orange or pineapple juice; or 2 tsp. vanilla per 2 tbsp. sherry
Equal amounts of apple juice, grape juice, or balsamic vinegar for sweet dishes; white grape juice or white wine vinegar for dry vermouth
White Wine
Equal amounts of chicken or vegetable stock with a shot of white wine vinegar if desired; white grape juice; ginger ale

         * DVO welcomes your kitchen hints and cooking or nutrition questions! Email us and we'll post your hints and Q/A's in upcoming newsletters! *

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