Healthy Kitchens Healthy Lives

Alcohol and Cooking: You left the vanilla in the cupboard


I once worked a group of Veterans most of whom had addiction issues. It was a very rewarding year helping these men improve their health through health education and much healthier food than they were used to with a focus on intact foods and healthy fats. At first they weren’t happy, as all the sugar and junky food was removed and replaced with healthier versions. They didn’t like me much for the first month or so, then they felt better, realized how much I cared about them, and all was well after that.

There were many learning curves for me. One veteran said, “Patty, there’s vanilla in the cupboard. You need to lock it in the pantry or it will be gone by morning.” I never would have thought about the alcohol content in vanilla, I admit. Or, “Patty, is there a way I can get rid of these track marks?”- as he showed me the needle marks up and down both arms.

My point is that the Veterans and I learned much from each other. I was thinking about this today when someone asked me if the alcohol burns off when a dish is cooked. You can see all the information on the chart below, but when someone had addiction issues, it’s not wise to use alcohol at all.

Alcohol Burn-off Chart – US Dept of Agriculture
Preparation Method Percent Retained
alcohol added to boiling liquid & removed from heat 85%
alcohol flamed 75%
no heat, stored overnight 70%
baked, 25 minutes, alcohol not stirred into mixture 45%
Baked/simmered dishes with alcohol stirred into mixture:
15 minutes cooking time 40%
30 minutes cooking time 35%
1 hour cooking time 25%
1.5 hours cooking time 20%
2 hours cooking time 10%
2.5 hours cooking time 5%



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