I remember one time where our father decided to use some liquor on the food we/he was cooking, and he says it gives more flavor. Yes, it does work, but I fear getting drunk or even having that strange feeling when tasting alcohol.

Since I'm still a freshman high schooler, or specifically a minor, I would prefer to stay away from alcohol, even for cooking, but just to be safe, I need to know more about cooking with alcohol.

I found this site upon searching answers and saw this quote:

You know why you drink alcohol. But why cook with it? When used properly, alcohol improves your food. It bonds with both fat and water molecules, which allows it to carry aromas and flavor. In a marinade, alcohol helps the season the meat and carry flavor (not tenderize). It functions similarly in cooked sauces, making your food smell and taste better.

This does seem to answer the question I had in mind ("What does alcohol do to the food?"), but this brings another question. The "When used properly" part could be identified further, but all I really have in mind is the "Don't put too much or you get drunk when eating." type of thinking.

How to properly use alcohol when cooking something? It seems obvious that I shouldn't use undrinkable alcohols for it.

  • 1
    Sorry, there is no single clear meaning of "properly use alcohol when cooking". One could even argue that the usage in your citation is tautological.
    – rumtscho
    Commented May 25, 2021 at 17:39
  • youtube.com/watch?v=nxqAGbJ3bSA Commented May 25, 2021 at 18:38

2 Answers 2


This is borderline too broad as there's many ways alcohol can be used in cooking, but in reality preparation method doesn't actually make much difference, alcohol doesn't cook off nearly as quickly as people seem to think so it's good practice to expect there will be almost as much alcohol in the end dish as you put in. Some techniques like flambe will burn off some, but there will still be plenty left.

I think the way to go is to understand how much alcohol goes into different foods so you understand you may end up eating, you can then steer away from things that may have too much. It would be unusual for you to ever feel the effects of alcohol when it's used in food because the generally the quantities are very low compared to the bulk of the food. A good example of this is using red wine in a tomato sauce, you may add 250ml of wine to say 1.5 liters of sauce overall. At 17% alcohol that's around 43ml of actual alcohol in that wine, if you have 1/6th of that sauce in your meal you're having about 7ml of alcohol in that sauce, which isn't enough for you to notice any effects.

That's not true across the board though, looking at the other end of the scale you have something like Rum Babas, where you have alcohol at about 8x the concentration of the tomato sauce. If you ate one of those you'd be having about 20-25ml of alcohol, depending on the serving. That's about the equivalent of 1/2 a glass of wine. That's not really that much, even for a teen, but you might notice an effect.

An extreme example would be vodka marinated tomatoes, this involves soaking peeled cherry tomatoes in 500ml (2 US cups) of pure vodka for hours. I served this at a party and a vegetarian guest ate a ton of them and got completely lit!

The upshot of this is that it's about the quantity of alcohol you will end up eating or drinking, preparation only makes a bit of difference in that.

  • at least I wouldn't be putting too much if I have to use some liquor to make some meat dish if I would. Commented May 25, 2021 at 12:54

You don't need to use alcohol when cooking food, there are multiple alternatives that you can use to replace it for most recipes.

There are recipes that need alcohol (for example baba au rhum) and would be different when using substitutes.

If you want to use alcohol when cooking, use good quality alcohol (that you would drink) it does not need to be expensive, but it should be drinkable.

Alcohol adds some flavors (in combination with other ingredients).

Alcohol adds some acidity, especially white wine.

Alcohol can be used to flamber in some recipes.

Alcohol can add some sweetness to same sauces (for example when using Vermouth in pan sauces)

Anecdotally, I rarely use alcohol in food; I find that in most instances it does not add to the end product (yeah, even in stews, but that's just me).

  • this made me say "Yes, no alcohol for me." Commented May 25, 2021 at 12:52
  • Another major use of alcohol not specifically mentioned here is to deglaze a pan, where other liquids can substitute but might have a different effect in terms of carrying flavour.
    – dbmag9
    Commented May 25, 2021 at 13:45
  • Alcohol adds some flavors, it is not necessary to the "deglazing" technique.
    – Max
    Commented May 25, 2021 at 14:39
  • @Max As I said, you can deglaze with other liquids but alcohol does do something beyond bring its own flavour: there are flavour compounds more readily soluble in alcohol than in water.
    – dbmag9
    Commented May 25, 2021 at 15:02

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