Alcohol is a popular addition to recipes, imparting richness, flavor and moisture. Many people assume that after cooking, those benefits are all that remain, with the alcohol completely burning off.
Not so. How much remains in the dish depends on several factors, including the cooking method, the type of food cooked, whether the pot or pan was covered, and the length of cooking. For example, a quick flambé will burn off far less alcohol than an hours-long simmer. Basically, the longer a dish is cooked, the more alcohol content will be removed from it.
No matter how long a dish cooks, though, the chemical makeup of the alcohol used remains. When preparing food for anyone with an alcohol aversion, it’s best to omit or find a substitute (see chart below).
You can produce perfectly delicious results by substituting alcohol with non-alcoholic alternatives, but the flavor will vary slightly from the original recipe. For recipes where alcohol is dominant (think bourbon-chocolate pecan pie or coq au vin), it’s best to change the menu--substitutions don’t work as well in these types of dishes. But, if a recipe calls for just a splash of booze here or there, it’s helpful to know your options.