Cooking with Alcohol – Is This OK in Recovery?

by Jun 21, 2019SUD Resources0 comments

Is it OK to cook with alcohol if you’re in recovery?

The Doctors Opinion of the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book states –

“…These allergic types can never safely use alcohol in any form at all; and once having formed the habit and found they cannot break it, once having lost their self-confidence, their reliance upon things human, their problems pile up on them and become astonishingly difficult to solve.”

Alcohol can be found as an ingredient in many recipes. It can be added as an ingredient to add specific flavors or it can be part of an ingredient, such as extracts. Many cookbooks and cooks tell the consumer that the “alcohol will have burned off,” however the process is more complicated than this simple statement implies. Alcohol does boil at a lower temperature than water – 86 degrees centigrade vs. 100 degrees C. for water, though one may have to boil a beer for 30 minutes to get it down to the NA or nonalcoholic category, which by law means it contains less than .5 percent alcohol.

Check Your Motive

If you are in recovery and notice food that is cooked in alcohol, you have to ask yourself why you want to eat it.

It does depend on who you are, but eating foods that have a smell or a taste of alcohol regardless of the alcohol content can potentially trigger the physical craving phenomenon for some people.

Triggers vary, for instance, some alcoholics in recovery can cook with rice wine vinegar. This product smells strongly of alcohol but does not contain alcohol, and this isn’t a trigger for them.

The bigger issue here is the temptation of having alcohol in the house. You may have purchased alcohol with the intent to cook, but will you end up drinking the bottle instead?

The idea of alcohol burning off during cooking is a partial myth. The truth behind it is that some alcohol will burn off during most normal types of cooking. The myth though, is that the alcohol burns off completely.

Most cooking still leaves behind a significant amount of the original alcohol content. It can take hours of cooking before only trace amounts remain.

So, if you cook with alcohol, you will be consuming some of that alcohol when you eat the dish. That said, most dishes use so little alcohol in their recipes that you won’t be consuming enough of it to possibly get you drunk.

I suppose it all boils down to how you feel about your recovery but it requires some self-reflection and honesty. If you feel like this is something that will tip you over the edge, then, by all means, don’t do it!

See the chart below from the USDA on Alcohol Burn-off:

Ref –

There are hundreds of recipes that do not require any alcohol at all, and if you’ve been accustomed to cooking with it in the past, you can break free from this too! If you are concerned with cooking with alcohol and want to know a potential substitute for your recipe check out the link above for options on replacements.


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