Cooking with alcohol was mostly seen and heard of in cooking shows, and the thought of incorporating it in a recipe is quite debatable. It always seems like the strong flavors will take away the taste in food, right?
Well, we beg to differ and welcome you to the world of cooking with alcohol. There are so many recipes that use some form of alcohol as one of the ingredients, and most times, you won’t know it’s alcohol until you are told. It is mostly incorporated when making sauces, marinades, or as main flavors.
Your biggest asset when it comes to cooking with alcohol is information and a lot of it. First, you need to know the flavor you are going for and the choice of alcohol to use.
Role Of Alcohol In Cooking
As we mentioned above, alcohol brings out the flavor of food, whether it is beer, wine, or vodka. They all improve the flavor perception of the food by evaporation and molecular bonding.
The moment you add, for example, a splash of wine to a fruit salad, it conveys the fruit salad’s aroma to your nostrils, enhancing how you enjoy your food. That is also why you shouldn’t put too much of the alcohol so that the smell does not dominate the delicacy’s overall aroma.
Another thing alcohol is good for is that it bonds with both fat and water molecules, which help our aroma receptors smell the food which is quite crucial. This is because the flavors we enjoy do not start in the mouth but the nose, in how the food smells.
When Do You Use Alcohol?
If you did not know, the finest extracts with the most intense flavors are alcohol-based like the vanilla so, using alcohol wouldn’t be so extra. Fermentation concentrates and intensifies the fruit essence into cordials, brandies, and wines.
Objecting to the alcohol content is like opposing nature because it is a natural by-product of it. The alcohol helps achieve a desired chemical reaction in the food and causes foods to release flavors that only alcohol can bring.
It mixes with the fat and water molecules in the food that allows it to carry the flavor and aromas you want. Dishes that can benefit from a shot of your strong stuff are meats, sauces, desserts, and glazes.
Even pie dough! Now that that is out of the way, you are probably wondering which types of alcohol to incorporate in the recipes. Below is a simple guide of what is best:
They are mostly used in desserts, fruit dishes, and sweeter sauces. Liqueurs are distilled spirits that have been flavored with sugar, fruits, herbs, or spices. They are so sweet and thicker beverages than the others, which is why they are suitable for cocktails and desserts. You can use the different flavors differently:
Fruit liqueurs for a light and refreshing beverage. Use a tablespoon or two of it and toss in some berries to create a beautiful coating. Brandy is made of winemaking it best for caramelizing desserts. You can use it to soak other desserts like cakes for that extra richness.
A bourbon is a suitable option for sweet and sour recipes that you may be making. It also goes very well with fruit like dried raisins when soaked in for a few hours. It helps enhance the fruit through a mixture of sugars since its honey-like nature makes it a natural sweetener. For the bourbon, make sure you use one you would drink because if it does not taste good on its own, it won’t taste good in the dish you are making either.
For a perfect flambee, then rum is the way to go, whether you are going for the caramelized version of the fruit of wanting to exert your fried meat to open fire. It is also one for the sweet tooth. It is also possible to add flavor to it, which would only make the result more intensive.
Wine is mostly used when making sauces, caramelizing veggies, and spices. When coked, most of it evaporates but leaves the flavor and a little moisture for your food. In sauces, it creates the thickness you’d be going for that dip.
Stay away from cooking wine, though. Despite it being termed as cooking wine, it has salt and artificial preservatives that give it a longer shelf life, which isn’t what you are going for.
Choose sweeter wines if you are going for a sweeter flavor like Moscato. If not, choose dry varieties like Sauvignon Blanc. Another essential factor about wine is that if you can’t drink the wine, do not cook with it. You do not need to break the bank for it. Something essential that you’d drink alongside food is still the right choice.
Tequila is mostly used in making vinaigrettes, glazes for meat proteins like fish and marinades. When tequila is infused in food, it provides a slight kick that spikes up the taste, thickening the sauce. Tequila naturally has smoky and citrus flavors, so it is suitable for dishes that have just that. When cooking with citrus ingredients, you can go for the Blanco tequila and when you want the smoky flavor, go for the Reposado Tequila.
It is used in preserves, brines for the richer proteins like pork and beef, and chutneys. Gin gives food that intense flavor since it is a combination of herbs and other natural flavors. It can be used for both sweet and savory dishes.
So, How Do You Cook With Alcohol?
First of all, pick wisely. Use any alcohol you would choose to drink because nothing undrinkable would taste well in food. Besides, cooking wine is expensive alcohol you can’t drink. Such a loss, right! But also, don’t use your best alcohol for this. Save that for the table because you don’t want its richness getting lost when cooking.
Also, let it sink in. Do not overdo and use so much, especially when cooking meat. It will overpower the dish and or denature the proteins if it’s a marinade you are making. Let it soak up by swapping water with a bit of beer or wine to add flavor. It helps with fruits, especially to poach them.
Let’s say you had a bland chicken breast, and you just removed it from the skillet; you can pour some beer into the pan scraping the bottom. This will help dislodge the stuck meat bits turning them in a thick sauce. For chicken, white wine works best.