Eating Food Cooked With Alcohol During Pregnancy – Is It Safe

Eating Food Cooked With Alcohol During Pregnancy - Is It Safe
When you are pregnant, there are a whole host of dietary changes that one must make- from limiting caffeine to processed food to cutting out unpasteurized cheese and cured meat. It is common knowledge that drinking alcohol during pregnancy is a big no-no, and however, the rules on eating food with alcohol are not so clear. So, we have put together a guide to help answer all your questions about alcohol in food during pregnancy. 

Is Cooking With Alcohol Safe While Pregnant?

Cooking with alcohol can be a little tricky when you are pregnant. Using alcohol, especially something like wine, usually focuses on the flavor profile and removes most alcohol content. Although alcohol does not evaporate at room temperature, it burns off significantly when cooking. The amount of alcohol left in the dish depends on how the dish is prepared, the time taken to cook, how much alcohol is used, and how it is incorporated with the dish’s other ingredients. Depending on all these criteria, food cooked with alcohol can retain anywhere between 5 to 85 percent of the original alcohol content. So let us now look at some of the methods you can use to remove alcohol while cooking with it.

Cooking Method That Removes the Alcohol

Alcohol doesn’t get “cooked out,” and completely removing alcohol from dishes is rare. However, different cooking methods can significantly bring down the alcohol content. The table below lists various cooking methods and how much alcohol remains when using each of these cooking methods. 

Cooking Method

Cooking Time

Alcohol Remaining

Flambé (Setting fire to neat liquor, e.g., crepes Suzette)

2-3 minutes (until flames have died down)

75%

Vigorous/rolling boil

30 minutes

10%

Simmering

15 minutes

40%

Simmering

1 hour

20%

Simmering

2 hours

10%

Vigorous/rolling boil

30 minutes

10%

Although these look-like high percentages, you must remember that the alcohol content of the spirit you use in your dish is already less, to begin with, and whatever alcohol remains is dispersed through the dish. For example, if you are using a 12% AVB wine in your sauce, there is usually only about 2-2.5% left at the end of an hour. In addition to that, the serving size of the sauce is generally small. So having such dishes is not likely to affect your pregnancy in any significant way and should not be cause for any concern.

Foods Containing Alcohol to Eat and Avoid in Pregnancy

As we previously discussed, food cooked in alcohol may not be a major cause for concern, but not all foods necessarily have cooked alcohol. Many recipes, especially desserts, contain raw alcohol, which is not suitable for consumption during pregnancy. We have put together a list to help you navigate which dishes you can eat and which to avoid. 

1. Foods to Eat 

There are a few kinds of foods containing alcohol that you can indeed consume. These include:

  1. Marinades: Using alcohol in marinates is an age-old tradition and very common practice. However, in such cases, the marinate is usually tossed out before the meat is cooked, making the alcohol content in the dish very less.
  2. Wine-Based Dishes: Popular wine-based dishes like the Coq au vin, marsala cacciatore, cioppino, and any other dishes braised in red and white wine are safe for consumption during pregnancy as there is very little residual alcohol. 
  3. Food Made With Beer: Beer-battered dishes like fish, calamari, and chicken, steaks with ale stews and pies can contain very small amounts of alcohol and may not be harmful when consumed during pregnancy.
  4. Meat-Cooked With Hard Liquor or Spirits: BBQ sauces or meats cooked with spirits like bourbon are safe to eat during pregnancy as they contain very little alcohol.

2. Foods to Avoid 

You must stay away from these alcohol-containing foods:

  1. Preserved Fruit: A lot of preserved fruit contains alcohol. However, the amount of alcohol in each of them varies. Sometimes these preserves can be syrups, but they can also be raw alcohol. It’s best to steer clear of such foods during pregnancy.
  2. Rum Balls: Rumball recipes generally do not call for cooking, and therefore, the alcohol content remains the same as when it was added. 
  3. Alcohol-Based Chocolates: Like rum balls, alcohol or liquor-based chocolates generally contain raw alcohol in them. Although these are in very small quantities per chocolate, it’s best to avoid them during pregnancy. 
  4. Bombe Alaska: Bombe Alaska is a dessert flambee dish in which it is topped off with liquor like rum or whisky and flambeed. Since the flambee, time is just a few minutes, and as we saw above, this method still retains a significant amount of the alcohol content and is not suitable during pregnancy.
  5. Cherries Jubilee: This is another flambee dessert. Safe to say, it is best to avoid any dishes that have flambeed alcohol.
  6. Banana Foster: Banana foster is a dessert that requires ripe bananas cooked in a rum-infused caramel sauce and then flambeed. As we discussed, it would be best to steer clear of flambeed alcohol dishes while you are pregnant. 
  7. Crepes Suzette: Another alcohol flambee recipe to stay away from during pregnancy. 
  8. Christman/Plum Pudding: Yet another dessert where brandy or a similar spirit is poured over the pudding and lit up.
  9. Grasshopper Pie: This is a no-bake pie whose recipe calls for a raw creamy mint liquor that remains in the cake uncooked.
  10. Alcohol Infused Ice Cream: Usually, alcohol flavored ice-creams like rum and raisin have very little alcohol in them and can be safe to eat during pregnancy; however, avoid desserts that have alcoholic sauces, or liquor (like Bailey’s) poured over them.

How to Reduce Alcohol Consumption From Food 

If you are cooking with alcohol or cooking with wine while pregnant, here are some ways to reduce the content of alcohol while cooking.

1. Timing 

As we previously discussed, different cooking methods and times can significantly impact the amount of alcohol content left in the dish. Refer to the table above and choose a method that best suits your needs. 

2. Avoid Slow Cookers 

Slow cookers generally have very low temperatures, which are insufficient to cook out the alcohol. So if you are using a slow cooker recipe with alcohol, adapt it to an oven or stovetop recipe to help reduce the alcohol content or simply avoid this cooking style entirely when using alcohol. 

3. Using a Lid 

If you are making dishes in the oven, do not secure the lid in place. Rather, place it loosely over the tray/pan. This helps with better evaporation of the alcohol, and the water condenses off the lid, diluting the dish even further.  

4. Tweaking the Alcohol in Your Recipe 

Another simple way to ensure you are cooking with less alcohol is by using lesser alcohol than the recipe suggestion. This was you can control and know the amount of alcohol in the final dish.

5. Ask When You Are Eating Out 

Whenever you are eating out, it’s best to check if any of the dishes you are consuming contains alcohol. If yes, you can also check with them about the cooking style and time to decide if it is safe for consumption during pregnancy.

6. Using Substitutes 

Using substitutes for alcohol in your recipe is the best way to ensure you aren’t consuming any alcohol during pregnancy. Alternatives like tomato juice, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and aromatic broths or stocks can help add acidity to the dish just like cooking wine would. We will look at these alternatives in more detail in the next section.

Healthier Alternatives to Alcohol in Cooking 

Alcohol cooking pregnancy can be tricky. Looking to add that acidic punch to your dishes without the alcohol? Worry not. We have put together a list of things that can substitute for alcohol in your boozy dishes. 

  • Tomato Juice: Tomato juice can be a great substitute for red wine. Not only does it add an acidic touch without alcohol, but it is also a great antioxidant.
  • Wine Vinegar: Wine vinegar is a great substitute for any wine-based dish. You can switch it out with wine without making any significant difference to the dish’s taste.
  • Canned Mushroom Liquid: The umami goodness from the liquid in canned mushroom adds the right acidic touch to a dish without the alcohol
  • Stocks: Beef, chicken, or vegetable stock can be used in your cooking to enhance the flavor without using alcohol.

FAQ’s 

1. Can You Eat Vodka Sauce While Pregnant? 

Vodka sauce contains a small amount of alcohol, and whatever little is used is also cooked, further reducing the alcoholic content in it. So eating vodka sauce when you are pregnant will not affect the pregnancy.

2. Does Alcohol Eliminate When Cooked?

Cooking does burn off alcohol from the food. However, the style and length of cooking determine how much is cooked off. Therefore it is important to understand how different cooking methods burn off the alcohol content.

So depending on the cooking method and time, consuming alcohol through the dishes can be perfectly safe during your pregnancy. However, if you want to steer clear of any alcohol, you can easily use alternatives to substitute the alcohol in your dishes. Happy eating all you soon-to-be mamas!

Also Read:

Non-Alcoholic Beer during Pregnant
Drinking Cold Drinks in Pregnancy
Is it Safe to Consume Soda while Pregnant?

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