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Does alcohol in a pecan pie cook out?

For Thanksgiving, I'm going to be making the John Thorne Pecan Pie that several Chowhounders have raved about. The recipe calls for 2 T. of dark rum. Will the rum cook out / burn off during the 50 minutes of baking? I'm concerned about whether the alcohol will affect the children who'll be sure to eat the pie. If it doesn't cook out, what would be a good non-alcoholic substitute?


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  1. It will cook out at the temperature and time needed to bake a pie. All that sugar is a bigger concern.

    1. most (not all) of the alcohol will cook off.

      A typical pie is cut into 8 wedges. (pecan often more, as it's so rich)

      2T (6 teaspoons) of rum divided by 8 slices is just 3/4 teaspoon of rum per slice -- not enough to intoxicate anyone old enough to eat the pie -- and that's before cooking.

      I agree that the sugar content will be a bigger issue with the mommies.

      2 Replies
      1. re: sunshine842

        Given that vanilla can be so much higher in alcohol content, I also think the 2 Tablespoons of rum is a nonissue as children go. If someone couldn't have alcohol for religious reasons, that's a different issue altogether.

        1. re: chowser

          Not my first choice, but if the rum is an issue with the moms, there's always rum extract.

      2. Alcohol never totally cooks off, no matter what you do.

        But I agree with the others that the tiny amount still left is a nonissue.

        1. I am very relaxed about this sort of thing. My kids eat stews and daubes all the time that contain up to 3 cups of wine in them. I don't kid myself that it all cooks out.

          It's not a big deal.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Becca Porter

            Grew up with alcohol spiked cherries in desserts, wine in stews, etc. and am still here :). Ate an entire box of brandy filled chocolates at age 6 and Mom didn't bat an eye.

          2. Thanks for your thoughts, everyone. There are no religious or moral concerns, so I'm not going to worry about it. Rum, it is! :-)

            1 Reply
            1. re: goodeatsgal

              And some flavor compounds are only alcohol soluble, so the pie wouldn't have been as tasty without the alcohol, flavoring it would have contributed aside. ;D

            2. no, it will not cook out in all that goo. in my opinion alcohol has to evaporate/vaporize to dissipate; vaporization in the gel is not like it would be were it cooking / boiling on a stovetop in an open saucepan. you can use rum extract (i'm assuming there is already some vanilla extract in the pie, and if so, just make it half and half, so as to not overpower the pie with extract flavors).

              i'd make it with the rum, but it will still taste of rum and contain most if not all of the alcohol. i base this on experience and no scientific data sets, ok?

              "Evaporation is the process by which a liquid is turned into gas, and different kinds of liquids evaporate at different rates. …. Rate of evaporation…can be expressed as the decrease in volume of a liquid over the time it took for that volume to decrease. The rate …depends on such factors as the type of alcohol, the SURFACE AREA THAT IS EXPOSED TO AIR, AND THE TEMPERATURE OF ITS SURROUNDINGS."

              Read more: http://www.ehow.com/how_7778414_measu...

              1 Reply
              1. re: alkapal

                and anybody's going to argue that the surface area of a pie is *extremely* high, particularly when compared to the volume of the pie?

                Alcohol boils (and thus evaporates) at 173F -- given the very high surface area:volume ratio, the low evaporation temperature of the alcohol in a 350F oven, and the extended baking time for a pecan pie (45 min to an hour) -- there's very, very little alcohol left in the pie.

                Don't know about your recipe, but my recipe bubbles merrily while it's in the oven. According to a couple of sites dedicated to the production of sugar cane syrup, the boiling point of syrup is 225F...so if it's bubbling, the temperature of the filling is roughly 50 degrees *above* the evaporation point of the alcohol.

                There will be some piece of equipment somewhere that will be able to detect some level of alcohol in the pie filling...but after those conditions, there's not gonna be much.

              2. Alcohol cooking out??? A "chicken or egg" topic... right up there with whether to put oil in pasta water. Pretty sure alcohol ( wine, liquor, maybe even beer) NEVER completely cooks out, but isn't something to worry about unless someone eating food has "issues".

                7 Replies
                1. re: kseiverd

                  it also affects flavors. once a few years ago we made a recipe that hadn't been vetted and it had too much wine and the wine didn't evaporate enough and boy was that soup/stew whatever it was disgusting.

                  and nobody puts oil in pasta water, um, do they?

                  1. re: alkapal

                    but if you'd simmered it longer with the lid off, the alcohol would have evaporated enough to leave you with a lovely sauce.

                    Witness coq au vin, which is made with an entire bottle of wine....and nothing disgusting about it.

                    1. re: sunshine842

                      sunshine, i wonder how you could possibly know how the dish would've tasted? i didn't even say what it was (although i think it may have involved mussels).

                      1. re: alkapal

                        years and years of cooking dishes with lots and lots of wine (sometimes I even put it in the pan).

                        "too much wine" isn't a reason for something tasting bad.

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          proportions do matter. just reducing the liquid is going to get rid of excess wine (and its alcohol flavor) but the other ingredients are similarly reduced. (and obviously, this would involve removing the mussels for the time to reduce).

                          your argument is that no matter how much wine is in the dish -- if i cook it long enough it will taste good? it doesn't matter what the other ingredients are and in what amounts?

                          i've cooked with wine for many years, too. if i find this problem in the future, i'll remember your advice, and see how it plays out with the particular dish.

                          1. re: alkapal

                            I didn't say anywhere, nor did I imply, that if the rest of your dish is shite that the wine will somehow magically save it. If you have subpar ingredients (or just a subpar recipe!) you'll get subpar results.

                            I said that "too much wine" isn't a reason for something tasting bad, which is not at all the same thing.

                        2. re: alkapal

                          I tend to agree with sunshine.

                          It's likely not too much wine. It's not enough cooking time.

                  2. "Contrary to popular opinion, cooking removes only a portion of the alcohol added to a dish,"

                    Table from USDA Showing Percent of Alcohol Retained After Cooking
                    Preparation Method - Percent of Alcohol Retained
                    -Alcohol added to boiling liquid & removed from heat, 85% Retained
                    -Alcohol flamed, 75% Retained
                    -No heat, stored overnight, 70% Retained
                    -Baked, 25 minutes, alcohol not stirred into mixture, 45% Retained
                    Baked/simmered, alcohol stirred into mixture:
                    -15 minutes, 40% Retained
                    -30 minutes, 35% Retained
                    -1 hour, 25% Retained
                    -1.5 hours, 20% Retained
                    -2 hours, 10% Retained
                    -2.5 hours, 5% Retained

                    From the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, April, 2002, by Eleese Cunningham:

                    "The extent of loss depends on the severity of the heat application, or any other factor favoring evaporation. Cooking time had the greatest impact on alcohol retention. Flaming a dish results in much smaller losses of alcohol than cooking. Uncooked and briefly cooked dishes had the highest alcohol retention. Alcohol retention during cooking was also greatly affected by the size of the cooking vessel used. The smaller the cooking utensil the greater the amount alcohol retained. This was likely due to the smaller surface area for evaporation."

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Antilope

                      I chose Myers Rum for statistics, as it was handy and quick to look up. Myers is 80 proof -- 40% alcohol.

                      We'll average the 30-minute and 1-hour retention levels from Antilope's link and say that after 45 minutes, about 30% of the alcohol is retained.

                      After baking, 2T of dark rum will have .just 12% of the alcohol left (30% of 40% alcohol) -- so just .24 ounces (2T is 2 ounces) of alcohol stays in the pie.

                      Divide that into 8 slices, and if anyone eats an entire slice, they'll have ingested just .03 ounces of alcohol in the entire pie.

                      Total nonissue, regardless of the age of the pie monster.

                    2. That much alcohol won't be enough to affect children, even uncooked. A dose of kid's cough medicine probably has more alcohol in it.

                      But as far as baking out - some but not all is probably the best answer. Alcohol does evaporate out faster than water, but the amount that evaporates depends on the temperature and time of cooking, and the form of the food. The only way to get 100% percent of it would be to evaporate all liquid (including water) from the dish.

                      Not noticing that a five year old is working his way through a plate of rum balls? *That's* a problem....