You're in your kitchen preparing a sumptuous one-pan creamy, dreamy chicken dinner. Toward the end of cooking, you decide to elevate this dish to gourmet status by adding a splash of whiskey. The kitchen fills with an enticing aroma -- smoky, oaky, and irresistibly rich. Your tastebuds are drooling. But when you dig in, the boldness from the alcohol is missing in action. "Where did the alcohol flavor go?" Well, it's gone in the air through evaporation.
Many people think all alcohol cooks out of food. That's not true for most alcohol or cooking methods. Whiskey is the only alcohol that fully cooks out of a dish within minutes. Unlike its alcoholic counterparts, such as beer and wine, whiskey is more volatile. Its rapid evaporation during cooking, while keeping the rich whiskey aromas intact, does give rise to a culinary implication. If you're using whiskey for its alcohol content or bite, you and your tastebuds will be disappointed. Whiskey's aromas will remain, but this won't be the boozy chicken dinner you intended it to be.
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The Multi-Faceted Role Of Whiskey In Cooking
You've noticed your whiskey-infused chicken dinner, while not as boozy as desired, has a remarkably smooth and creamy sauce. That's no accident; alcohol is versatile in cooking beyond adding flavor. It is an effective emulsifier, ensuring the fat and water-based elements in your sauce blend seamlessly, resulting in that luxurious and cohesive texture. Furthermore, alcohol helps in flavor balancing. If your dish is edging towards too sweet or salty, alcohol can neutralize and balance these extremes, delivering a well-rounded taste profile. Finally, alcohol acts as an aroma carrier, making the dish more appetizing by lifting scent compounds throughout the food straight to your nose.
While whiskey might not leave a bold, boozy flavor after cooking, it will still enhance your dish in multiple, often underappreciated, ways. From enriching aromas and smoothing out sauces to balancing flavors, alcohol is a multifaceted culinary ally. So, the next time you add whiskey to your dish, you may not get a strong alcohol kick, but you'll elevate the other sensory dimensions. And while the alcohol evaporates quickly when cooked, there is no need to employ an entire bottle of whiskey in your chicken dinners. A few splashes often suffice.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.