If you’re going out to eat a nice dinner with friends or family, you might not be thinking about the alcohol content in that meal. Interestingly, it is possible to get intoxicated from eating food, not just drinking alcohol.
Certain foods are made with alcohol, such as with wine sauces or beer batter, and that alcohol may not completely cook off before the meal is served. Combined with a drink or two at dinner, you may find that your blood alcohol concentration is higher than you expected it to be.
Alcohol in food can get you drunk
It is a myth that all of the alcohol in a specific dish will bake off before you eat it, in most cases. While people often say that alcohol will burn off before you eat, the reality is that it depends on how long the dish was cooked and how strong the alcohol was.
For example, if you put a cup of wine into a dish at the start of the cooking process, it’s more likely that it will cook off than if you add a cup of wine to simmer for the last few minutes before the food is served. Similarly, if you add a can of beer to cook with some meat at the beginning of the cooking cycle, it’s more likely to bake off than if you use it at the last minute to change the taste.
Even in common dishes, like Portuguese fish stew, which uses white wine, it takes a long time to cook out all of the alcohol. In one experiment, cooking 180 milliliters of white wine in the stew (while covered) for 30 minutes still left a significant portion of alcohol in the dish.
If you’re eating, make sure you know the alcohol content
The lesson here is to know the alcohol content of anything you intend to eat or drink, so you know how much you’ve had. If your meal will contain alcohol, it’s smarter to be safe and to get someone else to drive you home. This helps protect you against a charge for driving under the influence while also giving you an opportunity to enjoy your meal.