11 Unexpected Reasons to Cook with Booze


You may be thinking the only reason one needs to cook with alcohol is: Why not? It's tasty and, if you're working with more than the recipe calls for, can make the cooking process that much more enjoyable. But there's more than the mixing of two great things—booze and food—that makes drunken dishes that much better. The scientific properties of alcohol make the final product even greater than the sum of its parts.

1. To Take Advantage of the Volatility Effect

Alcohol molecules are volatile, so they evaporate easily, which facilitates carrying the scent particles in a dish to our noses. Adding some alcohol to things like a fruit salad will increase the fragrance factor, and, since smell is crucial to taste, the existing flavors will be heightened. Just a splash of vodka or other spirits will do the trick—you don't want the dish to smell like alcohol.

2. For Better Beer Batter...

The same protein-rich CO2 foam that creates a creamy head on the beer you drink also allows for a light, crispy crust when you add it to frying batter.

3. ...And Moister Insides

Additionally, the foam serves as an insulator to keep the food inside from overcooking while allowing you to fry up everything from fish to Oreos in high-heat oil.

4. To Keep Homemade Ice Cream Soft

Your homemade ice cream should be frozen, of course, but not frozen solid! Alcohol lowers the freezing point (this is also why you keep liquor in the freezer) so ice creams stay creamier and smoother and are less likely to form ice crystals. Aim for three tablespoons per liter. Vodka works when you don’t want to alter the flavor, but there are plenty of options that do double duty. Amaretto, Grand Marnier, and other flavored liquors not only keep your ice cream scoopable, they also add nuance.

5. As A Meat Tenderizer

Marinate your steak in alcohol. Not only does it impart a rich flavor, the acids and tannins in beer and wine help break down the proteins, making even cheap cuts super tender.

6. For A Flakier Pie Crust

Replacing water with vodka (or some other alcohol) when making a pie crust results in a lighter, flakier finish. Water encourages gluten production, which—although responsible for giving the crust the structural integrity it needs—also makes the finished product dense and heavy, and susceptible to becoming overworked. Alcohol inhibits gluten formation and keeps the crust from getting tough.

7. To Reduce Carcinogens in Grilled Meat

Recently, a report in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that marinating meat in dark beer cut the number of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, which are linked to cancer, in half.

8. Flambé For A Caramelized Sear

There is a simmering debate surrounding this one. Some people claim that adding alcohol to a dish just to set it on fire is purely showmanship, a burst of flames to wow your diners. But there is evidence to suggest that the direct heat quickly sears the food and caramelizes any sugars in the sauce without overcooking anything.

9. For More Effective Deglazing

When you roast or pan fry a piece of meat, some of it gets stuck to the cooking surface. Those browned bits aren't just an unavoidable byproduct, though. They're full of flavors you want to keep in the dish. Deglazing makes a pan sauce out of some liquid and those crispy fat deposits and caramelized sugars. Using wine or spirits as your solvent not only adds a deeper flavor to the sauce, the alcohol also makes for more effective deglazing because ethanol creates chemical bonds with both water and fat molecules.

10. For Extracting Flavors Naturally

This is one step removed from actually cooking, but you can use alcohol to make expensive ingredients for far cheaper. The same chemical property that allows the savory fats in the item above to bond with the wine in deglazing will allow you to extract the flavorful oils from nuts, vanilla beans or citrus. Just mix the highest proof alcohol—vodka if you don't want to alter the flavor—and let the mixture sit for about a week. With slightly different ratios and a sugary syrup, you can make limoncello like this, too.

11. Because it Doesn't All Cook Off, No Matter What They Say

Even though alcohol has a lower boiling point than water, it doesn't all cook off on the stove or in the oven. Of course, if you take just one serving of a booze-laden dish you probably won't feel the effects. But go ahead, have another piece of rum cake—maybe it'll take the edge off your next family gathering.

20 States With the Highest Rates of Skin Cancer

They don’t call it the Sunshine State for nothing. Floridians get to soak up the sun year-round, but that exposure to harmful UV rays also comes with consequences. Prevention magazine reported that Florida has the highest rate of skin cancer in the U.S., according to a survey by Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS).

BCBS surveyed 9 million of its insured members who had been diagnosed with skin cancer between 2014 and 2016 and found that Florida had the highest rate of skin cancer at 7.1 percent. People living in eastern states tend to be more prone to skin cancer, and diagnoses are more common among women.

Here are the 20 states with the highest rates of skin cancer:

1. Florida: 7.1 percent
2. Washington, D.C.: 5.8 percent
3. Connecticut: 5.6 percent
4. Maryland: 5.3 percent
5. Rhode Island: 5.3 percent
6. Vermont: 5.3 percent
7. North Carolina: 5.2 percent
8. New York: 5 percent
9. Massachusetts: 5 percent
10. Colorado: 5 percent
11. Arizona: 5 percent
12. Virginia: 5 percent
13. Delaware: 4.8 percent
14. Kentucky: 4.7 percent
15. Alabama: 4.7 percent
16. New Jersey: 4.7 percent
17. Georgia: 4.7 percent
18. West Virginia: 4.5 percent
19. Tennessee: 4.5 percent
20. South Carolina: 4.4 percent

It may come as a surprise that sunny California doesn’t make the top 20, and Hawaii is the state with the lowest rate of skin cancer at 1.8 percent. Prevention magazine explains that this could be due to the large population of senior citizens in Florida and the fact that the risk of melanoma, a rare but deadly type of skin cancer, increases with age. People living in regions with higher altitudes also face a greater risk of skin cancer due to the thinner atmosphere and greater exposure to UV radiation, which explains why Colorado is in the top 10.

The good news is that the technology used to detect skin cancer is improving, and researchers hope that AI can soon be incorporated into more skin cancer screenings. To reduce your risk, be sure to wear SPF 30+ sunscreen when you know you’ll be spending time outside, and don’t forget to reapply it every two hours. 

[h/t Prevention]

9 Healthy Frozen Meals to Keep in Your Freezer

Frozen dinners don’t exactly have the best reputation when it comes to nutrition. Many of the pre-made meals you’ll find at your local supermarket are loaded with sodium, fat, and calories. But there are still a few nutritious (and tasty) options, as long as you know where to look. Here are a few frozen food brands to keep in your freezer for those times when you need something quick, painless, and yes, healthy.


Pescatarians rejoice: This Colorado-based company specializes in meals made from sustainable, farm-raised seafood. They have your traditional microwaveable meals—like the Baja-style fish taco bowl and the sweet and spicy Korean BBQ bowl—but they also offer oven-ready fish kits. Cooking is easy: Simply place the provided (heart-shaped!) parchment on a baking sheet with the filet on one side; put the frozen sauce cubes on top; wrap it up; and pop it in the oven to bake for 20 to 25 minutes. You can also throw in any veggies you might have in your freezer, and Love the Wild provides some tasty recipe ideas on its website. Even Leonardo DiCaprio is a fan: “LoveTheWild’s approach to sustainable, responsible aquaculture is promoting the development of a secure and environmentally-conscious solution to feeding our planet’s growing population," he said last year after investing in the company.


Who says pizza has to be bad for you? With Cappello’s naked pizza crusts, you can build your own healthy pie just the way you like it. The crusts are made from arrowroot and coconut flours and are gluten-free, grain-free, and paleo-friendly. The brand also makes pre-made pizzas, vegan cookie dough, and a few varieties of pasta, including lasagna sheets, fettuccine, and gnocchi. Cappello's recommends recipes on its website, and the summer pesto pizza with chicken breast, goat cheese, and arugula is a great, light dish to serve at outdoor parties this season.


Vegetarian burgers on the grill
Beyond Meat

The Beyond Meat team set out to create a vegan burger that looks, tastes, and even "bleeds" like a real beef patty (due to the beet juice used to make the patties red). Ethan Brown, the company's founder, insists that the patties aren't much different from meat burgers. "Our company observation has always been that you don’t need an animal to produce a piece of meat," he tells Forbes. "You can obtain all of the core parts of meat—the amino acids, the lipids, the trace minerals and of course water from non-animal sources. And you can assemble those in the same architecture as animal meat." Some of their products are sold in the meat section of grocery stores, but a few items are available frozen, including The Beast Burger 2.0. Bill Gates and DiCaprio are both investors, and the company just announced it will start selling its products on six continents this summer.


As the name suggests, you’ll find simple, wholesome ingredients here. Since it was founded in 2011, the brand has been on a mission to offer minimally processed meals that "add nothing unnecessary" by way of ingredients. The company abides by a long list of "unacceptable ingredients" [PDF], including a variety of hydrogenated oils as well as artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, and sweeteners. Although they originally dealt only in breakfast dishes for busy workers on the go—burritos, scrambled egg bowls, pancakes, steel cut oatmeal, and more—they later branched out and started offering ready-made entrées. Their egg white patties are perfect for making your own customizable breakfast sandwiches.


This subscription food service proudly wears the frozen food label. "For decades, the space has been dominated by unhealthy or pseudo-healthy products that are hyper-refined and preserved," Daily Harvest founder Rachel Drori told the Huffington Post. "We are working hard to tell a new story, about the potential in freezing unadulterated to solve the modern eating dilemma of wanting convenience without compromise." Daily Harvest points out that after three days, some frozen fruits and vegetables contain more antioxidants and vitamins than their fresh counterparts. Their produce is frozen on the farm within 24 hours of harvesting, and they offer everything from cauliflower rice and kimchi harvest bowls to chocolate protein and almond chia parfaits. The pre-portioned meals, which are delivered to customers’ homes, are backed by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Serena Williams, and chef Bobby Flay.


A burrito

Evol urges its customers to “think outside the microwave.” The brand’s burritos and quesadillas can be heated up in a panini press, on the stove top, or on the grill, allowing a level of customization that most frozen food brands don’t offer. A range of Asian, Italian, and Mexican dishes are available, all of which are free of antibiotics and preservatives. When asked by Dining Out why Evol has become so popular, the company's founder, Philip Anson, replied, "We built a brand rooted in love and farm-to-table values, but with some hipness to it in a category known as a cold and lonely place—legacy brands, uninspiring, mystery meat, sodium and fat." He said Evol's bowls—like truffle parmesan mac and cheese and butternut squash-sage ravioli—are their most popular dishes.


Luvo’s meals are based on what they call the 3-2-None policy. This involves balancing protein, whole grains, and veggies; limiting sodium and added sugar; and avoiding all artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, and antibiotics. In addition to steam-in-pouch meals and pasta bowls, Luvo offers “power bowls” that are packed with at least two servings of vegetables. The company's emphasis on nutrition goes beyond its products, though: Luvo also partners with WhyHunger, an organization that's addressing the issue of hunger in America by tackling the root cause of the issue while recognizing "nutritious food as a human right." Luvo also partners with A Sense of Home, which helps foster children who have "aged out" of the system transition into a new home.


Organic frozen meals with simple ingredients are the name of the game for Beetnik. Their meals are free of preservatives, gluten, MSG, high fructose corn syrup, hormones, artificial colors and flavorings, and antibiotics. One of their most popular dishes is their Peruvian seasoned chicken stew, made with tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, and spices. The company's founder, David Perkins, is a chef; when asked by Paleo Foundation what his favorite Beetnik dish is, Perkins replied, "I love our flat iron steaks, our Peruvian chicken stew, and our sablefish, but tomorrow I might give you three different items. I eat our products regularly, which is how I got into the business. Start with great ingredients."


Like Daily Harvest, this subscription food service delivers frozen meals right to your door via UPS. Eatology meals combine aspects of both the paleo and zone (low-carb) diets, while also incorporating lots of lean proteins and healthy fats. In addition to being paleo-friendly, there are plenty of low-carb, Whole30, and vegetarian options available. Bad news for carb lovers, though: You won't find bread, potatoes, or pasta on the menu. Their dishes change daily, but past meals have included white chicken chili on a bed of yellow squash, ratatouille, cilantro jalapeno burgers, and chili cheese fries (using sweet potatoes and carrots).


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