The rate of ethanol elimination in fed and fasted rats can be predicted based on the liver content of alcohol dehydrogenase (EC 188.8.131.52), the steady-state rate equation, and the concentrations of substrates and products in liver during ethanol metabolism. The specific activity, kinetic constants, and multiplicity of enzyme forms are similar in fed and fasted rats, although the liver content of alcohol dehydrogenase falls 40% with fasting. The two major forms of the enzyme were separated and found to have very similar kinetic properties. The rat alcohol dehydrogenase is subject to substrate inhibition by ethanol at concentrations above 10 mM and follows a Theorell-Chance mechanism. The steady-state rate equation for this mechanism predicts that the in vivo activity of the enzyme is limited by NADH product inhibition at low ethanol concentrations and by both NADH inhibition and substrate inhibition at high ethanol concentrations. When the steady-state rate equation and the measured concentrations of substrates and products in freeze-clamped liver of fed and fasted rats metabolizing alcohol are employed to calculate alcohol oxidation rates, the values agree very well with the actual rates of ethanol elimination determined in vivo.