Alcohol and Cooking

I have a friend who, due to religious beliefs, does not ingest alcohol. I have a running argument with him because I like to cook with wine when making sauces and stocks, but he refuses to eat them. I think that all the alcohol must be evaporated by the time the finished product is ready, but he still refuses. I can’t imagine there being anything bad about cooking with alcohol, so I’m just frustrated by his stance. Am I wrong about this? -Sammy

An Answer From Dr. Doug

You’re not wrong about the alcohol – as long as the food has boiled for 10 minutes or so all the alcohol is gone. And likewise, when deglazing a hot pan, all the liquid, and with it all the booze, will be gone. And what’s more, any antioxidants in the wine that are not sensitive to heat will be left behind leaving all of the benefits of the wine with none of the harmful effects.

However, when you’re dealing with someone’s religious beliefs, it’s probably better to accommodate. Although there won’t be any actual alcohol left in the dish you’re preparing, the spirit of the belief is that one will refrain from the use of alcohol altogether. Arguing from a logical perspective against a spiritual belief isn’t going to do any good, in my experience. As a cook it’s important, to a certain extent, to respect the wishes of those we’re cooking for. We have to nourish our both guest’s bodies and spirits.

So why not try an alternative? If you’re deglazing a pan, use a watered down malt vinegar, an appropriate juice or stock instead of wine. When making a stock, any vinegar can easily fill in for wine since what you’re really after is an acid to help pull nutritious gelatin from the bones. In the past I’ve used apple cider vinegar, strong kombucha tea or even just water to deglaze a pan. The health benefits will be the same and the flavor difference will be negligible.

Doug DiPasquale is both a chef and a holistic nutritionist. His blog will interest people who love food and know that good food means good nutrition.