POLL: To Cook with Alcohol, or Not?

Kate Ensign-Lewis - February 11, 2011

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Is alcohol in cooked foods okay, or should it be avoided?

Recently as I looked over the upcoming cookbook from The Roof Restaurant (I’ll plug it now: it looks amazing), I paused as I came across an unfamiliar and potentially intriguing ingredient: Ariel dealcoholized Cabernet Sauvignon. “Dealcoholized wine?” I thought. “I need to look this up and see if it’s for real.” Sure enough, I found that a company called Ariel produces non-alcoholic wine. In the five years since I started cooking as a hobby, I had never seen anything like it.

I looked over the frequently asked questions, wondering how this feat could be done (and why wouldn’t it just be called grape juice?), and a familiar debate came up in my mind: is cooking with alcohol bad?

This topic recently cropped up in comments to our article “Simple Sunday Recipes,” after we made an oversight and posted a link to a recipe with wine in it. (In the past we have avoided this, knowing that it would probably be controversial.) I had already been wanting to write about it, and the comments showed that there’s definitely interest in discussing this.

Now for the admission: I cook with wine. (I have not cooked with other alcohols, simply because I’ve never found a recipe I wanted to try that had another kind of alcohol.) My experience is that wine gives dishes a significant boost in flavor, and since the alcohol cooks off with enough simmering or baking time, I don’t see a problem with it. We regularly eat uncooked foods flavored with vanilla (which typically has 35 percent alcohol), so what’s the deal?

But I know some cooks who enjoy cooking great food that will not use wine. Some even go so far as to use substitutions for vanilla in uncooked dishes. And I know that, as much as you cook a dish, the alcohol never cooks out 100 percent.

So what do you think? Is alcohol in cooked foods okay, or should it be avoided? Leave a comment below.

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Kate Ensign-Lewis is the Associate Editor at LDS Living. She loves cooking in her tiny kitchen, eating great new foods with her husband, and finding good entertainment and art. She likes (virgin) pina coladas, but does not like getting caught in the rain.

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