Wine: Alcohol Abstainers, Sulfites, Cooking & Children

So, you’re excited to try a secret recipe you just uncovered online — until you come across wine in the list of ingredients. Since you are staying away from alcoholic beverages for not liking the sensation of being drunk or for fearing for the health of your liver, you may be wondering if you should look for a different recipe altogether.

In this post, we will discuss some of the most important things you need to know about cooking with alcohol, including especially matters about alcohol content and sulfites.

But before anything else, let’s quickly answer this question…

What does wine do in cooking?

Various compounds present in wine, its alcohol content itself included, can enhance not only the taste but also the smell of dishes. What wine does is that it encourages the ingredients to release their flavors so much better. Tannins and sugars in wine also become concentrated, lending richness to various dishes.

And now that we have answered that question that needs to be asked, it’s time for us to delve deeper into the subject of cooking with wine. Keep reading to become a pro at using wine in the kitchen!

cooking with wine

Does Alcohol Evaporate When Cooking With Wine?

The alcohol content of wine evaporates when used for cooking. As a matter of fact, it dissipates into the air faster than water does. As a general rule of thumb, the longer you cook, the more alcohol in wine tends to evaporate. Cooking for 15 minutes, for instance, removes as much as 60% of alcohol in wine.

It’s no secret to many that water will begin to boil when it reaches 100°C — that’s equivalent to 212°F. And the moment that water boils, it starts to evaporate.

But at higher altitudes or elevations, however, water boils and evaporates at higher temperatures.

Alcohol, on the other hand, doesn’t require a lot of heat for it to start boiling and evaporating. As a matter of fact, once it reaches 78°C or 172°F, it starts to disappear into thin air. It doesn’t really matter which beverage or liquid alcohol is present in — for as long as it gets to the said temperature, it starts to boil and evaporate.

For as long as the wine is added to food that’s being cooked, some of its alcohol will surely disappear — or even all of the alcohol in it, if exposed to heat that’s high enough and for a while, too.

Here’s how much alcohol evaporates when alcohol is exposed to its boiling temperature for a particular time:

15 minutes40%
30 minutes35%
1 hour25%
2 hours10%
3 hours0%
Alcohol evaporation when cooking over time

Based on the given table, it’s apparent that cooking food longer causes more alcohol in added wine to evaporate.

And this is why you should opt for wine-including recipes that call for longer cooking times if you don’t want to end up consuming alcohol while enjoying the dinner you made with your own two hands.

However, it’s important to note that you should maintain a cooking temperature of not less than the boiling point of alcohol. If not, then the food you are cooking will simply retain all the alcohol in added wine, and may leave you drunk if enough wine is added to it — it all depends on how well your body tolerates alcohol.

And this takes us to this pressing question any alcohol-conscious person would like to ask…

How Long Does It Take For Alcohol in Wine to be Gone?

In order for alcohol in wine to completely disappear, food should be cooked for at least 3 hours at cooking temperatures not lower than 78°C or 172°F, which is alcohol’s boiling point. But there are factors to take into account, too, such as the ingredients and size of the pan and the number of stirrings done.

Cooking the wine-containing food longer means more alcohol evaporates.

For as long as you allow the pot to boil long enough, you can get rid of as much alcohol in the added wine as possible. Letting it simmer works well in removing alcohol, too.

Simmering is defined as cooking a liquid just below the boiling point. For this, the boiling point of water, which is 100°C or 212°F, is taken into account. But it’s a must to note that alcohol will start to boil and evaporate, too, at a lower temperature — much lower than the temperature it will take for the food you are preparing to simmer.

So, yes, simmering food with wine as one of the ingredients for some time can cause the alcohol to evaporate. And if you do it long enough, it’s safe to assume that the dish will end up with negligible to zero amounts of alcohol.

However, there are some things that can keep alcohol from fully dissipating into the air:

  • Ingredients. Breading and bread crumbs tend to absorb liquids, including added wine. Their presence can keep some of the alcohol content from fully evaporating.
  • Viscosity. Dishes with thick and heavy sauces may form a dense layer on the surface that can prevent the full evaporation of alcohol in wine added to them.
  • Cooking vessel. Wider pots have more surface area, which allows more alcohol in wine added to dishes being cooked to escape the moment it reaches its boiling point.
  • Stirring. The more the pot is stirred, the more alcohol evaporates. Still, it’s important to reach the minimum temperature required for alcohol to begin evaporating.

Now that we have established the fact that alcohol in wine disappears when exposed to its boiling point for a while, it’s time to address another concern some people have about cooking with wine: sulfites.

And this takes us to this very important question…

Do Sulfites Cook Out Of Wine

Sulfites present in wine get destroyed by cooking. As a matter of fact, some can be removed before wine is added to the dish being cooked. Exposing sulfites to the air, in most instances, is enough to make them go away. This is why opening the wine bottle for several minutes or decanting eliminates some sulfites.

There are some people who stay away from cooking with wine because of the alcohol content. But then there are also those who refuse to cook with wine because of the sulfites present.

Before anything else, let’s discuss this matter critical to this particular part of this post…

wine evaporates when cooking

What are sulfites in alcohol?

Also sometimes referred to as sulfur dioxide, sulfites are preservatives added to wine and other beverages. Winemakers add sulfites to their products to maintain the natural color and flavor of wine. It should not affect the taste of wine, although some wine drinkers can sense sulfites in the form of a bitter taste.

But even if they are not added, wine naturally produces some amounts of sulfites during the fermentation process. And it’s exactly because of this why there’s no such thing as sulfite-free wine.

Other than wine, many bottled fruit juices have sulfites, too.

The problem with sulfites is that some people are sensitive to them. Within 15 minutes of exposure to sulfites, those with sensitivity to the preservative tend to experience one or more of the following:

  • Flushing
  • Hives
  • Congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Palpitations
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach upset
  • Diarrhea

But the good news is that sulfites in wine are removed by cooking. Exposure to high temperatures causes wine’s alcohol to evaporate and sulfites to break down. And, as with dealing with alcohol content, cooking at higher temperatures and for longer periods of time can cause more sulfites to disappear.

It’s not just heat that can get rid of sulfites in wine but also the air.

Just like what’s mentioned earlier, opening a bottle of wine and allowing it to “breathe” for a while can cause some of its sulfites to vanish. That’s because sulfites react with oxygen quite easily, causing them to decompose.

Besides allowing the wine to sit on the countertop for several minutes before cooling with it, you may also stir the wine every now and again in order to allow more of its sulfite content to come into contact with the air. Also, you may try pouring it from one container to another repeatedly, which is a process called decanting.

And now that you’re more acquainted with sulfites, it’s time to answer this question…

Do All Alcohols Have Sulfites?

Not all alcoholic drinks have added sulfites to them. Generally speaking, many clear or colorless liquors are manufactured without reliance on sulfites for the preservation of their appearance and taste. Some available alcohols may not have added sulfites alright but still got some of them as a result of fermentation.

By now, the fact that wines have sulfites in them has been established.

But does vodka have sulfites? But does tequila have sulfites? But does vodka have sulfites? Are there alcohols out there with no sulfites that you can use for drinking or cooking?

With the exception of white wine, most alcoholic drinks that do not have any color to them are sulfite-free. This means that using them for cooking purposes, from making marinades to enhancing the flavor and aroma of that saucy meat dish, will not cause your sulfite sensitivity, if any, to show up and ruin your day.

Here are four alcohol types known to have no added sulfites:

  • Gin
  • Sake
  • Tequila
  • Vodka

But it’s important to note that while some alcoholic beverages do not have added sulfites, the vast majority of them usually have small amounts of sulfites. As mentioned earlier while I was introducing you to sulfites, these chemicals that act as preservatives are naturally produced during the fermentation process.

And now, it’s time to turn our attention to cooking wines by answering this question…

Does Cooking Wine Have Alcohol?

Cooking wine has actual wine. As a result of this, it contains alcohol. The average alcohol content of cooking wine on the market is 16% alcohol by volume of ABV. This means that a 100-milliliter bottle of cooking wine contains around 16 milliliters of alcohol. Actual or regular wine can have up to 23% ABV.

It’s not uncommon for health-conscious individuals to look for alternatives to ingredients they deem not good for them. For instance, they opt for applesauce instead of butter or use tofu instead of pork.

An alternative product to regular wine for cooking is, as the name suggests, cooking wine.

Cooking wine contains actual wine. Naturally, it also has alcohol — as mentioned above, the average alcohol content of cooking wine is 16% ABV. As a matter of fact, some regular wines out there have lower alcohol content than cooking wine, which is a matter to consider if you are carefully monitoring your alcohol consumption.

So, in other words, cooking wine is like actual wine, although it’s manufactured primarily for cooking purposes. And this leads us to this question seeking an answer…

Can you drink cooking wine?

Although cooking wine is not made for drinking, one can drink it just like actual wine. And because it contains alcohol, anyone who drinks enough cooking wine can end up drunk. However, the taste of cooking wine is not as enjoyable as that of regular wine due to the quality and added ingredients.

There are many different reasons why drinking cooking wine, although possible, is a no-no.

Leading the list is that it contains added salts in order to make it more effective in enhancing the flavors of dishes it’s added to — it’s no secret that too much sodium can cause the blood pressure to rise.

If you mind what you put in your mouth each time in order to stay in the pink of health, you will be unhappy to learn that cooking wine contains unwanted ingredients. Some of them include artificial preservatives like potassium sorbate and potassium metabisulfite for extending the product’s shelf life.

And then there’s the fact that cooking wine has alcohol — sometimes even more than regular wine!

Unlike regular wine, purchasing cooking wine, which is readily available at most supermarkets, doesn’t require an ID. That’s because it is considered undrinkable. Despite this, anyone who wants to get drunk, such as teenagers, may consume cooking wine and disregard the unpleasant taste, which can easily lead to alcohol abuse.

Now, let’s tackle this matter that your mind may have been interested in for some time now…

Regular Wine vs. Cooking Wine: Pros and Cons

When the recipe calls for wine, one can choose between regular wine and cooking wine. Each one comes with its own set of pros and cons, which should be considered not only for the benefit of the dish being prepared but also for the welfare of the person cooking and will be eating it.

Especially if you have never tried a recipe that involves the use of wine before, it’s important to consider the type of wine to use. Should you go for regular wine? Or should you opt for cooking wine?

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each of the two options:

Pros of cooking with regular wine

  • Enhanced flavor and aroma. Various compounds present in wine, including alcohol, have the ability to improve not only the taste but also the smell of an assortment of cooked dishes.
  • Pairs well with the dish. Many people have trouble with food and wine pairings. If you are one of them, you can’t go wrong if you serve the dish with the wine that you added to it as an ingredient.
  • Flexible. Having a bottle of regular wine in your kitchen allows you to use it for both cooking and sipping purposes, which cannot be said for a bottle of cooking wine.

Cons of cooking with regular wine

  • More expensive. A bottle of average wine costs around $15. Meanwhile, a bottle of premium wine can cost not less than $32. Many cooking wines cost anywhere from $5 to $12.
  • Contains sulfites. Even wine without any added sulfites still got sulfites as a result of the fermentation process. But since cooking wine has regular wine, it also contains some sulfites.
  • Overpowering taste. Making the mistake of adding wine to the dish when it’s nearly or already cooked can impart a harsh, unpleasant flavor that can be hard to let slide and forget.

Pros of cooking with cooking wine

  • Less expensive. As mentioned earlier, a bottle of cooking wine is cheaper than a bottle of regular wine, which makes it the perfect kitchen addition if you are into budget cooking.
  • Milder flavor. Especially if you are an occasional cook only, it’s less likely for you to ruin the recipe because cooking wine doesn’t have an overpowering flavor like regular wine.
  • Meant for cooking. Not all wines are good for cooking. Certain types are ideal for specific dishes only. With cooking wine, you don’t have to worry about that — you can add it to any dish requiring wine.

Cons of cooking with cooking wine

  • Unwanted ingredients. It’s true that cooking wine contains actual wine. But other than that, it also has added salts for enhancing flavors and synthetic preservatives for extending the shelf life.
  • Still goes bad. And speaking of shelf life, cooking wine, like other cooking ingredients, has an expiration date. But it can last anywhere from 1 to up to 3 to 5 years, unlike regular wine.
  • Unpleasant taste. Because of the added ingredients in cooking wine, it doesn’t taste as nice as regular wine. You can drink cooking wine, but the experience won’t be fine.

If the recipe says to add a specific amount of wine, it’s perfectly fine to use regular wine or cooking wine. Bearing in mind your preferences and needs will let you decide so much better which between the two you should pick.

Before we end this post, let’s take a quick look at some of the best-selling cooking wines online…

Shaoxing Cooking Wine

One of the more expensive cooking wines in cyberspace, Shaoxing Cooking Wine is specifically made for cooking Asian dishes. Something that makes the product premium is that it’s traditionally brewed by hand. The flavor and aroma are both full-bodied in order to elevate stir-fries, soups and many others.

Holland House White Cooking Wine

If you are fond of cooking on a budget, you will be glad to know that a 16-ounce bottle of Holland House White Cooking Wine costs less than $5. But don’t let the cheap price tag drive you away — the product is slightly dry but has a crisp flavor, which makes it perfect for fish and various white meat dishes.

Kedem Gourmet Sherry Cooking Wine

What’s so nice about Kedem Gourmet Sherry Cooking Wine is that it’s free of anything that you don’t want in your homemade cooking. They include added sugars, artificial colorants and gluten. It’s certified kosher, too. Besides cooking red meat dishes, this particular cooking wine is also great for baking purposes.

Just Before You Decide to Cook With Alcohol

Many recipes call for the use of wine. No matter if it’s the alcohol or sulfite content or both you are worried about, fret not — cooking gets rid of much or all of the wine’s compounds you don’t want lingering in the dish.

Exposure to heat causes alcohol in wine to evaporate. The higher the temperature and the longer the cooking time, the more alcohol will dissipate into the air. Similarly, heat damages sulfites in wine. You may also expose wine to air or decant it before adding it to the dish you are whipping up in order to cause the sulfite content to break down.

Also, for cooking purposes, you can choose between regular wine and cooking wine, each one has its own advantages and disadvantages — just pick the product that suits your preferences, needs or budget.

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