Cooking with wine presents a conundrum for parents, whose instinct is to never let a child consume wine or other alcoholic beverages. Many recipes call for cooking wine, which enhances the flavor of sauces and gravies. Wine is also used in marinades, as a basting liquid and to deglaze a pan. With appropriate cooking methods, foods made with wine are perfectly safe for kids. The choice for parents still remains a personal one.
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Alcohol and Cooking
Wine is a coveted cooking ingredient among chefs because it intensifies the flavors of all the other ingredients in a dish. When you cook an alcoholic beverage, such as wine, for long enough at a high enough temperature, the alcohol will evaporate. The wine flavor will remain in a concentrated form, but the alcohol will be gone, leaving the food safe for a child to consume.
Cooking Wine Safely
If you have chosen to allow your children to eat foods made with cooking wine, it is important to cook the food in a way that causes the alcohol to fully evaporate from the wine. The wine needs to be cooked for an extended period of time. After adding wine to a sauce or other mixture, simmer or bake it for at least an hour to reduce the alcohol content as much as possible. A wide, uncovered pan is best as it gives the mixture a larger surface area and allows the alcohol to evaporate upward.
Recipes to Avoid
Any recipes that call for adding wine without heating it are not suitable for children. Recipes that call for a large volume of wine or a relatively short cooking time after adding wine are also inappropriate. Examples include fruit macerated in wine, and meats that have been flambeed -- cooked quickly with the alcohol set alight. Another exception is mulled wine, a traditional Victorian era beverage made by warming red wine with spices and fruit. Even though the wine is heated, the large volume of wine relative to the cooking time means a significant amount of alcohol will remain.
If you prefer not to cook with wine when preparing food for children, there are several other liquids that can easily be substituted. If you still want the flavor of wine, look for non-alcoholic varieties. Otherwise, broth, water and fruit juice may be appropriate. If you have steamed or boiled vegetables to serve with the meal, use a little of the cooking liquid, which will have become infused with some nutrients from the vegetables.
Cooking eliminates the alcohol content from wine, but concentrates the flavors. For some parents, allowing children to experience the flavor of wine is an issue in itself. A parent may worry that if their teenager enjoys red wine sauce with a steak, for example, that they might be encouraged to try drinking red wine. The decision of whether or not to allow your kids to eat food made with wine is therefore a personal one that is somewhat complex.