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I want to cook with wine as the recipe I want to make calls for it. However I cannot have any alcohol in me because I have to drive and my country calls for a 0 BAC.

The recipe uses 750ml of wine, 1 cup of water and no other significant source of fluid. Most of the cooking time the dish is supposed to be covered tightly to reduce boil-off and around 250ml of the wine is only added 10 minutes before the end.

Will all of the alcohol evaporate in the 2 hours it simmers for? Or is there an alternative to using Chianti.

Recipe:

Ingredients

  • 3 to 3 1/2 lbs boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1 bottle (750ml) Chianti
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch thick rounds
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 10 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 TB unflavored gelatin powder (I use Knox brand)
  • 1 TB tomato paste
  • 1 tsp anchovy paste (don’t skip this)
  • 2 tsp cornstarch

Steps

  1. Pat dry cut-up beef well, using paper towels.Toss beef with salt in a bowl and let stand at room temp 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350F with rack on lower middle position.
  2. In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium high heat until starts smoking. Add half of the beef in a single layer and cook until well browned on all sides, about 8 min total, reducing heat if it begins to burn.
  3. Stir in 2 cups wine, water, onion, carrots, garlic, rosemary, bay leaves, pepper, gelatin powder, tomato paste, anchovy paste, and all remaining beef. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce to simmer. Cover tightly with foil, followed by lid (helps retain moisture.) Transfer to hot oven and cook until beef is tender, about 2 hours.
  4. In a bowl, whisk the remaining wine with the cornstarch until dissolved. Add to the pot of braised beef. Place pot on stovetop and bring to a boil over medium high heat; immediately reduce to simmer. Simmer (low boil) uncovered, stirring,10 minutes. Should be somewhat thickened. Season with additional kosher salt and pepper to taste, if needed.
  5. Serve with crusty bread, rice, noodles, or potatoes.
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As a general rule, the answer by Chris H is accurate. Most recipes that involve wine only use a small amount and typically involve cooking in a way that causes most of the alcohol to evaporate (or combust if it’s a flambé), and in general they will have no more impact on BAC than a cup of fruit juice would. In cases where it really matters you can indeed get de-alcoholised wines with very low %ABV specifically for cooking. The same (other than the de-alcoholised aspect) is usually also true of many recipes that involve other forms of alcohol (or, in some cases, you can find alcohol free versions of the same recipes).

The particular recipe you linked, however, is not such a recipe. There are two reasons that it will be an issue:

  • The stock is more wine than water by a ratio of 2:1 (the recipe calls for one cup of water for the stock but uses two cups of wine for the stock). This by itself is significantly more wine than is normally found in most recipes that call for wine (most have a ratio less than 1:5).
  • The way this is cooked (covered by first a layer of foil and then a lid) is intended to retain moisture. It will be just as effective at retaining the alcohol content as well, which means the alcohol will not ‘cook-off’ as is normally the case with recipes that call for wine.

This means that the stock, after cooking and only factoring in liquid components, will probably still have a %ABV of about 2/3 of that of the wine, probably somewhere around 7-9%, which is actually higher than many beers. Given this, if you really want to make this recipe, you will need to find a de-alcoholised wine that is equivalent to a Chianti (given that the recipe does not list a particular variety of Chianti, it’s probably intended to use a Chianti Classico).

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    oooh, good point about the recipe
    – FuzzyChef
    Jan 2 at 5:53
  • That's a good take, +1. I still reckon you could reduce and dilute the wine on its own beforehand, but with so much, you'd need to simmer it for a long time to be confident. I'd say that might spoil the flavour, but of course it gets cooked for a long time anyway
    – Chris H
    Jan 2 at 8:26
  • It's actually 3:1, 750ml of wine and 250ml water - only 500ml wine is intitially added, but the rest is added at the end.
    – Nobody
    Jan 2 at 15:08
  • “or combust if it’s a flambé” – I doubt that. Flambé requires higher-concentrated alcohol, and while some of that is burned there's enough time for some to seep deeper in the food, but not boil off like in long-cooking dishes with wine. Jan 2 at 15:54
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    I think a substantial edit is in order here - it's definitely not true that most recipes will cook off most of the alcohol. See cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/659/cooking-away-alcohol/…, for example. It's true that, as you note, this specific recipe cooks away much less than others, but the amount of cooking that's required to cook away most of the alcohol (e.g. boiling uncovered for a couple hours or more) is also not at all common. (See also Chris H's answer on this question.)
    – Cascabel
    Jan 3 at 3:11
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In general, we can assume that it will never boil off to zero. By a combination of reduction and dilution we can get to undetectable levels, less than in ripe fruit and some breads. The "zero BAC" requirement has to be able to handle people eating normal foods, so tends to have some margin, just not enough to have a drink.

To do this you'd simmer the wine on its own until significantly reduced, top up with water to the original volume, then use. The amount of wine per portion in many dishes is low anyway - not in everything of course, but there's often more stock than wine, further diluting it.

If this doesn't go far enough, de-alcoholised wines vary with jurisdiction but are often 0.5% or even 0.05%, the latter being less than some fruit juices, and less than vinegar (link to a recent answer of mine, where I discuss a relevant scientific paper). The alcohol in those has been removed by a more effective process than simple simmering.

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You are quite safe cooking with alcohol as long as you are not using ridiculous amounts and it goes in before you cook the food (simmer/boil/flambe etc.) and not after. The ethanol component of alcohol evaporates at 78°C (173°F), while simmering happens between 85°C and 96°C(ish) so the ethanol will have boiled off.

Edit for detail - The physics of cooking (and the rest of the universe) mean that the temperature of a mixture will not significantly exceed the state change temperature of one of the components of that mixture while sufficient quantities of that component exist in a state that can absorb the excess available energy. This is because the energy required to cause a state change is significantly higher than the energy required to raise temperature so all liquid alcohol at 78°C will become alcohol steam at 78°C before any water content can become 79°C.

This is just a complicated and long winded way of saying that if you have temperature of 85°C or greater in an unpressurized and ventilated environment, then you can be 100% certain that you have no liquid alcohol in that environment. The extra few degrees are to allow for localized variations in temperature and pressure. A thick gloppy tomato sauce is going to have higher pressures which increase the state change temperature then a thin white wine reduction. If your environment is partially sealed, then there is a risk that your steam may contain alcohol molecules which can condense back into your food (affecting its flavor). This is why it is normal after adding alcohol to return to a boil on the stove before putting a lid on and simmering gently. This means the steam in the pot is clear of alcohol.

Would a chemist be able to find alcohol molecules in your food? Probably yes, if they were careful. Would a chemist or police officer be able to find alcohol molecules in the blood of someone who ate your food? No, not at levels above normal background in the human body.

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    This reasoning is flawed; similarly you could say that water evaporates at 100°C and so any food cooked higher than that temperature contains no water. As @ChrisH said in that answer the ethanol content will reduce but will not go down to zero even at a relatively high temperature.
    – dbmag9
    Jan 1 at 22:59
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    Welcome to SA Paul! Unfortunately, cooking is not physics and your suppositions have been shown to be incorrect per direct measurement. Cooking alcohol in food is simply not the same thing as boiling it directly. See: foodnetwork.com/how-to/packages/food-network-essentials/…
    – FuzzyChef
    Jan 2 at 4:46
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    Physics is actually what I do for a living, and the issue with applying it to a problem like this is the assumptions - a small omission there can lead to a big error in the conclusion. 3 issues I see at first glance (after your edit): heat a pan of water to 78C - see how much steam you get (or how fast you lose water) - significant amounts of what's lost will be water; the temperature of the liquid isn't the same as its surroundings due to evaporative cooling (obviously - there's stock at the end). It's not even uniform, so gently simmering at the bottom/edges doesn't necessarily mean
    – Chris H
    Jan 2 at 8:35
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    ... that all is anywhere near 100C. Thirdly, an analysis that ignores vapour pressure implicitly assumes anything that evaporates is instantly gone for good. That's definitely not the case if tightly covered, as Austin points out. It's not even the case loosely covered. Again consider a pan of pure water at 78C. Measure the loss of water with lid, no lid, and no lid plus a fan blowing away vapour. Note the increase in evaporation rates. This would be an easy experiment with a sous vide setup and scales.
    – Chris H
    Jan 2 at 8:40
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    "Unfortunately, cooking is not physics" – That's a bit of an odd thing to say. Every law of physics that holds in the laboratory holds in the kitchen, too. Jan 2 at 16:00

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