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Cooking with alcohol?

The thought occurred that the alcohol in red/wine wine etc which we use in various dishes may actually be effecting different foods in ways not thought of. Alcohol is used in many ways to aid in releasing oils in say herbs. Is alcohol actually interacting with the proteins and vegetation we use in cooking? For instance if you take a steak and marinade it in vodka does something happen to the protein strands for better or worse? I know we don't want the taste of alcohol in some foods but that's different than the possible effect it has at a cellular level. Just wondering.

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  1. I cook with alcohol all the time. Sometimes I even put it in the food.

    2 Replies
    1. re: plasticanimal

      <<<falls out of chair laughing. Classic.
      I have no idea what alkie does to food at a cellular level, though. I just know I like the flavor and tenderization properties.

      1. Not following through on my college chemistry degree, I would have to say that yes, there IS some interaction on the molecular level...thereby enhancing or detracting from the flavor and/or tenderness. But when exposed to the heat of cooking, most of the alcohol goes bye-bye anyway.

        6 Replies
        1. re: njmarshall55

          Untrue, on a brief flambe. Alcohol departs after quite awhile, not quickly as most people think.

          1. re: mamachef

            That's right, very much counter to what even some recent cookbooks will tell you. Do NOT serve anything with any kind of booze in it to a recovering alcoholic - no wine in the pasta sauce, no sherry in the Tetrazzini.

            1. re: Will Owen

              And on that note......even nonalcoholic wine or beer can be a dangerous taste trigger for people trying to recover. Best avoided at all costs.

              1. re: mamachef

                I'm sure the taste of it would not help the person either.

            2. re: mamachef

              Not to be picky, I didn't say it went quickly, I merely stated that MOST of it goes away...eventually.

          2. I choose not to drink alcohol and havnt drunk it for a number of years but am happy to cook with it for the flavour it gives to a dish.

            ("Happy" isnt perhaps the right word - reminds me of how much I used to enjoy a bottle or two of wine in an evening)

            1. I recently acquired some actual old roosters, with very tough, red meat, and began researching coq au vin. Apparently, the vin in question, when used as a marinade and cooking liquid, actually does help the tough meat become tender. After marinade, the meat exposed to the wine was visible different, and after only about two hours of simmering, the beautiful red rooster meat was tender enough to enjoy (NOTHING like a supermarket chicken!).

              So I think the acid in wine does help break down tough meat - not to mention lend a lovely flavor.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Sarah Perry

                Yeah coq au vin is delicious when the bird is an old rooster. I wouldn't bother making it with a 'store bought' chicken either. Fortunately around these parts getting an old rooster who has 'crowed' his last' IYKWIM is easy. Lots of people sell eggs and there's always an old rooster hanging around somewhere.

              2. Cinnamon will not dissolve in water, but it will in alcohol.
                See this old thread:
                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/727653