There are many different types of alcohols. Alcohols you may be familiar with are ethanol, methanol, and isopropanol. Which one should we avoid?
- Ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, is the specific alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, or liquor. It is also used as an additive in gasoline.
- Methanol, or methyl alcohol, is toxic.
- Isopropanol, or isopropyl alcohol, is the main component in most rubbing alcohol used in homes as a disinfectant for wounds.
Ethanol is the specific type of alcohol that causes intoxication, and should be avoided. The type of alcohol that we refer to throughout this article is ethanol.
Consumer products with added ingredients that contain alcohol must have less than 0.1% ethanol, including both added and any natural ethanol, to qualify as halal. At this level, one cannot taste, smell, or see the alcohol, a criterion generally applied for impurities.
Naturally Present Ethanol
Some amount of alcohol can be found in nearly all foods. In fact, alcohol is nearly ubiquitous. Alcohol is present in everything from fruits, juices, and milk, to pickles, vinegar, and salad dressings.
Fruit juices may contain up to 0.04% of naturally occurring alcohol, while fresh fruits may contain up to 0.1% alcohol. Fresh milk, pickles, fermented dairy products, natural vinegars and salad dressings contain anywhere from a trace to 0.5% natural, or intrinsic alcohol.
These minute amounts of alcohol which are intrinsic in natural foods are allowed. Vanilla extract is commonly used in home-cooking, and is found in countless varieties of soda and baked goods.
In the US, vanilla extract is made by using ethanol to extract the flavor and odor components from vanilla beans. The vanilla extract is required to contain at least 35% ethanol.
What is Chocolate Liquor and Cocoa Liquor?
A common misconception concerns chocolate liquor, or cocoa liquor. Chocolate liquor and cocoa liquor are nothing but the finely ground center, or cotyledon, of fermented, dried, roasted cocoa beans, that have been extracted from their shells.
Liquor is a thick, flowing substance and the first step in the production of chocolate. It has no relationship to alcohol, nor is alcohol used in producing it. It is produced from chocolate, and may be fortified with cocoa fat. Chocolate liquor can be found in chocolate bars and in chocolate flavored desserts.
What is Root Beer?
A&W, Barq’s, and IBC are popular brands of the soft drink called “root beer.” Root beer once referred to a fermented beverage that contained alcohol. Presently, though, when you purchase root beer from a grocery store or restaurant, you will be buying a soft drink, or soda pop. Present-day root beer is not an alcoholic beverage, and is not haram.
What is Non-Alcoholic Beer?
Alcoholic beverages are prohibited in Islam, and the culture associated with drinking alcoholic beverages is not Islamic.
But what about non-alcoholic alternatives such as nonalcoholic beer, near-beer, and non-alcoholic wine?
O’Doul’s and other “non-alcoholic” drinks do, in fact, contain small amounts of alcohol. Non-alcoholic beer is manufactured the same way as normal beer, i.e., it is brewed, but at the end of the process, the alcohol is removed. There may still be a small amount of alcohol left in “non-alcoholic” beer. In fact, under US law, “non-alcoholic beer” may contain up to 0.5% alcohol. Non-alcoholic wine is also made by removing the alcohol from regular wine.
Regardless of the small amount of alcohol remaining in non-alcoholic beer, we need to be mindful of our religious commitment. The best thing we can do is avoid the temptation, and not consume these so called “non-alcoholic” beverages. This is an obligatory precaution. IFANCA’s position is that we will not certify nonalcoholic beer and wine, since the concept itself has alcohol-related connotations.
Cooking With Wine
Some foods we purchase from grocery stores or restaurants may contain wine or other alcoholic beverages that were added to produce a certain flavor characteristic to that food.
When any amount of alcoholic beverages such as beer, wine, liquor, etc. is added to food, the food automatically becomes haram.
Cooking, to reduce the ethanol content does not make the contaminated food halal. This is not a gray area, rather, it is clearly outlined in the Quran that alcoholic beverages are haram and should be completely avoided. The alcohol from wine that has been added to food will not completely evaporate. In fact, a large portion remains after cooking.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prepared
a table showing the amount of alcohol remaining after
various cooking methods, which is shown below.
USDA Alcohol Burn-Off Chart
Cooking Method = % alcohol remaining after cooking
- Added to boiling liquid and removed from heat = 85%
- Cooked over a flame = 75%
- Added without heat and stored overnight = 70%
- Baked for 25 minutes without stirring = 45%
- Stirred into a mixture and baked or simmered for 15 minutes = 40%
- Stirred into a mixture and baked or simmered for 30 minutes = 35%
- Stirred into a mixture and baked or simmered for 1 hour = 25%
- Stirred into a mixture and baked or simmered for 2 hours = 10 %
- Stirred into a mixture and baked or simmered for 2 hours = 5%
Substitutions for Wine in Cooking
If your recipe calls for alcohol, you can always make a substitution. Alcohol is normally included for its flavor, so try adding ingredients with similar flavors that are not alcoholic. For example, almond extract can be used instead of amaretto. White wine can be replaced with a mixture of either vinegar and sugar or honey, or vinegar and white grape juice. Strong coffee or espresso with a hint of cocoa is an excellent replacement for Kahlúa.
These, and other substitutions, can be found at http://homecooking.about.com/library/archive/blalcohol6.htm.
Remember, don’t substitute equal amounts! Use your best judgment when making substitutions.
Written by: Suzanne Audi for Halal Consumer magazine (Summer 2007 edition) from IFANCA