Short answer: Never cook with a wine that you wouldn’t drink yourself.
Why is food cooked in wine?
Some foods are cooked in wine to get the concentrated flavors.
Tip: Do not use “cooking wine” sold in stores like Madeira or red wine vinegar. You will typically find these near the condiments and dressings or spices and oils. However, these are often too salty and do not do a whole lot to enhance the flavor of the dish. They are generally made from extremely low-quality grapes or re-purposed from faulted wine.
How to cook with wine?
You generally see people just pouring part of a bottle of wine onto their dish while cooking. But it’s not that simple. To be sure you get the right ratio, follow a recipe. Too much wine can overpower a dish. Too little wine can be too insignificant to notice.
Timing is also important. If you add it in too late, the flavors of the wine will be too harsh and the alcohol may not have had time to evaporate completely. Adding the wine too late in the cooking process may also not allow the flavor of the wine to incorporate themselves into the dish. The earlier you add wine the better; it won’t ruin your dish to have extra delicious wine flavors.
How much wine you cook with completely depends on the meat, how much meat you are using, how long the cooking process is for that dish, what the cooking process is, and more. We highly recommend searching for some recipes. There are so many great recipes out there and most of them are quite simple. You will surprise yourself with how tasty a roast is with only adding wine, olive oil, garlic, and rosemary.
The correct term for a wine sauce is a wine reduction. Half a cup of wine typically gives you a couple of tablespoons of reduction. So it’s not a lot. Keep that in mind when cooking.
What foods are commonly cooked with wine?
Beef stews, wine-based sauces, spaghetti, short ribs, and duck breast are common dishes you will see with some component of red wine.
Savory meats like beef, lamb, and duck are excellent for braising with wine. Using wine as a marinade for these meats will also do wonders. It enhances the flavor profile and keeps the meat moist while cooking. Add in some rosemary and olive oil and you are pretty much a chef. You can also make a pan sauce to add to your dishes. Poaching is also a way to cook with red wine.
White wines like Chardonnay are great for seafood like clams and halibut dishes. Bolder white wines like Chardonnay or Roussane are used for cooking because they are not as acidic as a wine like Sauvignon Blanc and they give more flavor. You also don’t want a white wine that is overly fruity.
Check out foodandwine.com for some delicious recipes calling for a red wine that will make you feel like a star of Food Network.
Which red wines are best for cooking?
Don’t even think about substituting white wine when a recipe calls for red wine; or vice versa. The tannins and acidity play a huge role in how your dish will play out. The best type of red wine to use with your cooking is one that pairs well with the dish.
The best wines to cook with are Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz (Syrah), Merlot, Sangiovese (Italian Chianti), and Zinfandel are the classic cooking wines. Just make sure it is a dry red wine.
When in doubt, use a Pinot Noir. It is a dry wine that is mild in flavor but will do what it needs to do in the recipe.
Keep in mind, it does not need to be the best bottle of wine you have ever bought. Something affordable in the $8-10 range is considered good wine for cooking with. This can buy you an affordable Burgundy at any wine shop. Make sure it is something you like to drink as well, as most of these recipes do not call for a whole bottle of wine and it is fun to drink while you cook.
Boxed red wine is also a great option! It is affordable, tasty, and you still have plenty of wine leftover to drink. It also stays good after opening for a month or longer.
The Wine Lover’s Kitchen is a great resource for those looking to channel their inner Julia Child.
Is old or leftover wine okay to cook with?
If you are using some leftover wine from last week to cook with, you should be okay. The general rule is that you can let an opened bottle sit for an extra week longer than recommended if using it for cooking. Slight oxidation will not harm the dish and some recipes even call for oxidized wine like Marsala; which is a common cooking wine. However, you should only use Marsala or Madeira in dishes that call for these, as they are oxidized and produce a slightly different flavor than cooking with regular wine. It won’t harm your dish though or make an over-dramatic difference in the way it tastes if that is all you have on hand.
Is corked or bad wine okay to cook with?
No. Those gross flavors can transfer over into your dish…gross. As the wine reduces, these flavors will end up even more concentrated and may be a lot more noticeable in the dish.
Looking to make clams or a cream wine and butter sauce? Check out how to choose a dry white wine for cooking.
What happens to the wine when it cooks?
When wine is cooked the alcohol evaporates. The sulphites, which some people claim to be sensitive to, also evaporate during the cooking process. You end up being left with a small portion of the wine you started with. The ‘sauce’ you are left with is the wine reduction. Sometimes with roasts, there is no sauce leftover because the wine has incorporated itself into the meat.