Wine doesn’t have to be simply for sipping! In fact, some of the most fun we’ve had with wine has come on evenings when we’ve used it as an ingredient in our kitchens to create memorable meals. Wine can create a great marinade and is acceptable as an ingredient in everything from beef to fish.
While we’re generally not a fan of hard and fast rules when it comes to wine, there are two main rules to keep in mind when cooking with wine.
#1 Don’t cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink.
Yes, the cooking process does remove the alcohol content from the wine. No, it does not remove the essence of the bouquet and flavor palate. If you don’t prefer the flavor of a deep red wine in your glass, you won’t like a recipe that uses it either, even if you prepare it flawlessly. This rule also extends to so-called “cooking wines.” Many experts agree that cooking wines tend to be salty and once cooked, leave only the least desirable flavors and effects of the wine for your food.
#2 Pay attention to price.
Wine doesn’t have to be expensive in order to cook well. Sure, expensive wines can be used, but so can mid-range wines. It’s probably a good idea to avoid the cheapest wines on the shelf though, as it won't’ compliment food flavors properly. When given the choice between premium wines and mid-range wines, when it comes to which to drink and which to cook with, save the premium wine for the glass. The essence of a reduced wine will tend to be the same no matter if you’re in a mid-range bracket or a premium one. So- cook with mid-quality, and enjoy the premium wine as a beverage.
Once you’ve selected a wine to cook with, you need to decide how you’d like to use it. There are three main variants of wine in cooking. You can use it as a marinade, as a liquid to cook in, or as a flavoring agent to a finished dish. Best results tend to come when the wine is used in the cooking process though, as opposed to as a finishing agent. No matter how you choose to use the wine, understand this; the purpose of wine in cooking is to enhance an existing flavor. The purpose is not to hide a flavor, or create a new one.
Understand that, just as with common table salt, there is such a thing as too little and too much added wine to a dish. To find the right balance for your tastes, start by adding a small amount and allowing the flavor to develop, ten minute increments work well. If the flavor isn’t noticeable, feel free to add more wine. Remember that it is far easier to continue to add flavor to a dish than it is to remove an overpowering flavor.
Ready to start cooking? Here’s a collection of great recipes that all call for wine to help get your meal planning juices flowing.