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The 3 Basics to Know When Cooking With Wine

Have you ever seen those bottles of cooking wine at the supermarket?

If you have, please make sure to never buy one; cooking wine barely resembles wine and is a sure way to ruin a dish.

Closeup of wine bottle neck

Instead, you should use a good wine. When you do, you’ll see a much better result than with cooking wine.

If you have never cooked with wine at all, then you are in for a treat when you do decide to get started.

Often, people will taste a dish and think it’s missing something. It’s a good chance that the thing that’s missing is a little bit of wine.

In this article, I will go over the basics you need to know to start cooking with wine.

1 - Why cook with wine?

Many people wonder why wine is even an ingredient in many dishes. For some, it makes sense as it is an integral and particular ingredient like in Chicken Marsala for instance that features the sweet dessert wine.

Many dishes need a bit of acid in them to help to wake up the flavours in the dish.

The acid will brighten the flavour overall and help prevent a certain flavour from being too pronounced and making the flavours monotonous.

Other dishes benefit from the tenderizing nature of the acid in the wine. Tough cuts of meat will soften up when you add some wine and begin the braising process.

2 - Cook with wine that you’d drink

The wine that you would pair with the dish you’re cooking makes an obvious choice to cook with; especially if it is young and fresh.

If you’re thinking of making a steak and fries for example and want to have a nice pinot noir, then that is the wine to make the pan sauce with.

Avoid a very aged wine. For starters, the wine is likely to be expensive and would be wasted in the dish.

An aged wine has complexities that won’t add anything to the food you’re cooking. Instead, use a wine no more than a couple of years old to add.

A fruity and acidic wine; whether white or red is going to be best. The strongest feature of that particular wine is what will come through as it gets concentrated.

3 - When to add the wine


There are two predominant uses for wine in a dish. One is to deglaze the pan to remove the brown bits from the bottom which will make something of a sauce.

The other is to provide the acidity in a long-simmered stew or braise.

In the first case, if you just want to make a pan sauce, then add the wine when the meat is finished cooking and set aside while being kept warm.

Carefully pour in about a cup of the wine and scrape the bottom with a spoon to remove all of the brown bits. Then, simply let the alcohol cook-off and the sauce concentrate.

In the case of a stew or braise, add the wine once the vegetables and seared meat are put back in the pan together and allow the alcohol to cook-off.

When the sauce is almost entirely evaporated add your stock or whatever liquid you are using to braise and let it cook.

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