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Cooking With Wine

by Staff Writer - C. Barnett | June 28, 2011

Cooking with wine means using wine for flavoring, marinating, and in reduction sauces. Using wine in your cooking is a way to enhance and intensify the flavors of your food. Wine is known to release flavors in many foods that otherwise would not be experienced. The first and most important rule of thumb is when cooking with wine: “cook only with a wine you would drink – or - cook with the same wine you serve.”

Chemistry Notes When Cooking With Wine

The alcohol in wine evaporates at 173F degrees. (water boils at 212F degrees) As the amount of alcohol decreases in proportion to water, less alcohol evaporates. Depending on how much you let the wine reduce (and if other liquid is present), 0-60% of the alcohol could still remain in your cooking dish. Extended cooking times also decrease the amount of alcohol. If a dish has a good amount of liquid, a longer cooking time will allow the alcohol to evaporate before the liquid is reduced. Alcohol does not become more concentrated as you cook the wine down, but the wine flavors become more concentrated. A fruity wine will concentrate those flavors and give a rather fruity flavor to the dish and a sweet wine will provide sweetness to the final dish.

Rules For Cooking With Wine

Because of the alcohol and flavors in wine, wine has certain cooking properties that you should be aware of when cooking with wine. Some of these cooking with wine “rules” should be carefully followed because they are based on chemistry while other rules are just common sense.

  • If you use wine in a recipe that does not call for wine, use the wine as part of the recipe’s total liquid volume and not an addition to the recipe.
  • Use white wine for mildly flavored and light colored dishes and use red wine for your more highly flavored and darker colored dishes.
  • Using wine as a marinade will help tenderize, in addition to adding flavor.
  • To intensify the flavor of the wine, reduce it. One cup of wine will reduce to ¼ cup when you cook it uncovered for about ten minutes.
  • To prevent curdling, add the wine first when using wine in dishes with butter, cream, eggs or milk.
  • Add table wines at the beginning of cooking to allow the alcohol to evaporate and create a more subtle taste.
  • Add fortified wines at the end of cooking so that they retain their full-bodied taste.

When cooking with wine, be careful not to use too much wine as the flavor could overpower your dish. The first step is to try a small amount of wine so the flavors will blend and not become too intense. As you are cooking with wine, try sampling your dish and add more wine as needed.

Types of Wine to Use for Cooking

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If you are cooking with wine then do not skimp on the wine quality. You should use a wine for your meals that are flavorful and worthy of drinking. You may find “cooking wines” on the grocery store shelves, usually located in the vinegar section which should be a hint for you not to select it. These cooking wines are tempting because they may cost so much less than a bottle of wine, but the rule here is to beware. These wines may contain salt as a preservative, which makes these cooking wines undrinkable. If you are cooking with wine you want the wine to add the flavor of the wine, not additional salt. The type of wine you select is important and it should be a wine that you are able to drink.

Some people recommend starting off by cooking with wine using a basic white wine or red wine and as you become more comfortable cooking with wine, then you can experiment more. Sauvignon Blanc is a recommended white wine to be used for marinating, sauces and sautéing. Cabernet Sauvignon is a recommended red wine for meat. Be careful using wines that have a strong oak flavor as these wines can deliver a final bitter taste when cooking with wine.

When cooking with wine you can use wine that has been left-over. If the wine was worthy of drinking, then it should be worthy of using for cooking. A trick that some people use is to put the left-over corked wine in the refrigerator to use at a later time for cooking. Another trick that is used is to freeze the left- over wine. Pour the wine into a plastic ice tray and place it into the freezer. Once the wine has frozen, put the wine cubes into a plastic bag and store them in the freezer. Then you can easily have wine on hand to use in your dishes when you want to add wine to your cooking.

Ways to Add Wine to Your Cooking

  • Replace water with wine whenever your recipe calls for it
  • If you are basting meat or poultry, add oil and wine together for a more flavorful baste
  • For Brown Gravy, stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons of a full-bodied red wine. Let the gravy simmer to create rich brown gravy for red meat.
  • If your meat dish calls for wine, gently heat the wine first but do not boil the wine as this will cause it to lose its flavor. The warm wine will help tenderize the meat.
  • Instead of sautéing vegetables in butter or oil alone, sauté them in a smaller amount of butter or oil and add some wine for flavor and moisture.
  • Make a marinade with ¼ cup oil and add ¼ cup wine
  • When baking a cake, instead of adding ¾ cup of oil to the cake mix, add ¾ cup of white wine or dessert wine to the cake batter.

You can serve the same wine with dinner that you cooked with, as they will help balance each other out. Just remember not to cook with wine that you would not drink. Cooking with wine can become an exciting tradition once you are comfortable enough to try experimenting. Cooking with wine will add great flavors to your dishes and enrich your meals.

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