Wine is not just a terrific drink to accompany your meal with, but a delicious ingredient you can take advantage of as well. The acidity in the wine can enhance the flavors of the recipe, while the fruity tones can create a unique tasting dish. Although there is enough room for experimentation, there are some ground rules to cooking with wine that everyone should know.
- When to use White Wine
Chefs often recommend using a white wine with high acidity for cooking. This type of wine is also called “crisp,” and it nicely complements white meat and mild tasting dishes. Full body whites with oaky notes are to be avoided in the kitchen, as they can overcome the meal’s main flavor. Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Dry Vermouth are all great choices that any cooking lover should have in their pantry.
White wines are said to be better for cooking than reds, as their lack of tannins makes them versatile. Use a good bottle of wine to boost the flavor of dishes like risotto, creamy sauces, sautéed fish, chicken, and shellfish.
- When to use Red Wine
Red wines are more appropriate for dishes with an intense flavor. The tannins in this type of drink can easily overpower a dish, so red wine is reserved for stews, tomato sauces, and red meat. Whether you use it for cooking lamb, duck, chicken, or beef, reach for a dry wine with a lower amount of tannins. Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon are the most popular options you cannot go wrong with.
- Cheap versus Expensive
Our recommendation is to shoot for the middle: not too cheap, but not extremely expensive either. Cheap wine will not add any good attributes to your dish, and more often than not, it will ruin the flavor.
Conversely, adding a premium wine to a dish will not make it better tasting. The subtle notes that make an expensive wine so worth drinking disappear in a cooked meal because of the heat. So, unless you are using a leftover glass of wine, we’d recommend serving a vintage next to the meal instead.
- The Cooking Process
The time you spend cooking wine has a direct toll on the amount of alcohol in the meal. For instance, if you only cook it for 20 minutes, the percentage will still sit around 40%. However, if you are making a slow-cooking recipe, such as a stew, the alcohol level can drop up to 5%.
It’s important to keep in mind that, generally speaking, raw wine included in a dish will not taste good. Wine needs to cook for at least 10 minutes before its flavor fully envelops a dish. Experienced chefs might use a drop of wine at the last minute to create a specific effect or to embellish a dessert. But, when cooking at home, it’s best to add the wine early on in the dish and let it cook through for a smoother flavor.
The most important rule to keep in mind is to cook with a wine that you would enjoy drinking. And feel free to experiment for a signature dish!