Cooking with wine is a great way to add complexity to sauces, soups, and braises. This is a crash course in cooking with wine, designed to help you figure out how to choose a bottle and what to do with it.
What type of wine should I cook with?
When it comes to choosing a wine the golden rule is this: don’t cook with anything that you wouldn’t want to drink. It’s simple! If you don’t enjoy the flavors of wine in the glass, you won’t enjoy them in your dinner.
Cooking wine vs. Wine
The “cooking wine” that you’ll find in grocery stores next to the vinegars won’t provide the flavor you need. To be marketed as a food item, this wine is often full of extra salts and other ingredients.
Does all of the alcohol really cook off?
Alcohol starts to evaporate at 172°F. That’s much lower than the boiling point of water, which is 212°F. However not all of the alcohol will instantly evaporate the moment your dish starts to simmer. Exactly how much alcohol evaporates depends on heat, cooking time, and the surface area of the cooking vessel. It is generally estimated that between 60% and 95% percent of the alcohol added will cook off.
Don’t forget fortified wine
Fortified wines are wines that have been fortified with the addition of a stronger alcohol. These are wines like sherry, Madeira, and marsala. These wines are often aged with some oxygen exposure, which gives them a rich and nutty flavor profile, they can add wonderful complexity to soups and creamy sauces.
How to Cook with Wine
Braising is a low and slow cooking method that yields tender delicious meats and vegetables. Braising starts by searing meat and or vegetables until they are brown, covering in liquid, and then cooking slowly using low heat.The liquid that you choose will have a big impact on the flavor of your finished dish. Common braising liquids include broth, wine, beer, and juice.
Using wine in your braising liquid will add a complex depth to your finished product. Choose a red wine to stand up to the flavor of rich meats, or a white wine to complement delicate chicken and vegetables.
Deglazing is a simple way to maximize flavor. This technique saves you effort by capitalizing on the work that you already did while you were cooking your main dish. After searing up a protein, you’ll notice some dark caramelized bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. This layer is called the fond. It might look like a stain, but it’s actually super-concentrated with flavor. Deglazing incorporates the fond back into the dish by dissolving it in a liquid like stock or wine.
To make a pan sauce by deglazing, start with the pan over low-heat. Add a pat of butter and a glug of wine. Then simply stir until the wine is reduced, and most of the camelization has become unstuck from the pan. Spoon this over your main dish, and any weeknight dinner will feel like a special occasion.
Poaching is a gentle technique that involves cooking a protein, vegetable, or fruit in liquid over medium heat. Poaching is done at a much lower temperature than boiling, resulting in a more tender final product.
Wine-poaching is a variation of this technique where the protein or vegetable is simmered in wine. Using wine in this application will add a pleasant fruitiness and beautiful color to your dish.