Whether your recipe asks for it or you’re a wine lover looking for any excuse to add a splash to your dish, there are a few points to consider when cooking with wine. To help you choose the right bottle for your feast, we have put together a guide to getting the flavours just right!
Which Wine Should You Choose For Cooking?
When many people are presented with a recipe that calls for a splash of wine, they tend to opt for a bottle to be ‘used up’, rather than one bought specifically for the meal. Due to this, it could be a wine that you don’t particularly enjoy the taste of, the cheapest wine you have lying around, or a wine labelled ‘cooking wine’.
The trouble with this is that when wine is heated in the cooking process, most of the alcohol and liquid will evaporate, leaving behind only a concentrated flavour of the wine. You will then simply be left with the part of the wine you didn’t like as part of your meal’s flavour, which is less than ideal! Cooking wines are particularly poor in quality and are usually full of preservatives and salt, which will negatively affect that taste of your dish.
As such, many cooks (and wine lovers), like to go with the rule: ‘don’t cook with wine you wouldn’t drink’. This doesn’t mean you have to buy a bottle purely for cooking this dish though, as many will simply use a splash of wine from the bottle they plan on drinking with the dinner! If not, you can pop the rest of the wine in the fridge for drinking or using in another meal the next day. Just pick a bottle you like from your wine rack that works well with the food you are making, or buy an inexpensive, but still good quality wine.
Should You Cook With Red or White Wine?
The rule with cooking with wine is generally the same that applies to pairing food and wine. Lighter meals, such as chicken and fish, should be matched with white wines, whereas red meats will work best with red wines, like Cabernet Sauvignon. Creamy or pan sauces can benefit from the addition of a rich and buttery white wine, such as Chardonnay.
You can also consider the flavour you want to add to a dish; white wine tends to add acidity and red adds dry characteristics and sugars. So if your dish involves sweeter vegetables, like carrots, then avoid sweeter tasting wines. Tomatoes are quite acidic, so opt for a red wine with a tomato-based sauce, as white wines will add too much extra acidity. This can go the other way too; if you’re adding white wine then you can skip or lessen the amount of vinegar or lemon juice you put in the meal, as wine is often acidic enough on its own.
How Can Wine Be Used in Cooking?
There are a vast number of ways in which wine can be utilised in the kitchen. A few ideas include:
- Adding to stocks, gravies and sauces for extra flavour.
- Using as a marinade to help tenderise and add flavour to meats.
- Dessert wines can be used in baking, substituting a liquid ingredient for wine in a cake, or as a sauce for a pudding.
- Using wine as a baste for barbequing or grilling meats.
- Poaching ingredients in wine. Pears are a classic example.
How Much Wine Should Be Used in Cooking?
If a recipe doesn’t call for wine, but you fancy adding a drop to your dish then the amount to use will depend on what, and how much, you are cooking. Gravy commonly has wine added to it for flavour, and around 2 tablespoons of wine per 250ml of gravy is typically recommended. Other sauces should only have 1 tablespoon of wine per 250ml, so as to not mask the other milder flavours present. The guideline for meats and stews is 60ml per pound. When adding wine to a meal, it should be added gradually and slowly, as it will take a little while for the wine to boil down and leave its flavour, meaning that if you add in lots to start it could taste too overpowering about ten minutes later! Wait a few minutes to taste, and add more as required.
Do you like using wine in your cooking? If so, let us know what dishes you like adding wine to by leaving a comment below!