Chefs have been cooking with wine for ages, using it as a deglazing agent in sauces, as an ingredient to stovetop or oven cooking and even as a simple marinade. Cooking with wine takes some practice, but it’s a great skill to have, as wine can lend nuance and depth to many recipes.
Why Use Wine for Cooking?
Chefs use wine for cooking for several reasons. First, wine works as a fantastic marinade. It flavors meat while tenderizing it. Second, wine added as an ingredient during cooking helps enhance the flavor of the finished dish. Done correctly, wine won’t stand on its own as a flavor; instead, it’ll intensify and accent the flavors in the recipe.
Best Cooking Wines
Most recipes with wine aren’t specific about what type you should use. Often, the ingredient is generic: “one cup dry white wine.” If you’re new to cooking with wine, this may open up a host of new questions. What kind of wine should you use? Will an inexpensive wine do, or should you only cook with premium wine? Should it be the same wine you would drink with dinner? Which wine offers the best flavor to your meal?
You can go by a few general rules of thumb. First, only use a wine you would actually drink. Price point doesn’t matter as much—you can find plenty of decent wines for less than $10, and these are fine for cooking. Second, in most cases, the wine you plan to serve with dinner should work in your recipe, as long as you’ve paired them properly—for example, crisp white wines for light dishes, or bold reds for spicy meats.
If your recipe calls for dry white wine, a sauvignon blanc often lends just the right amount of flavor and crispness. For hearty meat dishes, cabernet sauvignon or zinfandel work well. For lighter meat dishes, try a pinot noir or merlot.
Finally, do not use the wines for cooking that you find in the grocery store labeled as “cooking wine.” These basic wines are packed with additional salt and other additives and are should not be used for recipes with wine.