Many amateur cooks are hesitant to use wine as an ingredient when cooking. They may worry about what kind of wine to purchase or how much to use in recipes with wine. However, becoming comfortable cooking with wine is an important step in becoming a better chef. When carefully selected and properly prepared, wine as an ingredient enhances the flavor of the finished dish.

Cooking with Wine

Wine is most commonly used for “deglazing,” a cooking method that uses a liquid like chicken stock or wine to scrape food remnants from the bottom of a pan and become the base for a sauce, or as a marinade.

In some cases, wine can also be added as a last-minute ingredient. For example, marsala wine is typically added to the sauce in chicken marsala in the last step of preparation. Likewise, you can add sherry to an English trifle or drizzle it over cream soup immediately before serving. This method generally only works for sweet or fortified wines. Dry wines added at the last minute can give the food a harsh taste.

How to Use Wine as an Ingredient

So what happens if you want to use wine as an ingredient, but don’t have any recipes with wine on hand? Simply follow a few general rules for cooking with wine, and you can improve the flavor of many dishes without having to consult a recipe.

First, a simple way to introduce wine as an ingredient is to substitute wine when your recipe calls for water. You can do this for soups, stews, sauces, marinades and pasta sauce. Another idea is to mix a couple of tablespoons of red wine into brown gravy or au jus for a roast beef or prime rib. Allow it to cook long enough for the alcoholic flavor to dissipate. The result should be rich, flavorful gravy.

Avoid the “cooking wines” you see at grocery stores. These so-called cooking wines are packed with added salt and will only lend a concentrated salty flavor to your food. Instead, use a wine that you’d feel comfortable serving.