A good wine can elevate your cooking — not just as a drink pairing, but as a key ingredient, too. Wine adds a subtle depth of flavor and a hint of acidity to foods as they cook, balancing the flavors of finished dishes. It can also tenderize meats, enhance sauces, and take center stage, when appropriate. Read on for our top tips for cooking with wine, and save those half-empty bottles — they’ll keep in the fridge for up to a week when recorked, ready to use in your favorite dishes.
Don’t cook with anything you won’t drink. Whatever wine you choose for cooking, it should taste good! Skip any wines labeled for cooking, which often contain salt and preservatives. Whatever flaws you find in a wine you’re drinking will only be magnified as the wine reduces while cooking.
Work backwards. Do you have a wine in mind that you want to drink with dinner? A good rule of thumb is to use the same wine in the dish you cook (or the same varietal, if it’s a special bottle). There’s no better way to make food more wine friendly than to use it in the preparation of a dish.
Try a new technique. Whether a recipe calls for red, white, sweet, dry or fortified wine, cooking with wine employs a few simple techniques: deglazing, marinating and poaching. Sauces and gravy are made by deglazing a roasting pan with wine or water to capture the flavor and color of the caramelized bits stuck to the pan bottom. (This is the most common use for dry wines in savory dishes). For added flavor and tenderness, marinate meats in wine and aromatic vegetables in the refrigerator overnight, then use the marinade to deglaze the pan and braise the meat to fork tenderness. Sweet red or white wines, fortified or not, can be used for poaching fruit.
Consider the classics. A few traditional combinations exist when pairing wine with meat, game birds and other ingredients. When in doubt, try these pairings: mushrooms with sherry; Marsala or Madeira with veal, chicken or pork; and dry vermouth with fish.
Reduce and enrich. When cooking with wine, be sure to let it simmer for a few minutes to cook out the alcohol and to concentrate the flavor. If a dish calls for large quantities of wine (2 cups or more), reduce it by at least half before adding other ingredients to ensure the most delicious results.