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Your Foolproof Guide To Cooking With Wine

Cooking with wine may seem like a relatively simple thing. You have wine, you cook with it, right?

Not quite. Cooking with wine takes appreciation for the grape juice up a level. There are certain wines that simply should never be used in food. There are certain best practices to be followed to ensure your dish is finished to perfection. And, of course, different wines enhance different dishes in different ways (say that five times fast), so you’ll want to ensure you have the best option for the job.

However, according to Brooke Sabel, wine director at Gary’s Wine and Marketplace, start off on the right foot by picking a bottle you actually enjoy. “Don’t cook with any wine you wouldn’t drink,” she says.

But, don’t go overboard says Rachel Haggstrom, executive chef at Justin Vineyards and Winery.

“A rare and expensive wine should be cherished and appreciated as intended — by drinking and savoring it and not cooking with it. With that being said, the quality of wine put into food, will ultimately affect the flavor of the dish,” she says.

Chef Carl Shelton at J Vineyards & Winery says that if you have some leftover wine from several days prior, cooking with it would make for a great way to use it up. And, you can even use a bottle that’s been open for up to two weeks in some recipes. (Mind blown!)

“If you didn’t get to finish a bottle and it’s been open for a few days, that wine is great for cooking. Leftover sparkling wine that’s lost its sparkle is also perfect for using in recipes. My rule of thumb is that if you’re not reducing the wine very much in the recipe, I would stick to something that hasn’t been out for too long. But, for a braise or a dish where the wine will be cooking for several hours, you can use something that’s been open for a week or two,” he says.

Now, when it comes down to actually cooking with wine, Shelton explains that there are certain best practices that should be followed because you want your meal to taste good, right? One of these, he says, is to turn down the heat.

“When cooking with wine, make sure your heat is low or you take the dish off the heat and you are away from any kind of flames, because it will flame up when you add the wine,” he says.

And, says Shelton, deglazing with wine is one of the best ways to get an extra tasty pan gravy.

“When you are searing meat and sautéing vegetables, there are all those little caramelized bits at the bottom of the pan, which we call fond. You just add a little bit of wine to get all those bits to release and that just equals more flavor in your sauce,” he says.

If you’re unsure about what to experiment with as far as wine and cooking, Haggstrom makes it easy. She says a few excellent pairings for wines are as follows:

  • Red wine: Braises, sauces and sometimes for cooking with red fruit based compotes
  • White wine: Risotto, butter sauces for fish, chicken or vegetables, and braising some vegetables
  • Rosé: Mignonettes, granitas, and strawberry/watermelon sauces/dishes

And, notes Haggstrom, cooking with wine can mean so much more than just putting it in a pan on the stove. One of her favorite hacks? Rosé ice cubes.

“Freezing rosé with watermelon juice makes for fun ice cubes to make wine cocktails or sparkling wine drinks. They are easy to make and last in the freezer, so you can have them on hand when having an impromptu celebration. On that same note, turning that mixture into a granita makes for a refreshing dessert on a hot day,” she says.

But, now, here is the question of the day: What wine should you drink once your meal is made?

“You want to cook with a wine that makes sense for what your dinner is and what wines you’ll be pairing with it. The wine you cook with is going to help be the bridge between your dish and the wine you’re enjoying alongside. It doesn’t need to be the exact same wine, though,” says Shelton.

Adds Sabel, “I always follow the pairing ‘what grows together, goes together,’ meaning if your dish is Tuscan-inspired from Italy, the wines from that region wines are a great go-to pairing,” she says.

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