Your Questions Answered About Cooking with Wine

plate-of-food-on-table-with-wine

We are all painfully aware that millions of people are self-quarantining at home or are under lockdown, during this coronavirus pandemic . “StayhomeStaysafe” has become a familiar mantra.

Many people have turned to hobbies and pastimes that bring comfort in these uncertain times. One of the most popular appears to be cooking. More and more people are experimenting with recipes extracted from cookery books.

Even, the Irish Government got in on the act with an instructional website about healthy eating during COVID-19. Also, when was the last time you heard of retail outlets running out of baking soda and flour?

One of the challenges in all of this experimenting is – cooking with wine. So, I sat down with Green Acres Head Chef – Richie Trappe to chat about this topic. We agreed that wine has three main uses in the kitchen. It can be used as a marinade ingredient, a cooking liquid, or as a flavouring in a finished dish.

The function of wine in cooking is to intensify, enhance, and accent the flavour and aroma of food.

With this new-found or enforced interest in cooking, perhaps not surprisingly so, people have been asking us about cooking with wine while visiting us here in the shop.

A few of the most common questions in recent weeks were, is cooking with wine healthy? Are there specific wines that are better to cook with? Does cooking remove the alcohol from wine? Is it safe to cook with wine for children?

I will refer to these questions in this post. The first area I want to cover is the difference between cooking wine and what I’ll call drinking wine.

Cooking Wine vs Drinking Wine

Cooking wine is made from grapes and/or grape concentrate. The difference, to wine you simply cook with, is that salt and preservatives like potassium sorbate and potassium metabisulfite are added to give cooking wine a longer shelf life. It can stay good for up to 16 months, depending on the brand.

Generally, a cooking wine will contain approximately 1 teaspoon of salt for each 8 ounces of wine. As such, cooking wines are not made for drinking.

The problem with cooking wine is not only is it unpleasant to drink, it is salty, and can add an unwanted salty or even metallic flavour to your dish if you’re not careful.” – Richie

The well-known wine expert Madeline Puckette of Wine Folly fame. Advises that there are 6 main styles of cooking wine.

1. Dry Red & White Wines

2. Dry Nutty/Oxidized Wines

3. Sweet Nutty/Oxidized Wines

4. Sweet Fortified Red Wines Like Port

5. Sweet White Wines

6. Rice Wine

Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay

Should I Use Cheap or Expensive Wine for Cooking?

Many people keep inexpensive red or white wines available for use as cooking wines.

It is argued that inexpensive wines do not work well when added to the cooking process. Since very cheap wines may lack in quality, heating a low-quality wine may only serve to increase the poor qualities present. Experts have suggested that the wine used for cooking should be one that you would normally drink.

“When confronted with heat, much of the alcohol in wine will burn off, leaving the wine’s core fruit flavours and acidity. I think the best wines for cooking are fruity.” – Richie

My advice would be to select wines that are not the lowest of quality, but certainly not the highest in prices.

Since the alcohol is removed during cooking, many people keep inexpensive red or white wines available for use as cooking wines - #greenacresirl Click To Tweet

Is Cooking with Wine Unhealthy?

As I’ve mentioned, cooking with wine can enhance flavour. Head Chef, Richie advises that it can also cut down on the amount of fat needed (in some recipes, you can substitute wine for all or part of the specified quantity of oil).

The health benefits of wine are well documented. However, because you lose between 60 and 95 percent of the alcohol content of wine used in cooking, few – if any – of the direct alcohol-related health benefits, remain.

If you add alcohol to the end of your cooking process you will only evaporate anywhere from 10-30% of the alcohol content. However, if added at the beginning stages and allow the dish to simmer for any longer than 30 minutes, it will leave you with only 5% of the original alcohol remaining in the dish.

Can Children Eat Food Cooked with Wine?

Far be it from me to give advice on this topic to any parent. My personal thoughts would be that they probably won’t like it and won’t eat much of it anyway.

The only exception would be a recipe that uses a lot of wine combined with a cooking process that doesn’t allow it to boil off the alcohol. Adding sherry to a soup at the table comes to mind. If the child likes the dish, it’s conceivable they could get enough alcohol to be a concern.

The alcohol in most dishes with wine will be quite dilute to start with, and any dish that is brought to boiling on the cooker will have very little residual alcohol.

In the processes of human metabolism, small amounts of ethanol are produced naturally. Therefore, tiny amounts in the diet are not dangerous to your body, and will be metabolised normally.

Which Wines Should I Use for Cooking? 

To be honest, this is another one of those ‘personal-taste’ answers. However, for white wines either a white burgundy, Sauvignon Blanc or Chablis, could be used to flavour sauces, fish, poultry, veal, and cheese dishes.

Some of the more off-dry whites, such as Riesling and Chenin Blanc are best when used for fruits, desserts or spicier foods. The red wines, such as Carbernets, Burgundy, Merlot, Zinfandels, and Pinot Noirs go best with savoury dishes or rich foods, such as beef, lamb or duck, meat stews, and some of the richer spaghetti or fruit sauces.

Fortified wines such as Sherry, Port or Vermouth with flavours ranging from dry to sweet, go well with fruits or desserts if they are sweet or with fish and poultry if they are dry. A common Italian fortified wine, similar to sherry, is Marsala, which is a cooking wine used as a flavouring for the popular poultry dish known as Chicken Marsala. Quality will be most important when using fortified wines, but still not exceptionally high in cost.

Image by Cassi from Pixabay

I Don’t Drink at all!

Any type of cooking wine is going to contain alcohol. So, if you’re don’t want to have wine in the house at all, but you want that bright, flavour profile of wine, consider a good bottle of sherry vinegar. This is simply sherry that has turned into vinegar—adding a good hint of acid to a dish.

Other Uses of Wine in the Kitchen

Here are some useful tips from Chef Richie: (pictured below)

You can marinate meat, poultry and game with wine

Use wine to make sauces or gravy

Finish cooking your pasta with a red wine reduction

Deglaze your pan with wine to make a flavourful sauce

Wine can be a great base for braising

You can poach your vegetables in wine

Wine can also be used in desserts, and not just savoury dishes

Wine in risotto cuts the richness of the butter and cheese

Conclusion

When adding wine during cooking you are not usually looking to overpower the foods with the characters of the wine. Alternatively, you should be looking to enrich flavours. And, if you can, enhance them to bring out more experiences for your palate to enjoy.

The main thing to remember is not to add too much. During the different stages of cooking, some dishes may require different amounts of wine to be added .

Would you like one more tip? Why not freeze leftover wine in ice cube trays for future cooking endeavours? That is, if you have any leftover wine.

As always – enjoy the wine and friends you’re with (in moderation).

#StaySafeSaveLives – Talk Soon – James.

christmas wine bottle and glass