If you have checked out some of my recipes before, you know I love to cook with wine. (Sometimes I even put it in the food!)
Haha! A little humor here to start off this post. But in all seriousness, I make a lot of dishes that require cooking with wine, and a question I am often asked is: what kind of wine should be used for cooking?
This is a great question. If you’re a wine drinker, you know that the price wine varies greatly. Some bottles are hundreds of dollars, and some bottles are only ten bucks. There are a lot of differences in these wines, too, and knowing what to choose is not always easy.
A General Rule of Thumb
One of my favorite cooks of all time is Lidia Bastianich and her advice on this issue is pretty solid. According to Bastianich, one should only cook with wine that is worth drinking.
In other words, if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it.
This general rule of thumb makes a lot of sense when you think about it. No one would try to make a good meal with “bad” ingredients. If you knew your garlic was spoiled or your milk was sour, would you still use it in your dishes? Probably not. The same applies for the alcohol you cook with in the kitchen.
What About Cooking Wine?
In all of my time watching chefs on television, I cannot recall a single instance of anyone ever using “cooking wine.” The difference between cooking and drinking wine is pretty simple: drinking wine has a lot of flavor and potency, while cooking wine will merely add a desired flavor without the richness.
A good comparison to this is the difference between pure vanilla extract and imitation vanilla extract. A hint of the flavor of vanilla will be present, but the fullness of pure extract will not be there.
Further, cooking wine usually contains nasty preservatives, sweeteners, and added sodium that you wouldn’t want in your dish.
The Wine I Use for Cooking
With everything that was just said, what’s the solution? So, we should only be cooking with wines we would drink, and should avoid cooking wines at all costs. Does this mean we have to shell out $25 a bottle every time we want to make shrimp scampi?
No, that would be insane! (And very costly.) The solution is to find a cheaper wine that is quite drinkable and ladies and gentlemen, I have found one.
My favorite wine to cook with is Three Wishes by Whole Foods. Three Wishes makes four types of staple wines: a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Pinot Grigio, a Chardonnay, and a Merlot. Not only is this wine super drinkable and makes for a decent everyday table wine, but it’s only $3.99 a bottle. My personal favorite is the Cabernet Sauvignon, but the Pinot Grigio is also wonderful. Again, these are decently good drinking wines that won’t break the bank when you need wine for cooking.
Not every Whole Foods carries alcohol, but check online to see what Whole Foods near you carries these gems.
I’ve been cooking with these wines for a few years now, and plan on doing so for a while!
While You’re Here…
If you have an open bottle of white or red that you’re looking to empty out this week, here are some great dinners to consider:
- Drunken Shrimp Scampi
- Apple Harvest Chicken
- Garlicky Lemon Chicken Breast
- Chicken Piccata Recipe
- Braised Short Ribs