5 Tips for Cooking with Wine

Photo by Romulo YanesPhoto by Romulo Yanesby Siobhan Adcock, Epicurious.com

We've all heard the cook's adage that for best-tasting results, any wine you cook with should also be good enough to drink. Ted Loos, our resident expert on all things oeno, recently conducted an informal experiment in cooking with wine, attempting to answer the question: Just how good does a cooking wine need to be? That is, is there such a thing as a wine that's too good to cook with?

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Before we get to the answer, you may want to take a look at the top 5 fundamental truths about cooking with wine that Ted's experiment also uncovered:

1. "Stay far away from those $4.99 'cooking wines' you see in the grocery store -- the off flavors they may cause in your food simply aren't worth the savings."

2. When choosing a wine to cook with, think in the same terms as you do for olive oil: "There are times when you cook with the everyday stuff, and other times when you lovingly drizzle on the extra-virgin."

3. "The wine quality you use to cook with matters more when recipes call for larger quantities of wine, when the wine is cooked for a shorter amount of time, and when there are only a few other ingredients in the dish."

4. "The quality of the wine you cook with matters less when the food is spicy or when it's an everyday meal, not a special occasion."

5. When you're cooking with a really great wine, there's no such thing as overkill: Don't be afraid to pair the dish with a bottle of the same wine to drink. "There's a special serendipity at play on the palate when you're able to splurge by cooking with the same top-flight stuff that you're sipping with your meal."

Wine quality does matter in cooking, but what Ted and his fellow experimenter found was that how much it matters depends on your budget and your tastes. Would a $90 bottle of wine be worth the difference in flavor? "I suppose that depends on your pocketbook, but I'm guessing that it's probably not worth it for most people. However, in the future, I will be more discriminating when it comes to what I pour into my pans."

For four delicious recipes to cook with wine, plus recommended cooking wines for every budget, be sure to check out Ted's full account of the great cooking-with-wine experiment.

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