When cooking with wine a quote from the late cooking master Julia Child comes to mind. “I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food…”
Wines are used in cooking to add flavor, to add acidity or to deglaze the skillet and make a flavorful pan sauce. It’s important to note when cooking most, but not all, the alcohol cooks off. You can use wines to sauté with instead of butter or oil. Wines can also be used in marinades and brines.
When using wines, it’s always recommended to use a wine that you would drink. There are products labeled cooking wine, but they generally are not recommended. If you don’t buy wine often, it’s a good idea to buy the small bottles sold in four-packs. Each small bottle equals about 1 cup wine, so it’s an easy way to measure and it won’t go to waste.
With white wines, I typically use sauvignon blanc, chardonnay or Riesling. And in that order. I also sway toward wines on the dry side, unless the recipe calls for a specific wine.
Keep in mind if you use a sweet wine, it will add sweetness to what you are making. Wines that have light fruity (pear, citrus) tones are best for poultry and delicate foods like seafood. With heartier foods, like beef and lamb, use a dry red wine that will have berry or cherry tones. Keep in mind that the tannins in red wine can impart a harsh flavor when it’s reduced over a long cooking time.
Fortified wines like sherry and marsala wines will have a deeper flavor and are great for adding sweetness.
If you want to omit the wine in recipes, the substitution will vary depending on how the wine was used in the recipe. When wine is used to deglaze a skillet to make a pan sauce, substitute chicken, beef or vegetable broth or water. Some fruit juices also can be used depending on what you are making.
Try this recipe that uses wine to deglaze the skillet and make a pan sauce.