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What Is Cooking Wine? | Can You Drink Cooking Wine?

Sarah Ward
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"Why would I buy cooking wine, can't I just use regular wine for cooking?"

You can, but it's important to understand why cooking wine exists.

Drinking wine and cooking wine are intended for two different purposes, so they're made differently. You can use your favorite drinking wine if there is a particular flavor that you'd like to attempt to impart but it can be tricky. Cooking wines generally have a salty flavor and earthiness that is easy to impart on a dish. Cooking wine also has a much lower risk of suffering from bottle shock in wine.

When it comes to drinking cooking wine, sometimes asking if you can and if you should are two very different questions. The rule of thumb is that you drink a drinking wine and cook a cooking wine. Who would have thought? Many in the culinary world don't believe you should cook with cooking wine at all. We'll explain more below, but cooking wine has a number of added ingredients that you're not likely to enjoy when drinking. It can also set off wine allergies, so it may not be suitable for all cooks.

What Is Cooking Wine?

Cooking wine is a kind of wine specifically formulated for use in the cooking process. The wine alcohol content (ABV) of cooking wine is moderately high. This is because a majority of the alcohol will burn off in the cooking process. A lower level of alcohol would burn off quicker. So, a long-simmering food may end up tasting like burnt wine instead of the underlying flavors of the wine.

Cooking wine also has added salt and a number of preservatives not in normal drinking wine. The preservatives allow it to have a longer shelf life than other wines. The salt is added to enhance the flavor of the dish. This can be a double-edged sword as some people find the saltiness overwhelming.

Cooking wines can be white wines or red wines, though the most common are red. You might want to also learn how to remove red wine stains or pick up one of the best red wine stain removers so you’re prepared for the eventual cooking mishaps.

Can You Drink Cooking Wine?

Cooking wine is not intended for drinking, but yes you can technically drink cooking wine. At its core, cooking wine is still a wine and can be consumed without any additional steps. The taste of cooking wine is not enjoyable to most, particularly if you enjoy sugar in wine. The high level of alcohol present also greatly increases the calories in wine.

We don't recommend that you drink cooking wine. There are many health problems associated with drinking cooking wine. The high levels of sodium can lead to heart issues, particularly if your diet is already high in salt. Since cooking wine has a higher ABV but is more accessible to teens, it also has the danger for abuse among minors.

Do You Have to Be 21 to Buy Cooking Wine?

No, you do not need to be 21 or have an ID to buy cooking wine. Cooking wine is available in most grocery stores and is considered an ingredient rather than an alcoholic beverage. IDs aren't usually required because cooking wine is considered "undrinkable." This is due to the ingredients that make it taste overwhelmingly salty and unpleasant. Cooking wine is not intended to be drunk and is sold as such.

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Cooking with Wine If You’re Pregnant

Studies show that there are no adverse effects on pregnant women or their babies from consuming food cooked with wine. The major factor that makes it okay to consume food cooked with wine is that a lot of the alcohol is cooked off. If used in a dish that cooks for two hours, only 5% of the alcohol would remain. In a wine with 15% ABV, that means the dish would have an ABV less than 1%.

Drinking cooking wine would be a health risk for both the mother and the baby. According to Harvard Medical School, a small amount of wine may be acceptable early on. However, since there is little data on the subject it is recommended to avoid drinking altogether.

Frequently Asked Questions On Cooking Wine

Before you dive into mixing up dishes with cooking wine, these questions are a few more things you should know:

Does Cooking Wine Have Alcohol?

Yes, cooking wine has an average alcohol content of around 16% ABV. This means that 16 ml would be pure ethyl alcohol in a 100 ml sample. It also makes the wine have a higher alcohol content than many drinking wines and gives it a rich body. The alcohol content is so high because most of it is intended to be burned off during the cooking process. Cooking wine can still suffer from wine oxidation, so make sure to seal it up unless you want to cook with a stale wine. Trust us, air doesn't help cooking wine so put away that new wine decanter.

Some white cooking wines have a lower amount of alcohol than the average, so it's important to read the label before using it. The alcohol level greatly affects the final outcome when cooking with wine. We recommend sticking to a dry wine if you want to use a white wine in the cooking process.

Can You Get Drunk Off Cooking Wine?

Drinking cooking wine can get you drunk, but cooking with it will not. As noted above, cooking wine has a high ABV. Regardless of any other content, high levels of alcohol are entirely capable of getting someone drunk. Drinking cooking wine would be equivalent to drinking a heavier red wine. Unfortunately, the flavorful tannins of the red wine would be overpowered in cooking wine by salt. Cooking with the wine would burn off enough of the alcohol that it is unlikely to have any impact. If you’re concerned, there are nonalcoholic wines on the market that can be used.

Does Cooking Wine Go Bad? Can Old Wine Make You Sick?

Yes, cooking wine will go bad after enough time, even if left unopened. Cooking wine tends to have an expiration date of about one year. An unopened bottle of cooking wine is still good to use beyond that date. Some bottles may be fine after three to five years, but we wouldn't risk it. Always follow the recommended wine storage temperature, even cooking wine. You don't want to find out the hard way can wine go bad.

An opened bottle of cooking wine only remains good for a little over one year. Remember to refrigerate once opened. You can even freeze the wine if you want to eke out a little more life.

Make sure to check the expiration date on your bottle and replace it if there's any doubt about the contents. Just because it's been sitting on your shelf for two years doesn't make it an aged wine. Cooking wine is no different than other kinds of alcoholic beverages. Eventually, even the best liquor can go bad.

Can You Smell What the Wine Is Cooking?

Now that you know all about cooking wine, one question remains. Should you use cooking wine? You can up some of the best books to learn about wine and see why many chefs and cooks (see line cook job description) say no. Cooking wine lacks any depth of flavor and adds more sodium than you may want in your dish. Less salty, more flavorful wine can impart a lighter flavor to the final product.

We recommend just testing your favorite wines to see how your food turns out. Don't get upset if the flavor is off-balance because wine is acidic. You can also read about food and wine pairing to discover what tastes the best together.

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