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Sarah Ward

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

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"Why would I buy cooking wine, can't I just substitute regular wine for cooking?"

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

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

When it comes to drinking cooking options, 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 work in the kitchen with cooking varieties 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 options 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 vino instead of the underlying flavors of the grape variety.

Cooking wine also has added salt and a number of preservatives not in normal drinking options. 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-even a dry white-or red, 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 it. At its core, cooking options can still be consumed without any additional steps. The taste of cooking wine is not enjoyable to most, particularly if you enjoy sugar in wine for a sweetness in the glass. The high level of alcohol present also greatly increases the calories in wine.

We don't recommend that you drink cooking varieties. There are many health problems associated with drinking it. The high levels of sodium can lead to heart issues, particularly if your diet is already high in salt. Since cooking options have 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 options are available in most grocery stores and are considered an ingredient rather than an alcoholic beverage. IDs aren't usually required because it 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, as opposed to table wine or regular drinking wine.

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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 vino is that a lot of the alcohol is cooked off when wine is in use for cooking, be it in sauce, risotto, or broth. 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 varieties, however, 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

As you look into the world of wine use for cooking and wines available for making dishes, you’ll run into more questions and things to learn. From the acidity of cooking options to expensive wine options like some sherry bottles, there’s plenty to learn. 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 options can still suffer from wine oxidation, so make sure to seal it up unless you want to be cooking with a stale wine. Trust us, air doesn't help it 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 wine for cooking 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. You can also go the route of different juice options, potentially even lemon juice if you’re making a dish that would use wine of a lighter variety. The wine to use-or not use-is entirely up to you as the chef. You could even look into rice wine, which can be used for different cooking purposes, to lighten or fortify different dishes. 

‍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 options tend to have an expiration date of about one year. An unopened bottle 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. You don't want to find out the hard way that 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.

When Cooking With Wine Does the Alcohol Evaporate? 

Ultimately, when cooking with wine, most of the alcohol evaporates. However, the exact amount of alcohol that evaporates depends on several factors. Those factors include the cooking time, the other ingredients, and the size of the pan, pot, or other cooking equipment used. 

The longer you bake or roast something with wine, the more alcohol burns off. If you make something with wine and absorbent ingredients, those ingredients will hold onto some of the alcohol. As for the size of the cooking container, the more room in the container, the more alcohol can spread out and burn off efficiently. 

Does Cooking Wine Reduce Calories?

For anyone looking at calories in a meal, the answer to whether cooking wine reduces the calories is, no. While cooking with wine burns off a lot of the alcohol, the calories of wine are in the sugars, not the alcohol, so they stick around. 

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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