Cooking With Wine – Understanding the Basics

cooking with wine

Outside of having a glass of wine with a great meal, the best thing you can do with wine is to cook with it. There are plenty of recipes out there that include wine as one of the ingredients, but not everyone understands what cooking with wine means.

In a lot of cases people get confused regarding the differences between things like rice vinegar and rice wine vinegar (spoiler alert, they are the same thing), or whether or not using wine in a food that children are going to eat is ok, or if using too much wine in a meal will cause you to get inebriated, and so forth.

There are many misconceptions and misunderstandings when it comes to cooking with wine, so we thought we’d put together a quick rundown of the basics of cooking with wine. This includes certain terms you should know, what you should know about alcohol content in wine after cooking, how much wine to use, and why you should try cooking with wine.

There are many recipes and dishes out there that could be elevated with just a little bit of wine added to the mix!

What to Know About Cooking With Wine

What is the Difference Between Rice Vinegar and Rice Wine Vinegar?

This one confuses a lot of people when it comes to recipes. They see rice vinegar or rice wine vinegar listed as an ingredient and aren’t sure if what they have in the pantry is correct. Well, we’re here to tell you that they are the exact same thing.

There is no difference between rice wine vinegar and rice wine vinegar other than the name. Rice wine vinegar is just a different name that references the process that converts rice into alcohol and then into vinegar. So next time a recipe calls for rice wine vinegar and all you have on hand is rice vinegar, don’t worry!

Will You Get Intoxicated When Cooking With Wine?

One of the biggest misconceptions people have about cooking with wine (or alcohol in general) is that adding a bit of wine to your recipe won’t get you intoxicated or inebriated due to the fact that the alcohol will burn off as it is heated up in the dish.

This is actually not true… to an extent.

When cooking with wine it’s important to understand the science behind what is happening to the alcohol as you cook so you can prepare your meals accordingly. If you’re serving minors, you may not want to use a ½ bottle of wine in your dish, but a cup or so won’t make a difference.

The reason for this is that not all the alcohol gets burnt off during cooking. In fact, up to 40 percent of the alcohol content is still left in your dish after cooking it down for about 15 minutes. The longer you cook, the more alcohol that will burn off, but it’s never going to be zero.

That being said, unless you’re pouring a shot of whiskey over your steak after it’s on your plate, and making sure you soak up the entire shot, you’re not going to get intoxicated from cooking with alcohol.

Even though alcohol does remain in your dish, it’s going to be spread very thin between the serving and will not be enough to have you feeling the effects. So if you’re out to eat at a nice restaurant and see that there is a vodka sauce on the menu, don’t worry, you’ll be able to drink home after your meal. However, if you combine that with a cocktail or two, you may have to call yourself an uber.

What are the Different Ways to Cook With Wine?

There are a number of different ways you can incorporate wine into your recipes when cooking at home and it all depends on the dish you’re cooking.

From braising and steaming with wine to marinating and baking, you can add wine to any recipe you want as long as you’re ok with that flavor coming through in your dish.


One of our favorite things to do with wine, when it comes to cooking, is to marinate our meats in it. Marinading your meat in red wine overnight will help bring out the flavors in the meat as well as make it more tender and juicier.

The acidity in the wine can help break down the outer layer of the meat to allow for more penetration into the interior layers of the muscle and tissue. Combine the wine with some of your favorite herbs and spices and you’re sure to have one of the most tender, delicious, pieces of meat you’ve ever had.


Not many people think of using wine when steaming food but a great white wine or a good rice wine, can provide some incredible flavors to your next dish. We highly recommend trying this method out on your favorite fish or steamed seafood dish, as well as vegetables, to add a little more flavoring than you’re used to.

The process is extremely simple. All you need to do is swap out the water with your favorite wine, bring the wine to a boil, and then place your steamer on top of the pot. Steaming also provides moisture to the dish which can soften up harder vegetables while also being lighter on delicate fish that you may be cooking.


Braising is the process of cooking meat quickly at a high heat to sear the flavors and juices inside, while then continuing to cook slowly in a pot with liquid.

Braising can be done with any liquid you choose, but using wine will help create tender, juicy meat that will absorb some of those fruity flavors from the wine itself. You’ll want to find a rich, hearty, red wine to use in your braise as they can add another level of flavor to your meat.

Deglazing / Sauces

Wine also makes a great addition to many different types of sauces. The idea is similar to braising, but instead of cooking the meat in the can with the liquid, you sear the meat, then remove the meat from the pan and finish it in the oven, while then using the pan, along with the juices that are left in the pan, to create an incredible sauce.

After you remove the meat from the pan, add your red wine, spices, butter, etc. whatever you enjoy in your sauces, and then reduce down the wine before adding in your favorite herbs. Service this sauce with your meat and you’re in for a treat!

Experiment When Cooking With Wine

Cooking with wine should not be scary. You’re not going to put too much wine into your dish that it’s going to make your family intoxicated and as long as you’re using wines that you enjoy, you’re not going to make something that tastes awful just because you added wine to the recipe.

There are a number of food and sauce recipes, even cakes, that utilize wine as one of the main ingredients. If you’ve never cooked with wine before, now is the perfect time to take one of your favorite foods and seek out a recipe that incorporates wine into the ingredients. You may just find that the addition of the wine takes the dish to a level you never thought possible.

Wine is a great addition to any recipe, but it’s also great to pair with many food dishes. Be sure, when you’re cooking with wine, that you pour a glass for yourself as you make your way around the kitchen. Enjoying the flavor of the wine itself, while cooking it into a dish, will help those subtle wine flavors come through a bit more when you sit down to eat.