Using wine in your cooking is a fantastic way to add a complex layer of flavor to a dish. Wine is a perfect way to enhance sauces, marinades, soups, salad dressings, and even desserts (see: red wine chocolate cake, poached pears in white wine, and roasted fruit with Marsala syrup).
The problem is in the choosing. What is the best white wine for cooking? How do you choose the right wine for the specific dish you’re making? Is it true that the wine you cook with should also be one you would drink?
These are common quandaries. A guide to the best type of white wine for cooking will clear them all up, not to mention make you a better cook!
The Best White Wines for Cooking: A Brief Guide
By far, the best white wine you can cook with is not a cheap cooking wine, but a good, moderately priced, drinkable variety. You don’t have to spend a fortune, but you should be able to drink it.
In addition, dry white wines are better for all-around cooking than sweet or rich and oaky (barrel-aged) varieties. The rich types can become bitter after cooking, and sweet wines can add unwanted sweetness, or even produce unwanted caramelization in the pan (while good for some dishes, it’s not so great for others).
If the wine is mostly being cooked off, stick to moderately priced varieties. However, if the wine is meant to finish the dish and the flavor will be quite pronounced, feel free to splurge on fine varieties that will be the star of the show.
The Best White Wine for Cooking Fish
When cooking flaky, delicate meat like fish, the best dry white wine for cooking will not have a flavor that is too intense. Instead, it should balance out with the other flavors, yet provide enough acidity to add some bite to fish that is fatty or mild.
A crisp sauvignon blanc is excellent for sauces with fish. Other good options are unoaked Chardonnay and Pinot grigio.
The Best White Wine for Cooking Seafood
For seafood like oysters, mussels, clams, and the like, go for something light and bright – something that makes you think of the sea. All of the options for fish can work for seafood, but another great option includes a dry vermouth, which is bright and crisp.
The Best White Wine for Cooking Chicken
A heartier meat like chicken requires a richer white wine, as chicken is often marinated or served with cream sauces or gravies. However, chicken can easily become bland, so the flavors paired with it need to compensate. So, what white wine is best for cooking chicken?
In general, an unoaked Chardonnay provides the intense flavor and richness that suits chicken dishes. Cheap Chardonnays will not work, as these are aged in oak barrels and will become bitter when cooked.
The answer to the question “what is the best dry white wine for cooking?” is different depending on the food you’re preparing, the flavors you’re using, and the recipe. Choose different wines for fish, seafood, and chicken, and elevate your dishes with a refined depth of flavor.
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