How to Buy Cooking Wine

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The first thing to know about cooking wine is that you should probably avoid it. High levels of added salt make cooking wine unpalatable for drinking. Therefore, there are no age restrictions on purchasing cooking wine, and you can find in any grocery store. Unfortunately, it doesn't add the flavor of wine to your cooking. Instead, it too often adds the flavor of salt. However, this doesn't mean that you can't find a good wine appropriate for cooking. In fact, any good drinkable wine is a good cooking wine. You just need to know what to look for.

  • Shop where drinking wine is sold if you want to use a grape wine in your cooking. If only liquor stores sell wine in your state, forgo the grocery store and head to the liquor store instead.

  • Consider the recipes you'd like to make with the wine to choose the best type. Generally, red wines are best for hearty dishes and red sauces, while white wines are best for lighter sauces and flavors. Overall, you'll want to choose dry wines for cooking---unless you're using the wine in a dessert. In that case, a sweet wine may be ideal.

  • Peruse the less expensive wines to find one for cooking. Though you want to purchase drinkable wine, there's no need for you to buy expensive wine. Much of the subtlety of the wine's flavor will dissipate as it's cooked.

  • Find the boxed wine or gallon sizes for economy, especially if you plan on using wine often in your cooking. Unlike wine for drinking, you don't need to use cooking wine quickly; its flavor will still be good for cooking after a few weeks. However, if you know you won't use that much wine in a month or two, purchase a smaller bottle.

  • Visit an Asian supermarket or specialty shop if you want to use mirin in your recipes. Unlike Western cooking wines, this low-alcohol sweet rice cooking wine generally has little salt and few preservatives in it. Mirin does, however, have high sugar content. Read the labels of the mirin offered at the store to find one with the fewest and most natural ingredients.

Tips & Warnings

  • Some boxed wine is designed to stay fresh for up to 2 months, so you can keep it even longer than that for cooking. Some cooking wines don't have an especially high salt content, but this still doesn't mean you should use them in cooking. You'll find that buying drinking wine is a more economical choice than buying even the lowest quality cooking wine.

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