A couple cooking with wine.

If you’ve seen recipes that call for wine but avoided them because you assumed they would be difficult or expensive to make, it’s time to learn how to cook with wine. Using just a touch of wine in cooking is a great way to enhance the flavor of your dishes, and you don’t have to spend a ton to do so, either.

Here’s what you should keep in mind when it comes to cooking with and shopping for wine.

How to shop for wine on a budget

You’ve likely noticed “cooking wines” in your grocery store, but these products tend to be more like vinegar: syrupy, acidic and less likely to yield the best flavors. A good rule of thumb is to only cook with wine that you (or someone who likes wine) would drink. That’s the kind of wine we’re going to be talking about.

If you want a famous brand name or wine from a specific region, you’ll likely be forced to pay top dollar. But if you’re willing to expand your options, you can find a decent, inexpensive bottle of wine to cook with. Here are some tips to find the best wine deals:

  • Shop locally. Even regions not typically associated with wine — like Texas — have wineries. So, Google wineries in your area; the local option is often the least expensive option!
  • Ask a knowledgeable friend or someone who works at the grocery store. Sometimes the best recommendation for a decent, inexpensive bottle comes from someone who has tried it and can vouch for its quality and taste.
  • Find cash back offers on our app. Remember that wine, like many other beverages, can have manufacturer coupons or other discounts.
  • Consider white wine, which may be slightly less expensive than red wine. This is because white wines often aren’t aged, so they don’t come with the added cost of years of storage and management.

That being said, know that red wine and white wine are different ingredients. You can’t swap them out without dramatically altering the flavor profile of a dish. If a rich tomato sauce calls for red wine, get red wine. If a seafood stew calls for white wine, use white wine.

How to cook with wine

Even if you don’t like to sip wine on its own, adding it to some dishes can bring out richer flavors, elevating a meal’s taste in a way that no other ingredient can. If you’re completely new to cooking with wine, find a recipe from a pro and follow it closely. You’ll find that wine is typically used to marinade dishes or to flavor sauces. That’s because cooking with wine can yield great results — but only if you properly cook off the alcohol.

You can’t just add a splash of wine “for flavor” at the end the way you would with soy sauce or lemon juice. If you add wine to a dish just before serving, the result may be bitter and highly acidic. Wine needs time to bring out the flavor of the dish; it does this by reducing or cooking down. This means the wine is sitting in, simmering or cooking down for anywhere from 20 minutes to several hours, depending on the dish you’re preparing.

So, are you curious to know what wine can liven up? Here are some basic tried-and-true pairings:

  • Red wine is excellent for bringing out the flavor in beef — roasts, steaks and other cuts of red meat. It also pairs nicely with pork.
  • White wine, specifically chardonnay, pairs well with chicken. Pinot grigio is great for cooking with seafood.

And don’t worry if you’re cooking for little ones. Because the wine reduces during cooking, they’re not being exposed to alcohol.

Sipping the savings

After you get used to cooking flavorful dishes with wine, you can get creative and improve upon other wine-less recipes you may know like sauces, stews and other favorites. Soon, you’ll be adding this multifaceted flavor booster to all of your meals!

And it won’t have to cost you a fortune if you try our advice (and our offers) before you make a purchase. You might even save enough to splurge for an extra bottle to serve with dinner. Cheers!