Cooking with alcohol might sound a bit strange at first, but it’s a fantastic way to add to the complexity of your dishes. There’s a wide range of different alcoholic drinks that can be used in cooking, and each of them contributes a different element to your food’s flavor profile. From rum to beer to wine, many varieties of alcohol can fit right into a creative, innovative recipe. If you’re looking to get started with cooking with alcohol, JOW has your back—we’ll design a menu for you, and then optimize your grocery list so that you’ll have everything you need with minimal effort. Then, it’s up to you to get cooking!
Curious about how to cook with alcohol? You’ve come to the right place. We’ll cover all the basics of adding a little booze to your dishes. We’ll fill you in on how to use specific types of alcohol in your recipes, as well as how much to use. In addition, we’ll give you some info about the perks of cooking with liquor, beer, and wine. Let’s get cooking (and maybe have a glass of something on the side)!
Why Cook with Alcohol?
Drinking alcohol makes perfect sense. Beer, wine, and liquor are all delicious, and they can make you feel a little more loose and relaxed after a long day. Cooking with alcohol, on the other hand, might not seem as sensible at first. However, using booze to cook can seriously level up your food. Here’s how.
Alcohol Can Make Your Food More Flavorful
By bonding to the fat molecules and moisture in your dishes, alcohol amplifies the rich, savory flavors in what you cook. That’s why many pro chefs use alcoholic drinks to marinate meat – booze brings out the best in a prime cut of meat and complements the seasonings used.
Alcohol Can Make Your Food More Aromatic
In addition to boosting flavor, cooking with alcohol can also make your dishes smell even more appetizing. Smell accounts for a huge portion of what you taste when you take a bite of something, so cranking up those delicious aromas can make a big difference in the overall quality of a meal.
Cooking With Wine
Wine is a versatile beverage that tastes great in a glass – or in your next marinade! You can use both red and white wine for cooking, but these two varieties come in handy on different occasions.
- White wine is an excellent add-in for fish, chicken, mushrooms, and pork. Drier, acidic white wines are typically best for cooking. These wines include Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Blanc.
- It’s best to add red wine to pasta sauce, stew, or beef. Many chefs recommend cooking with Merlot, Pinot Noir, or Cabernet. These wines have higher acidity than average, which will bring out some of the most memorable flavors in your food.
When Do I Add the Wine?
The best time to add wine to your dishes depends on what you’re making. Here are a few simple rules to follow when cooking with reds or whites.
- If you’re making a marinade, the wine gets mixed with all the other ingredients. Other great marinade ingredients to try include garlic, pepper, onions, and even rosemary. If you’re braising, you’ll let this mixture sit at the bottom of your pot or pan, cooking on low heat.
- If you’re making risotto or another pasta dish with wine, add it in when the rice has mostly browned. To get that classic light, buttery texture for your risotto, you’ll want to let the wine cook down before you add any more liquid ingredients.
- If you’re making a sauteed dish, add wine midway through cooking. Sauteing, especially when it comes to seafood, involves a combination of searing and browning using a wide pan and some fat, like butter. Your food should already be seared before you add the wine – but not completely cooked. The wine will need time to reduce, meaning it will lose some of its liquid and get stronger and thicker.
- If you’re making pasta sauce, you’ll want to work with a wine reduction. That means the wine needs to get cooked down before it’s added to the rest of the sauce. Reduced wine is typically thick and syrupy, making it extra flavorful.
Should I Use Cooking Wine?
You’ve probably been in the grocery store at some point and noticed bottles labeled “cooking wine.” This type of wine is typically found in the same section of the store as oil, vinegar, and salad dressing. Cooking wine might sound like exactly what you want to add to your next recipe, but trust us – it’s not.
Contrary to the name, cooking wine is definitely not something you’d want to cook with. It’s packed with additives like salt and sugar, which turn the wine into more of a low-grade sauce than a flavorful add-in for your meals.
Instead of using cooking wine, opt for a higher-quality bottle – something you’d drink! Even though it’ll cost a bit more, choosing a great-tasting wine to add to your dishes will make a big difference in the end.
Cooking With Beer
Beer is often overlooked as a cooking ingredient, but it’s got just as many uses as wine! You can simmer meat, vegetables, potatoes, and more in beer, which can add to the intensity and complexity of your dish’s flavors. You can also bake with beer, adding it to bread, biscuits, and more.
As far as flavor goes, beer is likely to make your food taste richer. Most of the alcohol evaporates during cooking, so what you’re left with is primarily nutty, earthy notes and a distinct caramelized taste.
Using Beer in Sauces and Marinades
One of the best culinary uses for beer is as a key ingredient in sauces, glazes, and marinades. Beer is less acidic than wine, but, like its red and white relatives, it will still bring out the best from meats. Many chefs use beer as an ingredient in barbecue sauce, and others braise beef in beer to give it a rich, malty flavor.
Baking With Beer
One of the most popular booze-based recipes is beer bread. This type of bread mixes baking powder with beer instead of using standard yeast. The yeast in the beer helps the dough rise, and you end up with a fluffy texture and sweet, rich flavor.
Beer bread is quick and simple to make, and it looks and tastes amazing. You can make yours either sweet or savory, and it’s up to you what flour you use!
Cooking with Liquor
From bourbon to rum to vodka, there are plenty of uses for hard liquor in your kitchen. Aside from throwing back a quick shot to make your cooking sessions a bit more… exciting, you can also use liquor as an add-in for marinades, glazes, and sauces.
Use Bourbon to Add Honey Notes and Richness to Homemade Sauces
If you’re trying to blow your friends away with some home-cooked barbecue, we can’t recommend using bourbon enough. You can make a simple bourbon barbecue sauce using hot peppers, onions, bourbon, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, and butter, and it tastes absolutely incredible on ribs or wings.
Use Whiskey to Amplify Any Flavor
Whiskey can help you bring out the best in just about any dish, from fish to steak to desserts. We recommend adding this liquor to sweet or savory sauces, using it as a marinade for slow-cooked ribs, or even mixing it into chocolate-based desserts.
Add Some Rum to Your Desserts
Rum is made from fermented sugar cane, and its sweet, rich caramel flavor makes a great addition to desserts. Rum raisin cake is one of the most popular treats made with this liquor, but there’s far more you can make with rum. From rum raisin ice cream to bundt cake to bananas foster, there’s a plethora of rum-soaked desserts to try.
Enhance Sauces With Vodka
While it’s not the most popular culinary alcohol, vodka has some excellent uses for cooking. Pasta Alla Vodka is probably the dish that uses this liquor, but you can also add vodka to tomato-based dishes to amp up their acidity. It’s also a great addition to pie crust, keeping it flaky and stopping the gluten from breaking down.
The Bottom Line on Cooking With Booze
Whether you’re a newcomer to cooking or a veteran chef, it’s always a great idea to keep some alcohol in your kitchen – to drink and to cook with! There are too many uses for booze in cooking to count, and adding some alcohol to your recipes is a quick and simple way to bring out the best in any recipe!
Looking for something new to cook? Make sure to check out JOW for some inspiration. We’ll also make getting groceries much easier by creating a customized grocery list for you and arranging things so that you can either pick them up at your convenience or have the groceries delivered to you. You’ll never go back.