The Best Dry White Wines for Cooking

The old adage is true: If you wouldn't drink it, you shouldn't cook with it.

The indomitable Julia Childs is credited with the phrase "I enjoy cooking with wine. Sometimes, I even put it in the food . . ."That is a lovely thought and, while many of us enjoy a glass of wine while we are cooking, that same wine may not be the right type to add to what we are cooking. For instance, you may not want to mix an earthy Pinot Noir into a light and breezy summer pasta dish. Adding wine is a fun way to build new flavors and nuances into your recipe; many cooks especially enjoy using dry white wine, which is ideal for cooking with seafood, chicken, pork, or mushrooms. Here are some of the more popular dry white wine varieties and tips on how to cook with them.

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What is a Dry White Wine?

A dry white is simply any white wine that isn't sweet. For cooking, you want a wine with a high acidity known in wine-speak as "crisp." Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, and dry sparkling wines are especially good. Fuller whites with strong, oaky flavors, like some Chardonnays, don't work as well for cooking because they are lower in acidity and don't lend as much punch as the crispier wines. When reduced by cooking, the oaky, buttery flavors turn bitter and don't add anything pleasant to a dish.

How to Pick

Cooking won't improve upon the undesirable qualities of bad wine - it will only accentuate them, so if you wouldn't serve it to your guests, don't bother cooking with it. On the other hand, heat kills the subtle nuances of a complex wine, so save the really good wine for sipping.

How to Cook

You normally add wine at the beginning of cooking, so the alcohol has a chance to burn off. Splashing wine into a dish at the tail-end usually results in an unpleasant raw-wine taste.

How to Substitute

In most cases you can substitute a dry Vermouth for white wine. Lemon juice or even white wine vinegar is a good sub when you just need a splash - but use a tiny bit less. White grape juice stands in nicely if you want to add sweetness or deglaze the pan. You can also choose chicken or vegetable stock instead of wine when you want to add depth of flavor to a dish.

How to Keep

Store unopened bottles of wine in a dark, cool, place. Once opened, wine will begin to oxidize, which negatively affects the flavor. Recork and refrigerate opened bottles of white wine and use them up within a few days.

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