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Cooking wine! Hooh! Good God, y'all. What is it GOOD for?

I've never heard a kind word for this stuff. Jeff Smith railed against cooking wine on seemingly every episode of his show. Yet cooking wine remains a popular product. And my mom, a rather frugal gourmet herself, used inexpensive cooking wine in some of her dishes and they were wonderful.

So is there anybody here who will stand and belt out a huzzah on behalf of this maligned cooking product?

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  1. "Cooking wine! Hooh! Good God ya'all. What is it GOOD for?"

    Absolutely NOTHING! (Say it AGAIN)

    1 Reply
    1. re: PotatoHouse

      Absolutely Nothing. (er, um...) :D

      If you wouldn't drink it, don't cook with it. (and even that's a little loose -- I've cooked with wine that's been open a couple of days -- it's fine to cook with for a short time after it's a little too oxidized to drink)

    2. It's not even an effective rust remover!

      I'm firmly in the "Can't drink it, then don't eat it" camp. It exists only to part fools from their money, loath though I am to say anything disparaging about anyone's mom.

      1. The problems with cooking wines are:
        1. NOBODY in their right mind pollutes good wine by adding salt, so there's a fat chance you wouldn't be caught dead drinking the wine they pollute with salt for cooking. I have NEVER seen a bottle of cooking wine with the vintage and vinyard printed on the label! You get what you pay for.
        2. You cannot have a little taste of cooking wine while you're cooking, unless you have a bizarre craving for, "Yuck!"
        3. My cardinal rule for most wines is to cook with the same wine we'll be drinking.... I don't think so! Oh.. I should quickly add that this rule is not totally inflexible. The part about cooking with what you drink: who would do that with a great claret or grand cru burgundy? But it would be insanity to cook with cooking wine and drink one of those with the meal!

        As far as your mom's cooking goes, PK, I suspect she compensated (by plan or by instinct) by using less salt when she used cooking wine. She sounds like a great cook. But I also suspect her "wonderful" dishes would have been "drop dead fabulous" with really good wine! '-)

        1. If it has enough salt in it, it might kill weeds.

          1. Personally, I think cooking wine was put on the shelf as a convenience product, so the consumer didn't have to go to the liquor store to try to decide which wine to use in what kind of dish, and as an adulterated alcohol-based product, not subject to the same laws and regulations as wine. Sadly/gladly I feel it has outlived its usefulness. Our society's culinary knowledge and discerning palates have grown and matured to the point where this product is no longer wanted nor needed.

            5 Replies
            1. re: njmarshall55

              Doubtless there's some truth in this. Until a couple of years ago, the city in which I grew up--and my mom cooked--was dry. Buying a bottle of wine meant driving outside the city limits and back as opposed to going a few blocks to a grocery store.

              Having said this, cooking wine is still available at every grocery store I see.

              1. re: Perilagu Khan

                Where I live you can't buy a bottle of drinking wine on Sunday which used to be a PITA until I retired because Sunday was usually our shopping day.

                In the book "Restaurant Man", Joe Bastianich talks about salting the cooking wine in the family restaurant to keep the staff from drinking it.

                All that said I've never bought cooking wine. Is it with the soy sauce and similar at the grocery? I will look for some next time I go.

                1. re: Perilagu Khan

                  A hold over from prohibition,then the ABC laws and who has a license to sell beer and wine.In dry locations and on or off premises regulations really varied around the US.
                  The thought was if it was nasty enough in the drink sense it could be on the shelf,exempt from the DLC and ABC regulations.

                2. re: njmarshall55

                  "Our society's culinary knowledge and discerning palates have grown and matured to the point where this product is no longer wanted nor needed."

                  Do you live in the society that celebrates the annual appearance of the McRib sandwich? Or somewheres else?

                3. The only positive thing I can think of re: cooking wine is that it is acceptable for LDS members to buy. An LDS neighbor would not be caught dead with a bottle of wine in her grocery cart; she actually said "what would my friends think?" when I asked. She buys cooking wine. So if the opinion of non-drinkers is important to you, you may be the target audience.

                  Salting wine has been done for centuries to keep the thirsty kitchen help from helping themselves. When you start with an inferior product and add salt, there is never going to be an improvement. It's nasty stuff and will not darken my doorstep.

                  1. I suspect it still exists because the added salt exempts it from certain alcoholic beverage taxation, making cheap wine doubly cheap. And for the desperados who need to buy a buzz during Sunday church hours, it's a viable alternative to vanilla extract....

                    1 Reply
                    1. Folks like my mom use it... she doesn't drink regular wine... it "burns her mouth" so it's a waste of money for her to buy a regular bottle only to use a half cup or whatever. But I don't think I would ever do it!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: juliejulez

                        Get your mom a few of the little 187 ml "airline bottles" of wine. Each one is about 1/2 - 3/4 cup, perfect for one recipe.

                      2. What is cooking wine? Is it just wine with added salt? Mcwine?

                          1. In places where you can't buy wine in the grocery store, it can mean you don't have to do a separate trip across town to get the wine.

                            It's also useful for people who want to use wine for cooking, but don't drink it themselves. Buying a 750 ml bottle of wine when you need one cup gets kind of expensive. The salt means it keeps long enough that you can save it for the next use.

                            It's treated as a grocery item, not an alcoholic beverage, which means it's taxed differently, and can be a lot cheaper than buying drinking wine if you live somewhere with high liquour taxes.

                            And if you're under legal drinking age, it might be easier to buy, allowing young gourmets to cook dishes that call for wine.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                              They make single-serving bottles -- these are excellent for having on hand for cooking purposes.

                              1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                better than cooking wine are the 4-paks of single serving bottles of Sutter Home wines. It's far from premium wine, but it's real wine, and drinkable in a pinch. Definitely great for cooking. They can be kept on hand because odds are you are going to use all of one when you open it, and the rest will keep until you need them.

                              2. Absolutely nothing.

                                1. Contrary to "popular" belief, "cooking" wine is NOT inexpensive! It is actually very low quality wine to which a considerable amount of salt (and I don't know what else because it's been eons since I have even looked at a bottle).

                                  Back in the days before wine was sold in most supermarkets, some swindler decided it was a good way to get a lot of money for stuff nobody would drink in the first place. Since other stuff was added to the wine, it could be called "food," thus sold in the grocery store. Convenient it was, but good? Not so much.

                                  I imagine your mom was a wonderful cook in general, so I wouldn't attribute the wonderfulness of those specific dishes to the cooking wine....

                                  1. I could imagine it being useful for alcoholics who wouldn't want to keep wine that they would drink in the house. That's pretty much the only thing I can think of.

                                    I have never bought it before, mostly because I'd still need to buy a bottle of wine to go with dinner (of course, I've never had a problem finishing a bottle of wine before it goes bad. A great bottle, I share, a decent bottle is usually fine for two or three days). If I want something that stays for longer, I'll go with vermouth or sherry for cooking.

                                    1. Sometimes it can be difficult to find marsala or something in a pinch and I am forced to use marsala cooking wine. I know its less than ideal, but itll do in a pinch IMHO

                                      1. It might be useful to help clean out the garbage disposal unit, sort of like a big pour of white vinegar?

                                        Beyond that, I cannot imagine.

                                        Probably stated above, and maybe several times, but "do not cook with wine, that you would not drink."

                                        Off to read the rest of the thread, to see how many times, that advice was quoted.


                                        [Edit] Looks like four, including variations.