One of the best ways to amp up the flavor of any beef dish — especially braised beef or stews — is by adding wine during the cooking process.
But cooking with wine isn’t usually taught in high school home economics class. And unless our folks were gourmet cooks, we didn’t learn it from them, either. Using wine as part of recipes is one of those skills people usually pick up on their own.
Firstleaf, a wine subscription service, has made it a little easier on home cooks with this comprehensive guide: Cooking Wine and Cooking With Wine.
With the guide you’ll have a good understanding of the basics. Let’s talk about how wine is used when cooking beef.
Why Red Wine and Beef Are The Best Match
You’ve probably heard the old “red wine for beef, white wine for chicken and fish” rule. The “white wine for chicken and fish” part is debatable, but dry red wine is considered the ideal match for beef.
Beef has a very strong flavor, so it needs a powerful wine to stand up to it. With the taste of a meaty steak lingering on your palate, you simply aren’t going to taste a lighter-flavored wine. Red wines also have tannins — this is the substance that makes your mouth feel slightly dry when you drink red wine. This feeling is a suitable contrast for the fatty mouthfeel of beef.
This ideal pairing isn’t an accident. Red wines were developed in areas where livestock raising was most common. Over the generations, local people developed wines that tasted the best with the food they were most likely to be eating.
Some varietals of red wine that pair well with beef are Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Malbec.
Red Wine and Beef: Marinades
Many popular steak marinades call for red wine. The flavors are a nice pairing, and the acidity of the wine is thought to help tenderize the meat. Red wine marinades are usually paired with other elements, like oil, herbs, spices, and aromatics. Here’s a good red wine marinade recipe to start with.
Marinades are best with cuts of beef that are 1 inch or thinner, like flank or skirt steak, or thinner ribeyes. The flavor of the marinade won’t penetrate that far into the steak, so with a thick cut, it’s a bit of a waste of wine. Marinating thin cuts, however, will give you a burst of flavor in every bite.
Red Wine and Beef: Braising
Braising is cooking meat in liquid, in a covered pot. The heat of the air cooks the meat, while the liquid and steam keeps it tender.
Red wine is an ideal liquid for braising beef. One of the most famous beef recipes, Beef Bourguignon, is a braise of chuck steak using one whole bottle of red wine.
When you cook beef stew, you’re also braising the beef. Some stews call for beef broth as a cooking liquid, or beer, but you can always add a ½ to 1 cup of red wine for additional acidity and earthy flavor.
Because braises usually cook for at least 90 minutes, most of the alcohol will burn off, so you don’t have to worry about any boozy flavor. (
Red Wine and Beef: Deglazing
Any dry-cooking method of making beef, such as pan-searing or roasting, will leave you with lots of tasty meat bits in your skillet or roasting pan.
Deglazing is the key step of getting those delicious morsels out of the pan and onto your plate. Typically deglazing will be part of the process of making a pan sauce. Red wine is an ideal deglazing liquid for any meat, but especially beef.
You can use recipes that call for additional aromatics like shallots, but just adding ½ cup or so of red wine, using that liquid to loosen up the leftover meat bits, and pouring the resulting sauce over your steak will be quite tasty.
Enjoy Experimenting with Red Wine and Beef
Cooking with wine sounds fancy, but when it comes to cooking with red wine and beef, it’s actually really easy and nearly foolproof. Try out different styles of red wine, different techniques and recipes, and identify some combinations that you can claim as your own “special sauce.” The best part is — there’s usually plenty of wine leftover for drinking.
Looking for recipes and other kitchen hacks? Visit the Discover Blog for more!