Why Alex Guarnaschelli Cooks With Cheap Wine

Cooking with wine can really elevate a simple dish into a masterpiece. Whether you're reducing it and making a delicious sauce, adding depth to a dessert, deglazing a pan, or adding acid to a rich dish, there are tons of ways to incorporate wine into your day-to-day cooking — but there are a few tricks to know before you start tossing wine into your meals. 

In an interview with Food & Wine, Alex Guarnaschelli discussed some of her secrets for properly cooking with wine — and they may surprise you. "I will reach for the cheap bottle that's in the door of my fridge when I'm making a braise, where the wine will cook for a long time," she said. "I save good wine for finishing a dish, when you can really taste it. It's just like olive oil. You've heard of finishing oil? That's how I use good wine." But what's the difference, and why wouldn't you always use good wine?

Alex Guarnaschelli would rather save good wine for her glass

We can all relate to preferring to drink good wine rather than put it in our food, but why wouldn't we just use the bottle we're planning to drink to cook with, too? Alex Guarnaschelli says she doesn't think it's necessary to use good wine if you're planning on reducing it for a sauce. Rather than use the wine she drinks for all her cooking needs, Guarnaschelli told Food & Wine, "I would rather invest the bulk of my 'wine allowance' in my glass and use the inexpensive stuff in the kitchen, because so many of the most subtle flavors cook off." 

So why cook with wine in the first place? According to Guarnaschelli, "It's great for adding acidity to rich dishes. It's a lot like adding vinegar to olive oil when you're making a vinaigrette. In my mind, if I'm making a beef stew, I imagine the beef is the olive oil and the wine is the vinegar, and I try to strike a balance between the two ingredients." Wine also adds a great depth of flavor that vinegars simply can't match. 

Next time you're planning on cooking with wine, remember that if a bottle of cheap stuff is good enough for an "Iron Chef," it's probably good enough for you, too.