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Easy Tips to Cook with Wine

Easy Tips to Cook with Wine

Just a splash? What kind of wine? We answer your questions

Three easy tips to cook with wine.

We like to use wine in slow cooking to add richness to a dish, and adding a splash of wine at the end can enhance the flavor even more. But how do you know which wine to cook with? Here are some guidelines to get you stirring and sipping your way to a delicious meal.

The Drink It First Rule

Only cook with a wine that you would happily drink by itself (in fact, go ahead and do that while you’re cooking!). Much of the alcohol evaporates while cooking, but the flavors remain. Any wine marketed specifically for cooking (we’re looking at you, cooking sherry) is usually horrible and should be avoided.

No Generic Stuff

Some recipes generically call for "dry white wine" and "dry red wine." What to do? For white wine, use sauvignon blanc or sancerre. Fresh and herbal with just the right amount of acidity, these wines work wonders in any dish. For red wine, pair the heartiness of the dish with the heartiness of the wine. A thick, flavorful stew needs a correspondingly big-bodied wine, such as shiraz, zinfandel, or a red from the south of Spain, Italy, or France. A light dish calls for a light red like pinot noir or sangiovese.

Fortified to the Rescue

Fortified wines like port, madeira, and nutty sherries like amontillado and oloroso all pack a big flavor punch. Bonus: once opened, they can be used for several months. Port’s rich, sweet flavor pairs well with meaty casseroles; sherry’s roasted nut flavors are a boon to soups; and madeira’s caramel fruitiness works wonders in Mediterranean sautés.

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Beef Burgundy

This is a classic Beef Burgundy that is super easy to make and is based on the classic red Burgundy wines (Pinot Noir). Beef Burgundy, or Boeuf Bourguignon as its called in France, is a delicious, full-flavored stew that has turn-of-the-century historic roots in using the local Charolais bulls for the base beef.

Julia Child revived the recipe and gave it renewed interest through her book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Today, there are many versions of Beef Burgundy, but the basics of beef, onions, herbs, and red wine remain.

Beef Tips in Red Wine Sauce

Something this delicious needs to be spooned over something like mashed potatoes, but I had polenta on my mind instead. Creamy and cheesy, I made a batch of polenta in my Instant Pot as the beef tips cooked. Easy enough and it all finished at the same time!

Typically one would spend lots of time stirring and keeping an eye on stove top cooked polenta, but I’m here to tell you the Instant Pot makes one amazing version with minimal effort on your part. Check out my recipe for How to Make Instant Pot Creamy Polenta here to get it all done on time or serve over mashed potatoes or rice even.

The simple pan sauce for this is exceptional.

Butter and diced shallots sauté until softened, brown sugar, red wine and beef broth get added to create the sauce that reduces and gets finished with some butter.

I love fresh herbs to finish a sauce off with and thyme is what’s used in this dish.

So there you have it, Beef Tips in Red Wine Sauce. A simple, easy mid-week meal to serve the family with classic French-inspired flavors. Serve over mashed potatoes, polenta or pasta if you like. After dinner I served these No Bake Peach Cheesecake Bars that scream summer in one tasty dessert. Enjoy!

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Recipe Summary

  • 2 (6 ounce) flat iron steaks
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dry mustard powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup sliced portobello mushrooms

Allow the steaks to come to room temperature.

Stir together 2 tablespoons of olive oil, cayenne pepper, black pepper, ground paprika, salt, mustard powder, and garlic powder in a small bowl to make a paste.

Prick steaks all over with a fork and rub them well with the spice rub paste, working the rub into the meat.

Heat a large, heavy skillet over high heat and add the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Heat oil until it just begins to smoke and quickly sear the steaks until the outside has browned but the center is still blood red and just warmed, 2-3 minutes per side. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read 115 degrees F (46 degrees C).

Remove steaks from skillet with tongs. Pour the dry red wine into the skillet, and bring to a boil while scraping the browned bits of food off of the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Stir in the sliced portobello mushrooms, and cook and stir until mushrooms are cooked and have released their liquid, about 5 minutes.

Return steaks to the skillet on top of the mushroom-wine sauce. Reduce heat to LOW and cook until sauce reduces and thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove steaks to serving platter and pour mushroom sauce over steaks to serve.

A Soft Sear Creates Tender Chicken

The result is a soft sear that protects the chicken from scorching and results in a more tender piece of chicken as well. At this stage, the chicken doesn't need to be fully cooked through, just lightly sautéed on each side. You'll cook it completely at a later stage. Then you can transfer the chicken to a plate to rest, while you prepare the sauce.

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You can print off the list of ingredients and instructions to follow for making this recipe via the recipe card below (for home use only).

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  1. Heat the olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet or stainless-steel pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Season the steaks on both sides with salt and plenty of black pepper.
  3. When the oil is lightly smoking, add the steaks to the pan.
  4. Cook, turning every minute or so, for about 8 minutes total, until the steaks are deeply browned and firm but yielding to the touch.
  5. Remove to a cutting board to rest.
  6. Add the shallot to the same pan and sauté for 1 minute, until softened.
  7. Pour in the red wine and the broth, scraping the bottom of the pan to release any brown bits.
  8. Cook over high heat for 5 minutes, until the liquid is reduced by three-quarters.
  9. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter one piece at a time. Stir in the parsley.
  10. Slice the steaks into thick pieces, arrange on 4 warm plates, and pour the red wine sauce over the pieces.

Eat This Tip

Master the Technique: Pan Sauce

Steak makes for the most classic pan sauce, but the technique can be used for other meats and fish as well. Follow the steps in the recipe (remove protein, add aromatics and liquid, scrape pan, reduce liquid, stir in cold butter) for any of these combinations:

Chicken breasts or thighs: garlic, sherry or port, chicken broth, rosemary

Pork Chops: garlic, ginger, orange juice, soy sauce

Firm White Fish: fresh thyme or parsley, white wine, lemon juice

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  1. Cook the bacon in a wide cast-iron skillet or sauté pan until crispy. Reserve.
  2. Discard all but a thin film of the bacon fat from the pan.
  3. Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper.
  4. Add to the pan and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until well-browned all over. (Work in batches if you must crowding will prevent it from properly browning.)
  5. Transfer the chicken to the base of a slow cooker.
  6. Add the wine to the skillet and use a wooden spoon to scrape loose any browned bits from the bottom.
  7. Pour the wine over the chicken, then add the reserved bacon, the stock, onions, bay leaves, and garlic, along with another good pinch of salt and pepper.
  8. Cook on high for at least 2 hours (or cook on low for most of the day), until the meat is falling off the bone.
  9. In the final 30 minutes, stir in the mushrooms and allow them to just cook through.
  10. When ready to serve, cook the butter and flour in a saucepan over medium heat for 1 minute.
  11. Ladle in 11⁄2 cups of the cooking liquid and cook until it has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  12. Serve the chicken with the onions and mushrooms, then drizzle over the thickened sauce

Eat This Tip

Don't have a slow cooker at home? Don't fret. Any recipe in this book that calls for a slow cooker can be executed in a pot on the stovetop or in a low oven. Rather than dump all the ingredients in the base of the slow cooker, simply combine them in a pot or pan large enough to fit them comfortably, then cover and simmer over very low heat or bake in a 250°F oven. Because slow cookers braise at such a low temperature, stovetop or oven cooking will always be faster—which may be exactly what you're looking for.

Not Your Mother’s Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook

This recipe comes from the cookbook Not Your Mother’s Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook. I am a bit obsessed with my cast iron skillet, so I just knew that I’d fall in love with this cookbook. If you are a cast iron lover like me, then this is the cookbook for you – filled with over 150 recipes that can be made in your cast iron skillet. Everything from main dishes to desserts – you’ll find recipe after recipe that you want to try in this cookbook.

After going through the book, I decided on this Smothered Beef Tips Recipe, mostly because I had never made beef tips before, and also because it’s the middle of winter and comfort food is calling my name.

This poached pears in wine recipe is naturally gluten free, nut free, dairy free, egg free, vegetarian and vegan! Pears are an great source of fiber and have vitamin C for only 100 calories per serving. They’re also sodium free, fat free, and cholesterol free. –USA Pears

You may also enjoy this super easy and romantic dessert: individual apple galettes.

We love simple flavors and if your pears are good, the caramelized wine sauce is absolutely perfect on its own, however, you can also add your favorite spice, or vanilla, for example. Oh, and I must add, this is a real 3 ingredient recipe unlike others you’ll see where 3 ingredients (cake mix, jello pudding and cool whip) actually means 41 ingredients!

Ready to make this lovely dessert? It’s not a coincidence that I’m posting this the day before Valentine’s Day, hint, hint!

Quick Red Wine Pasta Sauce

  • Author: Lauren
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 7 cups (enough for 2 pounds pasta) 1 x
  • Category: Sauce
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian


Bold in flavor, savory and slightly tangy, this homemade red wine sauce makes an easy elegant dinner!


  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • ½ cup grated onion*
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup dry red wine (cotes du rhone, cabernet sauvignon or zinfandel)
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil, plus more to taste
  • 1 pound whole-wheat pasta, such as spaghetti or penne


Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, oregano, and ½ teaspoon salt cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened and lightly browned, 5–7 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until lightly golden brown, 1–2 minutes.

Stir in ½ cup red wine and cook until nearly evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add remaining ½ cup and cook until reduce by at least half and a trail is left when a spatula is pulled through it, about 6 minutes.

Stir in tomatoes and honey, bring to a simmer, and cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Off heat stir in remaining 1 tablespoon oil and basil season with additional basil, salt and pepper to taste.


Store sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Store in resealable zipper-lock bags in the freezer for up to 4 months.


  • Serving Size: ½ cup sauce
  • Calories: 113
  • Sugar: 5g
  • Sodium: 371mg
  • Fat: 3g
  • Saturated Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 10g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Protein: 2g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg

Keywords: red wine pasta sauce, homemade pasta sauce, red wine pasta

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About Lauren Grant

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine,,, and more.