How to cook with wine in your Instant Pot


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Many of us cook with wine regularly, whether we are adding a splash of white wine at the start of a risotto or pouring a whole bottle of red into a succulent coq au vin. But lately, more and more people are forgoing the stove in favor of a certain kitchen appliance that promises to cook our favorite stews and braises faster and better than before. That appliance is, of course, the Instant Pot and its many competitors in the electric pressure cooker space. If you have recently started using an Instant Pot, you may be wondering if you can adapt your favorite wine-based recipes to this method of cooking. And if so, how is it different than cooking with wine on the stove?

In fact, you should be cooking with wine in your Instant Pot. Pressure cookers like the Instant Pot need liquid to function and wine – along with water and broth – is one of the liquids that works best. But there are some important differences between stovetop cooking and cooking in an electric pressure cooker that you will need to keep in mind.

What Is The Instant Pot & How Do They Work?

Electric pressure cookers, led by the ubiquitous Instant Pot, burst onto the scene in 2010 and continue to grow more popular every year. With enhanced safety features and multiple, easy-to-use settings, the current generation of electric pressure cookers allow home cooks to create succulent soups, stews, and braises in a fraction of the time that these dishes would take on the stove – and without the danger of explosions that plagued earlier generations of pressure cookers.

But how do these electric pressure cookers work and why can they cook food faster than the stovetop? This is about to get very scientific, so bear with me. When cooking food in liquid on the stove, the maximum temperature that the liquid can reach is the boiling point of water, or 212ºF. When liquid boils, it turns to steam and that steam evaporates – even from a closed pot because a covered pot is not entirely airtight. That’s why, for example, when our pasta water boils, we see the steam escaping from underneath the pot lid. 

A pressure cooker works differently, however, because it is a sealed environment from which steam cannot escape. The steam generated inside a pressure cooker, therefore, builds up and – having nowhere to go – creates pressure. This pressure causes the temperature inside the cooker to rise over the boiling point, up to around 240ºF. Thus, foods inside the pressure cooker can get hotter and cook quicker – up to 60% quicker – than on the stove.

So, for pressure cooking to work, you must have steam. Thus, you must start the cooking process with sufficient liquid to evaporate and create this steam. As a result, nearly all Instant Pot recipes call for at least a cup of a thin liquid, such as water, wine or broth. If you do not have sufficient liquid in your dish, your appliance will not build up sufficient pressure to cook the food. (And note that some liquids, such as dairy, do not work for various reasons.)

On the flip side, because the liquid cannot escape once it has evaporated—as steam does when cooking on the stovetop—most pressure cooker recipes call for less liquid than similar recipes for the stovetop. If you add too much liquid to a pressure cooker recipe, it will end up thin, watery, and not as flavorful. In other words, you need liquid to cook foods under pressure, but only as much liquid as you want in your final dish. This is true whether the cooking liquid is water, broth or wine.

To summarize, the Instant Pot is ideal for cooking many of our favorite wine-based dishes, like coq au vin or beef bourguignon, because the combination of heat and pressure tenderizes tough cuts of meat and creates rich, long-simmered flavor in half the time it would take on the stove. But to achieve that great flavor, you have to use less wine – often quite a bit less – than you would for the same recipe cooked on the stove. 

Cooking With Wine

Okay, so cooking with wine in the Instant Pot works well, but does it matter which wine we choose? Of course, it does. When cooking with wine in any situation, you want to strike a balance between economy and quality. Certainly, no one wants to pour an expensive, nuanced bottle into a stew where subtle flavors can get lost or overshadowed. But at the same time, we have all heard the advice: “don’t cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink.” And anything labeled “cooking wine” should be avoided at all costs. 

The calculus is a bit different when cooking with wine in the Instant Pot because there is a good chance that your recipe will only call for a cup or two of wine, leaving the rest of the bottle for drinking. So, when cooking with wine in the Instant Pot, the distinction between the wine you cook with and the wine you drink becomes less important. Cook with some of the bottle and drink the rest!

One other small note: avoid cooking with heavily tannic reds in the Instant Pot. The tannins will become more concentrated in the heat and pressure and the final dish could end up tasting unpleasantly astringent. A fruitier red wine, such as a Merlot or Zinfandel, will work best. And if you are concerned that the alcohol will not “cook off” or evaporate in the Instant Pot, you are correct. If that is a concern, add the wine when using the Sauté function and allow the liquid to boil with the lid off for a minute or two before closing the lid and using the pressure cook function.  

Ready to start cooking with wine in the Instant Pot? Here is a recipe for a classic French-inspired beef stew made with red wine designed especially for the Instant Pot. Note that this recipe calls for only 1 1/2 cups of wine, leaving you the rest of the bottle to enjoy with your meal.

Instant Pot Beef Stew

2 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 2-inch cubes

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, halved and sliced

1 leek, white and light green parts only, sliced

1 tablespoon tomato paste

3 cloves garlic, minced

4 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks

1 1/2 cups fruity red wine

1 bay leaf

3 to 4 sprigs of thyme

3 to 4 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon corn starch

1 cup frozen peas

1 cup frozen pearl onions

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar


1.       Pat the pieces of beef dry using paper towels and season them with 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Set aside.

2.       Add the olive oil to the inner pot of the Instant Pot and select the “Sauté” function. When the oil is shimmering, after about two minutes, add as many pieces of beef as will fit in a single layer without crowding. Working in batches, brown the meat on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side, and as they brown, transfer the pieces of meat to a plate. Repeat until all the meat is browned. If the pot begins to look dry, add more oil, one tablespoon at a time. Set aside the browned beef.

3.       Add the onion and leek to the Instant Pot and season them with the remaining salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables have softened, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste and garlic and sauté an additional minute until fragrant. Press Cancel to turn off the Sauté function. 

4.       Return the beef and any accumulated juices to the pot. Add the carrots, wine, and bay leaf. Tie the thyme and parsley together with twine and add the bundle to the pot.

5.       Close the lid and make sure the pressure release valve is closed. Select the Manual or Pressure Cook setting and set the cooking time to 25 minutes at high pressure. When the cooking program finishes, let the pressure release naturally for at least 15 minutes and release the remaining pressure manually. Press Cancel to turn off the Keep Warm function.

6.       Remove the bay leaf and bundle of herbs with a slotted spoon and discard. Select the Sauté function. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and one tablespoon of cold water. Add the cornstarch slurry to the stew (to thicken it) and stir to combine. Add the peas and pearl onions. Simmer the stew until the frozen vegetables are heated through and the sauce slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. 

7.       Add the red wine vinegar and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salt and pepper as needed. Serve warm over buttered noodles or mashed potatoes.

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12 things you should never, ever do in a restaurant

12 things you should never, ever do in a restaurant

We all manage a faux pas or a slip of our manners from time-to-time. But there are some things people do that are just plain rude. If you do them, you could wind up making a bad impression with your dining companions, especially in a restaurant. And no, we’re not talking about the basics like talking with food in your mouth, gesturing with cutlery in your hands, or putting your elbows on the table.

Here are 12 things you should try to avoid doing when dining out. Stick to these etiquette rules and chances are you’ll end up having better dining experiences. And so will your friends.

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Nobody likes to waste time waiting for someone to show up, and that’s especially true when it comes to restaurant reservations. Many restaurants employ a 15-minute rule. If you’re later than that for a reservation, you may forfeit your table. Others that don’t have such a rule may bump you to a less desirable table or make you wait.  

So, don’t be late (your friends will thank you, too!), but if you can’t avoid it, call and let them know (your friends and/or the restaurant). They may be able to make a special accommodation and they’ll appreciate your good manners.

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Dinner and a show is great,  but not when you’re rushed for time. And that goes for both you and the restaurant employees who are serving you. So give yourself ample time so you’re relaxed and can enjoy the experience. If you find yourself with extra time between dinner and the show, you can always take a stroll, stop for coffee (or have a second round at the restaurant).

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While it’s good to be relaxed, be aware of second-seating times or that large group of patrons at the bar waiting for a table. If your table is cleared, you’re no longer eating or drinking anything and are just talking with your companions, consider moving the evening to a nearby bar, park or even someone’s home.

It can help to think of your table as a taxi. You’re paying for the ride to your final destination, but if you sit in the car for 30 minutes after arriving, the driver isn’t going to let you do so for free. The meter will keep running.

While the restaurant doesn’t have a meter running like a taxi would, you are costing them money by occupying a table that could otherwise be serving other guests. So, if you want to linger, order another bottle of wine or some coffee and dessert. Of course, if the restaurant isn’t busy or you know you’re the last seating, tarry away until closing, but do leave a nice tip.

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There’s a rhythm to dining out, and that rhythm is typically orchestrated in large part by your server. In higher-end restaurants especially, they balance your needs as a customer with the abilities of the kitchen based on sheer volume of orders. So, if you insist on ordering your entire meal at the moment they greet you (instead of just your drinks, for example) you could end up disrupting the rhythm. It’s often most enjoyable if you just sit back, relax and let your server be your guide.

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This is especially important these days. COVID-19 has left many restaurants short staffed. You may not be getting the best service, but it may not be your server’s fault. Try to be understanding if you see that the restaurant employees are scrambling to keep up.

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In most cases, eye contact and a simple nod should suffice. If your server has simply disappeared, get up and speak to the host or manager. Flailing your arm, snapping your fingers, holding up your credit card (or even laying it at the edge of the table) — especially in a nicer restaurant — only reflects poorly on you. 

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Some people think they should tip only on the base cost of the meal, not the tax. Others think they should tip only on the food and not on their drinks. Some people think 10% is more than enough when it comes to gratuity. All of these people are wrong.

The majority of servers in the United States rely on tips for their income. Some make as little as $2 an hour as a base salary, so consider that cost before dining out. If you can’t leave at least 15% for good service, you may be better off going somewhere you don’t need to tip.

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We’ve all been there. There’s that one table in the restaurant with the loud talkers, the boisterous laughers or the folks who don’t mute their phones even amid multiple chirps and rings. Don’t be those people. 

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Put your phone down and engage with your dining companions and the server. You’ll have a much better experience.

If you absolutely need to take a call or send a text, step outside or into the restroom. 

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You probably just want to be generous and treat your dining companion(s), but everyone thrusting their credit cards at the waiter in a game of “pick me” as they deliver the bill is just an awful predicament for the server. 

Arrange in advance for who will pay the bill. If that doesn’t work, just let your friend pay. You can make it up to them some other time.

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If you’re dining in-person and you have a bad experience, let the manager or another employee know. In most cases, restaurants want to know when something goes awry. They want you to be happy and fix any issues. You may even get a discount off your meal.

Likewise, not saying anything while you’re there and then leaving a bad review on Yelp or Google doesn’t help the restaurant get better in the moment. What if you’d said something and they went above and beyond to fix it? Give them the opportunity.

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Most kitchens can accommodate food allergies and other dietary restrictions, but a little notice helps them do so more efficiently. Some servers will ask you shortly after greeting you if you have any special dietary restrictions. But if they don’t ask and you do have a special need, go ahead and let them know as soon as possible. They can help make recommendations or plan with the kitchen to ensure your needs are met.


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