Clam recipes almost always call for white wine. But they don’t always recommend the types of wine you can use.
What are the best types of white wine for clams? Dry white wines are the best for cooking clams. The five best types of white wines you can use for cooking clams are Pinot Giorgio, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Sancerre, and Vermentino.
Continue reading to learn more about these white wines and how to use them to cook clams. You will also learn why it is important to cook clams in wine and why you should opt for the white and dry varieties.
Why Cook Clams In White Wine?
If you search for clam recipes, you will notice that most of them contain white wine. You can surely skip the wine and cook the clams without it, but trust us, you’d be missing out.
There are two reasons why white wine is used for cooking clams.
First, it makes them taste so much better. Cooking clams in wine enhances the savory flavors of the dish, resulting in a well-balanced and rounded flavor.
Second, using wine to cook clams ensures that they stay moist and tender. It is a common problem for clams to turn out tough and rubbery as they have protein fibers that need to be broken down in the process of cooking. The acidity of the wine helps tenderize clams and makes them juicy.
Aside from cooking clams in white wine, you can also serve them with a glass of white wine to make your dinner complete.
So, if you have purchased clams and are not sure how to cook them, your best bet is grabbing a bottle of white wine and looking for a recipe.
And what’s best, you don’t have to buy an expensive bottle of white wine. Just make sure you are not using bad-tasting cheap wine, as when the alcohol evaporates, your dish gets all the flavors left behind. You can always find an affordable bottle of white wine that tastes good.
What Is The Best Type Of Wine For Cooking Clams?
The best type of wine for cooking clams is dry white wine. A rule of thumb is that wines that don’t have sweetness are better for cooking lighter foods, including clams.
You may be wondering why you can’t use red wine for cooking clams. The answer is that you can use red wine for cooking clams too, but white wine goes much better with clams.
That’s the reason why almost any clam recipe you come across on the internet calls for white wine.
At the end of the day, red wine works better for reduction sauces while white wine is great for not only sauces but also all kinds of seafood, soups, and cooking clams.
5 Best Types Of White Wine For Clams
So, white wine works best for cooking clams. But there are so many different types of white wine! What should you buy? Here are the 5 best types of white wine for clams.
1. Pinot Grigio
Pinot Grigio is one of the most popular white wines in the US. This refreshing white wine is best enjoyed cold.
Thanks to its light and fresh flavor, it goes well with lighter dishes. You can enjoy a glass of Pinot Grigio with salads, risotto, light chicken dishes, and shellfish or fish.
But aside from making a great pairing for steamed clams, Pinot Grigio is also good for cooking clams. Often described as light and crisp, Pinot Grigio has a floral aroma. Depending on where it has been grown, there can also be stone fruit notes in this white wine.
This dry white wine is light-bodied. And what’s good, it has a wide price range. So, you can certainly get a bottle of Pinot Grigio that comes at an affordable price but still tastes good.
2. Sauvignon Blanc
Sauvignon Blanc is another great dry white wine variety that you can use to steam clams. This wine can be both still and sparkly. You can use both types of Sauvignon Blanc.
Cooking with sparkly Sauvignon Blanc is the same as cooking with the still variety. And don’t worry if the bubbles are gone. They always go away in the process of cooking anyway.
The flavor profile of Sauvignon Blanc may vary. Made of green-skinned grapes, this white wine can be not only crisp but also grassy and tropical at times.
Sauvignon Blanc is a highly acidic white wine. Compared to Pinot Grigio, it is full-flavored. You can use it to cook clams and other seafood, as well as dishes that call for heavy cream for the sauce.
When it comes to Chardonnay, it is best to buy a version that hasn’t been oaked. In case you don’t know, oaked wine is a wine that has been preserved and aged in oak barrels.
Oaked wine often has notes of spice and smoke which is not what you want for cooking clams.
Unoaked Chardonnay, on the other hand, will add the acidity you need for steaming clams and will make the dish richer.
Chardonnay is a medium to full-bodied wine. Flavor-wise, it is fruity. But tropical fruit flavors prevail in unoaked Chardonnay, including notes of pineapple, mango, etc. It should be noted though that dry white Chardonnay is certainly not sweet.
Sancerre is another crispy and high-acidity wine you can use for cooking clams.
It is also the name of a region in the eastern part of France that produces wines. All wines produced in this region are made from sauvignon blanc which is a green grape variety.
This leads many people to think that Sauvignon Blanc and Sancerre are the same thing.
But while Sancerre is crafted from sauvignon blanc, not all Sauvignon Blanc white wines come from the region of Sancerre. As opposed to Sauvignon Blanc that may have grassy and tropical notes, citrusy notes prevail in Sancerre.
Despite its reputation, you can still find affordable bottles of Sancerre to use in cooking.
Vermentino is a dry white wine that has a resemblance to Sauvignon Blanc. So, if you like Sauvignon Blanc and enjoy cooking with it, you might as well try Vermentino instead.
Vermentino is a light-bodied wine with a complex flavor. It has a bright flavor with notes of green apple, almonds, citrus fruits, including lime and grapefruit.
Vermentino is also known as a wine with a sea breeze. This is because it has a mild saltiness.
How Do You Cook Clams In White Wine?
Cooking clams in white wine is fairly easy. You need to steam the clams in white wine until they open. For a richer and balanced flavor, most steamed clam recipes also call for garlic, lemon, shallots, herbs, etc.
Here are easy step-by-step instructions for cooking clams in white wine:
- Start with cleaning the clams. Take your time with this step. Purge the clams in a bowl filled with cold water. Leave them there for around 30 minutes to get rid of the sand in them. Then, give the clams a good scrub to have clean clams for your recipe.
- To start cooking, put a large skillet on medium heat and let it heat up. Add butter and some olive oil to prevent it from burning.
- When the butter is melted, add in one chopped shallot, three minced garlic cloves, and a tablespoon of red pepper flakes for a touch of heat.
- After cooking the mixture of shallots and garlic for 3-4 minutes, add the clams into the skillet.
- Pour white wine over the clams. Use 1.5 cups of white wine for every two pounds of clams. Stir everything, cover the skillet with the lid, and let the clams steam. Steaming the clams for around 8 minutes is enough. By this time, the clams should be all open.
- When the clams are all cooked, turn off the heat, and squeeze a lemon over the clams for freshness. If you like, you can top the steamed clams with chopped parsley for a fresh flavor and look.
- Give everything another good stir and serve your steamed clams with a slice of bread and a glass of white wine.
Can You Use White Dry Vermouth To Cook Clams?
Dry vermouth is a type of fortified wine. Fortified wines have high alcohol content. And wines with high alcohol content are believed to be unsuitable for cooking.
But white dry vermouth is an exception. If you happen to have an open bottle of white dry vermouth at hand, you can use it to cook the clams.
In fact, it will work great for cooking not only clams but other types of light proteins too, including chicken and other types of shellfish.
White dry vermouth has a crisp tart flavor like other types of dry white wine. It is also floral and fruity.
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