If you have come across a recipe calling for cognac, and are not sure if the bottle you have sitting in your cabinet will work, then you need to know what to look for when choosing a cognac for cooking!
What are the best cognacs to use for cooking?
The best cognac to use for cooking will depend on what you are cooking, how much you are willing to spend, and the flavors you are wanting. Cognacs can be made with various flavor notes, such as apples, vanilla, honey, and more, so choosing flavors that suit your recipes is important.
There is so much that you can flavor and make with a small amount of cognac, so knowing what to look for in a good cognac for cooking will help you up your game in the kitchen!
Why Would You Use Cognac for Cooking?
You might have never used cognac for cooking before, but it is definitely something to consider, especially if you are looking to experiment more in the kitchen.
Cognac might be one of your favorite drinks to sip on, but when added to a dish, either sweet or savory, it adds a distinct, rich flavor that can pull other ingredients together beautifully, or finish off the flavor profile well.
Other than being used to flavor different dishes, cognac is also great to use to keep meats moist, although it can be quite pricey to use a large amount of cognac for meat!
The great bit is that you only need a small amount of cognac to flavor a dish, especially if you are not cooking it down. A single shot can really bring a dish to the next level.
How Should You Use Cognac for Cooking?
If you have ever seen anyone cooking with cognac before, it probably involved them using it to flambé meat or similar, where the cognac is poured into a hot pan and then set on fire to burn the alcohol off and to flavor and sear the meat or other food items.
This is definitely a popular way to use cognac in cooking, but there are many other ways it can be used as well.
Cognac is made from fermented fruits, whether apples, grapes, or peaches, and it goes through a distillation process to increase the alcohol content.
Once it has gone through the distillation process, it is aged in oak barrels, where it is left to develop more flavor.
This intense flavor, as well as the fruitiness, allows it to be a great addition for both sweet and savory dishes, whether adding it to a sauce or using it to flambe bananas foster dessert!
Cognac can be cooked down over heat, or set on fire like in a flambe, or it can be added directly to a sauce or dessert for a more intense, obvious flavor.
For a savory take, cognac is perfectly paired with different meats and seafood, and it is the ideal liquid to use to deglaze a pan to collect flavor and make a sauce!
Is Cognac the Same as Brandy?
There are many recipes that call for either cognac or brandy and if you taste the two without much knowledge of the differences, you might think that they are the same thing.
However, brandy and cognac are not the same things exactly. Cognac is a form of brandy and is made with some very specific guidelines. Cognac is made in wine-growing regions around the town of Cognac (where the name comes from).
It is also made using very specific production methods and is amber-colored. It is also made using specific grapes and is only distilled during a certain period of the year.
So while Cognac is a brandy, it is a specific type, and this means it has different flavors and properties.
There are various qualifications and labels given to various cognacs, to signify age, as well as the quality.
If you do not have cognac to use, brandy would be the next best substitute, and it will give you the closest flavor compared to what cognac would have.
What to Look For In a Cognac for Cooking
When using cognac for cooking, there are a few things you should keep in mind, to choose the best cognac for the meal you are making.
If in a pinch, you can definitely use any cognac you have sitting in your cabinet, but if you are going to go out and buy a cognac to use specifically for a meal, here are some of the factors to consider:
You would be using the cognac in your cooking to add flavor, and as different cognacs can have different flavor notes, this is something to look for.
Some flavor notes that you can find in cognac include apple, grape, peach, vanilla, spices, oak, plum, apricot, and more.
Consider the other ingredients you are using in the dish, and try to match the cognac flavor notes to these, or look for flavor notes that will help to highlight the other ingredients more.
Sweet or Savory
Most cognacs for cooking can be used in both sweet and savory dishes, but there are some that are better suited for certain flavors.
If you are making a sweet dish, then a cognac with flavor notes of apple, vanilla, and spices would be ideal. For more savory dishes, cognac with notes of oak, plums, grapes, and similar would be better suited.
Cognac can range from a low price to an incredibly high price, and this mostly depends on how long the cognac was aged for, the various ingredients, as well as the brand.
When cooking with cognac, you wouldn’t necessarily want to have an expensive cognac, as you would not be able to appreciate it fully in the meal.
A lower-range or mid-range cognac would be better, and as you would only need a small amount to cook each dish, the bottle will last you quite some time!
If you are wanting to buy a higher-quality cognac, but do not necessarily want a full bottle, you could look for a smaller quantity bottle to purchase instead.
Which Cognacs Are Best for Cooking?
Now that you know what to look for when choosing the best cognac for cooking, here are our top recommendations to consider. We have chosen a few different options to suit different dishes, budgets, and flavors!
Decourtet vs Cognac
Decourtet vs Cognac is an affordable cognac that ticks so many boxes when it comes to cooking. While it is considered more affordable, it is still smooth and velvety, and has delicate floral notes of lavender and violet that really shine through.
Along with the floral notes, the cognac also features profiles of pear, apricot, plum, and even salted butterscotch, as well as a spicy wood finish, which makes it a great option for sweet dishes and desserts.
However, the oaky, spicy wood finish also means it is a good option for savory dishes too, and it can help to compliment spicier dishes that have rich ingredients.
Hennessy XO Cognac
Hennessy XO Cognac is a popular cognac and is likely one you have heard of already. It has a great flavor profile, with rich dried fruit, prune, cocoa, oak, and nuts, wrapped up with the main grape profile.
The oaky flavor, as well as the nutty almond notes, develop well over the long time spent in oak casks during aging, and along with the fruity flavors, the cognac is a good pairing for savory dishes.
The robust flavors hold up well to other rich ingredients, and it adds a delicious dimension to savory dishes and sauces.
Courvoisier XO Cognac
Courvoisier XO Cognac is left to age for between 3 and 7 years, which gives it enough time to develop its delicate flavors.
This cognac has main notes of peach, along with woody flavors, so it is suitable for both sweet and savory dishes, but it tends to do well especially when being used for desserts.
The woody notes in the cognac also allow it to stand up well to rich meat dishes, and it can add a great bit of flavor to sauces, or be used to flambe fruits for a dessert.
It is also an affordable cognac, so it makes sense to keep a bottle at home for cooking!
Martell Cognac is a rich cognac that is full of different flavor notes, which makes it a favorite for so many.
When it comes to cooking, the plum, apricot, candied lemons, and richness mean it is perfect for sweet and savory dishes. The rich flavor holds up well to other strong ingredients, so you won’t lose the flavor profiles during the cooking process.
Use Martell Cognac to pan sear steaks, duck breasts, creamy sauces, or earthy brown sauces, where the cognac is used to deglaze the pan, collect flavor, and develop a rich-tasting dish!
What Can You Use In Place of Cognac for Cooking?
Cognac can be pricey, and because of this, you might not want to buy a bottle just to use for cooking.
If you are making a recipe that calls for cognac, but you do not have any, or do not want to purchase any, here are the best substitutes to use in its place:
The most obvious substitute to use in place of cognac would be brandy, as cognac is a type of brandy. It will have pretty much the same flavor and effect when used in cooking, but maybe with that missing finesse that cognac has.
However, if you are cooking this down into a sauce or reduction, it should not be such a noticeable difference. This is not a good substitute if you are looking for something alcohol-free.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar can help to provide that fruity, apple flavor similar to cognac, and the vinegar notes will have that same acidic bite to it that cognac would have provided.
You will also only need a small amount of apple cider vinegar, as it does have a strong flavor to it, or it could end up ruining a dish.
This is really only a suitable substitute for savory dishes!
Often, cognac is added to a dish, whether sweet or savory, for its fruity notes. This means that a good substitute to use would be a fruit juice with the same fruits, as it will provide much of the same profile, but without the alcohol.
If the cognac you were meant to use was more apple-forward, then using apple juice could be a good substitute. Try to use one which contains less sugar, as you do not want to add too much sweetness to the dish.
Similar to apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar can make a good substitute for cognac in savory dishes. Some balsamic vinegar can have quite a fruity profile and the acidic bite helps to replace cognac well.
It is also an alcohol-free substitute, so it can be used for many different diets, and be used to cook for the whole family!
What Can I Make With Cognac?
There are so many different meals, sweet and savory, that you can make using cognac. Adding some cognac to your cooking can elevate your food to the next level, and add flavors you never knew you were missing.
For savory cooking, cognac can be used to moisten meat and to flavor meat, seafood, and poultry when being seared in a pan. It is also a great liquid to use to deglaze a pan, collecting all of the flavors to make either a creamy sauce or a brown sauce.
You can also use cognac to make pates, terrines, and more.
There are many different sweet dishes that can be made with cognac, and in a variety of ways too. One popular way that cognac is used in sweet dishes is to flambé fruits, where the fruit is set on fire in a pan as the cognac burns off, giving great flavor and texture to the ingredients.
Cognac can also be added to sweet sauces too, for an extra kick in a dessert, or as a topping.
The Best Cognac for Cooking
With some incredible cognacs out there to try, you are sure to find the right one to use for your cooking. The best cognac to use for your cooking will depend on what you are making, the flavors you are after, as well as how much you are wanting to spend.
Read through the above guide to find out all you need to know about cooking with cognac, how to choose the best cognac for cooking, as well as our top recommendations of cognac to cook with!
We have also included a quick round-up of substitutes to use in place of cognac if you have run out.
Is Cognac Good for Cooking?
Cognac is great for cooking and adds a rich flavor to desserts, and great flavor to sauces, steak, and more. You only need a small amount of cognac to flavor a meal, so one bottle goes a long way.
Should You Cook with Cognac or Brandy?
Whether you choose to cook with cognac or brandy is up to you, and up to what you might have in your cabinet waiting to be used. Brandy can be more affordable, but if you prefer the taste of cognac, then that might be a better option for you to use!
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