Make a splash! The 8 best vinegars and how to use them

In season 10 of Top Chef, the exquisite Anna Faris and the mediocre Chris Pratt are guests in one episode. When Gail Simmons reviews a dish, she says a certain element of the dish “gave us a much-needed hit of sourness.” Pratt then says tonelessly, joking, “…did you guys take a shot of LSD, too?” Everyone giggles and then moves on, but it’s a silly joke that actually has a well-intentioned meaning when it comes to the bright spice and ingredient.

The legendary, incredibly popular Samin Nosrat book Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking was a classic for many reasons, but one aspect I was such a fan of was its inclusion of the word ” Acid”. right in the title.

Discussion of the acidic ingredient in food has become increasingly common over the past decade, also due to its mentions on cooking competition shows like the aforementioned Top Chef, or even on The Food Network in general. However, at one point the term was rarely used in the culinary world. Perhaps it was because the word itself wasn’t necessarily associated with food, while “citrus” or “vinegar” are unambiguous and unambiguous.

Regardless, I often find acidity to be one of the strongest and most important components of dishes, but mastering the balancing act of acidity is difficult.

As the epitome of a “staple,” vinegar often becomes an unsung hero, which is unfortunate because it’s a beacon of versatility. Vinegar can add flavor, ferocity, punch, lightness, brightness – and of course a real one blow of acid. You just have to know how to use it.

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However, figuring out how to best use vinegar is a challenge for many. Start considering all the decisions you need to make – which vinegar to buy? What will become your “everyday” vinegar versus your “special occasion” vinegar? Why are there so many varieties? – and this challenge slowly turns into a labyrinthine achievement.

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To counteract this, here is a quick guide to help you enjoy the wide world of vinegars.

I love balsamic vinegar in all its variations. I really love it for every use. I even wrote him a love letter once.

As I said at the time, balsamic vinegar is “syrupy, sweet and sour, it gives lift and power to anything it’s added to, sometimes turning into an elixir that bridges the disparity between savory and sweet more than any other spice.”

I will note, however, that actual, real balsamic vinegar is a far cry from the sugary, heavy balsamic reduction some restaurants peddle, or even the pungent, unappealing balsamic vinaigrette you can pick off supermarket shelves.

Aside from being great on leafy salads, drizzled over crispy chicken chops, or used as the perfect bread dipper with olive oil and fresh herbs, I’m a huge fan of cooked balsamic vinegar. A reduced pan sauce that’s just balsamic and butter (with some broth, broth, or water to go with it) is really A+.

Don’t forget the white balsamic vinegar either! It has a lighter, slightly sweeter flavor (almost reminding me of a savory apple or grape juice?), with a subtle saltiness and an almost champagne-like fermentation or carbonation. It’s a beautiful ingredient.

Wine vinegar is great and incredibly versatile. They’re great in stir-fries and quick dishes, in pickles, as a backbone in sautéed vegetables, or drizzled over a grain or macaroni salad. I especially love the pungent coolness of rice vinegar. Champagne vinegar is not versatile, so use it wisely.

Red wine vinegar is my choice for a really great, classic turkey sandwich (with mayonnaise and LTO, plus banana peppers and provolone), white wine vinegar goes great in a beurre blanc or as a strong acidic note in a potato salad with grainy mustard and lots of fresh herbs. These vinegars are also great for marinades.

Sherry vinegar is a bit more expensive (and sometimes comes in decent bottles), but it’s hands down in my top 3 favorite vinegars. It has a sublime, savory note that really makes anything it’s added to stand out.

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I prefer it “raw,” as a dressing on top of thinly sliced ​​veggies or greens, or drizzled over cereal with veggies and cheese chunks, but it can be cooked and used for other uses as well. A quick dash of it also goes really well in soups or broths.

Apple cider vinegar was once the hero of the vinegar world — reputedly a vinegar rich in health and nutritional benefits — but honestly, it’s one of my least favorites. It can border on the hot for me and gets overused at times; For example, I don’t think it’s a great salad dressing vinegar because it can be quite overwhelming.

But if you are an ACV devotee, disregard me and use it with reckless abandon! Just keep in mind that its acidity seems high, and it’s a perfect example of one of those acids that can trigger a coughing fit if you happen to eat a bite of lettuce that’s particularly aggressively presented.
Distilled white vinegar is strong. I also have a super strong dislike for its flavor, especially when cooked. But it’s probably the ideal multipurpose vinegar (and it has many uses outside of cooking, too). It’s great for quickly adding to the boiling water when preparing boiled eggs. It also works well for glazing vegetables — often with butter — or even added to pie batters. It can also be used in combination with dairy products to make a makeshift “buttermilk” for baking.
To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever used it other than as a dipper for french fries, but the flavor of malt vinegar is so instantly recognizable (and I love the aroma). Malt vinegar isn’t a very common ingredient, other than being a classic fish and chip accompaniment, but it’s always been an ingredient I think I’d like to work with more.

In recent years, specialty vinegars have been all the rage, ranging from flavors like celery (which I bought and didn’t love) to persimmon. There are a variety of new companies dealing in these specialty vinegars, but be warned they can be outrageously expensive. However, some are wonderful while others seem to fall a bit flat for me. I would also use them very wisely, especially given their high price.

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