Cooking Sake

Japanese cooking sake
12/366” (CC BY 2.0) by Dylan M Howell

The idea of cooking with sake might sound strange to many Westerners, but it’s common practice in Japan. Cooking sake, along with mirin, are essential ingredients in Japanese cuisine, and here we will show you the different ways that it can improve the taste and even the appearance of your food. We will also review two bottles for you to try.

Topics Covered

  • Why cook with sake in the first place?
  • How does it differ from regular drinking sake?
  • How does it differ from mirin?
  • How to make food better with Japanese sake
  • Where to buy it from

Why cook with sake in the first place?

Cooking with sake enhances food greatly by locking in flavors and preventing food from falling apart when heating. It also brings out a mild taste while tenderizing the food and even masks unwanted odors from fish and meat dishes.

Have you ever seen how photos of food in cookbooks and online has that delicious golden brown glossy look? Well, cooking sake does that too.

How does it differ from regular drinking sake?

Cooking sake is indistinguishable from the drinking types but with one fundamental difference.

For stores to stock and sell sake, a liquor license is needed. This is fine if dealing with liquor stores, but they only stock the drinking varieties and not the ones for cooking. Instead, grocery stores stock and sell cooking sake, and the only way they can do that without a liquor license is if the cooking sake is made undrinkable.

Therefore, the only difference between cooking and drinking sake is the addition of salt. As much as 2-3% of the bottle consists of salt, thereby making it undrinkable and legal for grocery stores to stock and sell it without the need for a liquor license.

How does it differ from mirin?

You will be familiar with mirin if you have done or researched Japanese cooking before, but have you ever wondered how mirin compares to sake?

Cooking sake, in most cases, is added to food earlier in the cooking process compared to mirin, and this helps evaporate most of the alcohol. Also, cooking with sake is generally a much healthier option than mirin because it contains far less sugar.

How to make food better with Japanese sake

In this video from Japan Sake Official, Terumi Kobata shows us how to make cooking more delicious with sake. The video is owned and created by Japan Sake Official.

Where to buy cooking sake from

There are many places where you can buy cooking sake from if you feel like experimenting with it. It’s becoming more and more prevalent in chain stores, and you can always find it at your nearest Asian grocer.

Then again, you might live in an area where products such as these aren’t as readily available. If this is the situation you find yourself in, then you always have the option of buying it online.

A number of online retailers stock and sell it. Furthermore, you are more than likely to find that online retailers have a much larger selection for you to choose from. Such variety can cause confusion, especially with beginners, which is why we have reviewed two of the best bottles.

Recommended cooking sake brands

Below we have listed two amazing brands for you to try. If you can’t get your hands onto these or any other of the cooking brands, then why not use drinking sake instead? Any decent grade will do just fine. Just try not to use any of the premium brands because they are better enjoyed drinking during your meal.

Mirin Sweet Cooking Sake

Sweet cooking sake

This magic in a bottle gives your food a beautiful glow with a distinctly sweet taste. It quickly absorbs into the food and gets rid of those excessive and unwanted fish and meat odors.

Ingredients: Alcohol, water, salt, rice, mackerel powder, soybeans, bonito, and super-healthy kelp extract.

Kikkoman Ryorishi Cooking Sake (3 Pack)

Kikkoman Cooking Sake

This product from Kikkoman shares a lot of similarities with mirin but with a lot less sweetness. It’s also a favorite ingredient in many types of Japanese dishes as it prevents the disintegration of boiled food and helps remove odors from meat and fish. It’s also ideal for use in sauces and marinades.

The product has a reasonably long shelf life of 3 months as long as it’s stored in a cool, dry place after opening.

Ingredients: 13% alcohol, glucose, koji rice, sugar, and salt.

Related Content

Both mirin and normal drinking sake can be used in Japanese cooking recipes.