Essential Vinegars for Your Pantry

Vinegars are great for salad dressings and sauces. With so many choices out there, how do we know which ones to use and which ones are the most versatile? I love having a few bottles of different vinegars in my pantry so that I can make any kind of salad dressings for lunch or dinner. Aside from salad dressings, vinegars are also great to add a depth of flavour to your marinades, stews, soups and sauces.

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Here are five most common cooking vinegars:

  1. Red Wine Vinegar

This is a fantastic all –purpose vinegar that is made from fermenting red wine. It is rich and fruity. Use it for salad dressings, marinades or even in soups if you want to give them an extra zing! Keep in mind that if your dishes are pale in colour (ex. Cream sauce), red wine vinegar may discolour them.

  1. White Wine Vinegar

This vinegar is of course made from white wine, and it is a bit mellower than red wine vinegar. It is also preferred over the harsh distilled white vinegar because white wine vinegar will not over power the flavours in your dish. It will help to brighten up and add a refreshing taste to rich sauces and vinaigrettes.

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Grilled Corn Salad with White Wine Vinegar Dressing
  1. Balsamic Vinegar

A lot of people are familiar with this dark brown vinegar which is made from unfiltered, unfermented grape juice. The process is very similar to wine making where grapes are pressed and aged. The older the vinegar, the sweeter and thicker it is. Balsamic vinegar is great to bring some sweetness to a dish. Its flavor is very distinct and I love using it to marinate meats to make dishs such as sticky grilled chicken wines or pork ribs. It is also great for beef stews and it can even be used in desserts!

  1. Rice Vinegar

This vinegar is most commonly used in Asia such as China, Japan and Korea. It is made from fermented rice wine. Rice vinegar is mild, subtle and is probably the sweetest out of all the vinegars. One common uses for rice vinegar is seasoning for sushi rice. I love using this vinegar to make dipping sauces and Asian style dressings.

  1. Cider Vinegar

This vinegar has a hint of apple flavor because is made from pressed apples that are allowed to ferment to become alcohol and then vinegar. The flavor is mellow and sweet, making cider vinegar very versatile. I love using this in homemade barbecue sauce and even for some mild pickling. It is a great everyday use vinegar for dressings, marinates and soups and can be a substitution for red wine vinegar.

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Kale Salad with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Olives, Pine Nuts and Cider Vinegar Dressing

Here is a Chinese version of this post on the Day Day Cook website. (Translation courtesy of Day Day Cook Editorial Team).

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My cooking video on Chicken Soba Noodle Salad with Sesame Sauce.


Know Your Cuts

For many, having a good steak dinner is usually reserved for special occasions. A good piece of steak is tender, juicy, meaty and packed full of flavour. Paired with the right side dishes, a piece of good quality steak is elegant, comforting and satisfying.

I am sure we are all quite familiar with the top cuts, also known as, the primal cuts of beef. These cuts, including, rib eye, sirloin, tenderloin, and T-bone are all extremely good cuts of meat. However, they can also be quite expensive. And with a price tag that is so high, many home cooks are afraid to cook them. I used to only eat steak in fancy restaurants and I enjoyed every minute of those meals.

With all these various cuts and with beef always being quite expensive, it is worth knowing the different cuts of beef.

Primal cuts are usually from areas of the cow that don’t need to do much work. These muscles are not exercised very much or they don’t contain a lot of connective tissues that would need hours of cooking time to break them down. As a result, these steaks are extremely tender and cooking them over intense high heat, sealing in the juices, is usually all that needs to be done to them.


However, to create a special steak dinner at home without breaking the bank is also very doable. To use a more affordable cut of meat, all we have to do is spend a little more time to prepare the meat in advance, marinating them to break down the tough tissues, and you’ll be able to enjoy a good beefy piece of meat just the same.

One of my favourite subprimal cuts (less pricy cut) is the flank steak. This cut definitely not as fancy but it cooks just as quickly and gives you the same big flavor as any of the primal cuts. Flank steaks are great for causal weeknight dinners alongside with a simple salad or roasted vegetables. If you have any leftovers, they are awesome for steak sandwiches the next day!

So where is this flank steak from? The flank is located at the bottom side of the cow, below the ribs. It is quite wide but thin, which makes it great for dinner parties as well as they cook quickly and you can slice them up thinly to serve a crowd.

The best way to cook flank steak is to grill them over high heat in a skillet or even stir-fry. But since it is a fairly tough and chewy cut, marinating it is essential. My go-to way with this is to soak the flank steak in a bath of red wine with some fresh herbs, garlic and salt and pepper. I like to marinate the flank steak for at least an hour, but it will hold up to even 24 hours. Get the steak marinating in the fridge before you go to bed or work and all you have to do when you get home is cook it over high heat in a skillet!


Another trick to make sure your flank steak is not chewy is to slice it against the grain. All cuts of steak will have muscle fibres running throughout, it just depends on the density of those fibres. By cutting across the grain, you are further breaking down these fibres to ensure a less chewy texture.


Want to know how this is done? Click here to see my latest video on How to Cook Flank Steak.

Here is a link to the Chinese version of this article, courtesy of DayDayCook: