Cooking With Mirin: The Dos And Don’ts

Mirin is a Japanese rice wine that is best known for its use as a cooking wine rather than one for drinking. Its sweetness is one of the characteristics that make it such a versatile addition to your pantry, but you will need to keep a few things in mind when using it. Consider the following dos and don’ts of cooking with mirin.

Do add mirin at the end of your dish’s cooking time or after the dish has finished cooking.

The same sugar content that allows it to enhance the flavor profile of savory foods can also cause it to burn quickly. This is especially likely in stir-fried dishes that are cooked over high heat.

Do use mirin to simmer meats, seafood and other foods that may have gamey or otherwise unpleasant flavors or odors.

The ability to eliminate unwanted tastes and smells is one of the reasons that mirin is used in Japanese dishes.

Do use mirin in Western-style preparations.

Mirin works well in poached pears and other boozy desserts. Mirin is a cooking wine, which means that you can use it in any recipe that calls for wine; its flavor profile is just as complementary to foods as Western grape-based wines.

Do store mirin in a cool environment.

If stored correctly, it can last for as long as three months.

Do add mirin to dishes in small amounts.

It works best when it accentuates other flavors instead of overpowering them. For example, you shouldn’t use more than 2 tablespoons in a 4-serving dish.

Do cook mirin for at least 30 seconds if you want the alcohol to evaporate.

Short cooking is necessary if you want to cut its alcohol content, such as when cooking for children.

Do learn about the different types of mirin before making a purchase.

Aji mirin and hon mirin are the two best-known varieties. Aji mirin is sweetened synthetic mirin with a lower alcohol content and a cheaper price as a result. It may be sweetened with corn syrup and lacks the umami note that is one of the key properties of hon mirin. The umami flavor is essential for savory Japanese dishes. Hon mirin has a relatively high ABV with 14 percent and is made from a fermented mixture of glutinous rice, koji and shochu.

Do cook with hon mirin rather than the inferior aji mirin if you have the option.

If you don’t, the aji mirin can be a passable substitute in some dishes.

Do use mirin as a subtle sweetener.

Before sugar became commonplace in Japan, mirin was the all-purpose sweetener of choice and was used in beverages to add a light sweetness.

Do use mirin to make a glaze.

Mirin makes an excellent glaze because of all the sugar it contains. It is traditionally used to give sushi rice its glossy appearance and can do the same in a stir-fry sauce. It works in Western dishes as well. Use it on your hams and roast chickens to give the surfaces an attractive sheen.

Don’t add as much sugar to a recipe when cooking with mirin.

Cut the amount of sugar that the recipe requires unless you are using mirin to replace an equally sweet ingredient.

Don’t store mirin in the refrigerator.

This can cause its sugar to crystallize, making the mirin unusable.