There are few things more annoying — or embarrassing — than breaking the cork off in the bottle’s neck when you’re serving wine to guests. Luckily, it’s become so common that a mini-industry of homemade remedies and gadgets has sprung up dedicated to efficiently getting those stuck corks out. There are two that work particularly well — one homemade, one that uses a gadget. Both work, and both keep those wood fibers out of your wine.
Push the stuck cork down into the bottle with a wooden spoon handle or other narrow poking device. Push gently and evenly to avoid breaking any more of the cork.
Place a coffee filter across the spout of a decanter. Push it down a couple of inches inside the vessel so it fits snugly.
Pour the wine into the decanter through the filter slowly, to avoid spilling and to get every piece of cork into the filter. If your grip holding the filter and the decanter is slipping, take a break. If the built-up cork pieces in the coffee filter are blocking the flow, stop and dump them into the compost.
Gently insert the longer blade of the cork puller between one side of the cork and the inside of the bottle. Insert no more than 1/2 inch.
Gently insert the shorter blade into the opposite side between the cork and the bottle. Again, insert no more than 1/2 inch.
Slowly rock the puller back and forth to drive the blades deeper along the sides of the cork; use a see-saw motion. Going slow is key to avoid pushing the cork into the bottle.
Stop pushing the blades when they are gripping the entire length of the cork, plus 1/2 inch, if possible.
Turn the puller as you pull the cork upward and out of the bottle. The blades grip the cork as it comes out. Again, go slowly to avoid pushing any cork pieces into the bottle — and to avoid pouring wine on yourself.
If it’s too difficult to push the blades along the entire length of the stuck cork, tap both sides of the top of the puller with a kitchen mallet.
The best two-pronged cork pullers have Teflon blades; the material is thin and strong enough to grip the cork properly.