How To Remove A Broken Cork From A Wine Bottle

It's happened to the best of us — you're ready to dig into a luscious bottle of wine, and just as you're about to pull the cork out, prepared for that soft, satisfying pop, you hear the sound of the cork splitting in two. While you may be tempted to reach for an electric drill to get what's left of the cork out of the bottle, there are some more efficient (and safer) methods. 

Though, if you've been in this spot, you know every attempt to remove the cork will further destroy it, so we suggest you use your judgment and pick the method you think will work best. The first thing to try is to insert the corkscrew into the remaining chunk of cork and remove it as if it were intact. You'll want to aim the tip of the corkscrew in the area where it seems the least likely to crumble, apply fewer turns (so the screw doesn't go all the way through it), and avoid pulling it too strongly or at a strange angle. If this method fails, all is not lost. It's just time to get a little creative.

Try angles and heat

If removing it the first way didn't work or the remaining chunk of cork is further down the neck, you can try adjusting the approach angle of your corkscrew. Try inserting the corkscrew into the stub at a 45-degree angle pressing it against the side of the bottle as you slowly attempt to drag it out. Depending on where the cork seems strongest, another approach is screwing the corkscrew along the side of the bottleneck between the cork and the glass and pulling it out from here. 

Failing this, you can simply try to move the bottle around the cork. To do this, secure the bottle at a 30-degree angle and press a part of the wine key other than the screw (so as not to further mangle it) into the stub, and gently attempt to slide out the cork remnant. Prior to any of these methods, it can be helpful to apply heat to loosen the cork by running hot water over the neck of the bottle to expand the glass. 

If the corkscrew methods fail

If angling the corkscrew and heat aren't successful at getting the broken cork out, it's time to enlist the help of other tools. You can attempt to slide a slim, sturdy knife down the center of the cork and twist it out. Just make sure the knife is tightly in the cork before you twist. You can also try running the knife around the edge of the broken cork to loosen it. 

If you've struck out thus far, it's time to step outside of the kitchen and grab your toolbox. You can try screwing a long wood screw into the cork with a screwdriver — corks are made of tree bark, after all — then using the claw end of the head of the hammer to pull it straight out. Because there are more threads on a regular screw than on a corkscrew, it will have more contact with the stub. 

And if getting it out just isn't happening, you can always commit to the bottle, and push the cork in as you pour the wine into another container. If you did succeed but cork pieces ended up falling into the wine, you can just decant it through a coffee filter or cheesecloth before you start sipping. And, for sure, you deserve to pour yourself a glass or two after all that grief.