How To Caramelize Onions
How long does it take to caramelize onions
Six very different techniques can be used to caramelize onions. They range in time and complexity, from one-minute methods to long slow cookers. True caramelized onions cannot be rushed. Bump up the heat and they scorch; add brown sugar or balsamic too early, and they may look like caramelized onions, but they'll lack that deeply caramelized, hauntingly savory flavor.
It's not possible. Instead, grab your largest saucepan, heat on medium-high heat and cook the pungent aliums slowly. This temperature allows the sugars within the onion layers to caramelize steady, not burning, but becoming ever goldenr and more delicious.
Don't feel that you have to hover by the stove. When the onions start to turn, keep an eye on them for five to ten minutes so you can give them a stir. Scrape up the sticky "fond" that builds up on the bottom of the pan and stir it into the onions. The heat can be adjusted to ensure they continue cooking, but not burn. You can't help but eat them as soon as they are done in the pan.
Cut the onion in half. The tip and roots of two to four yellow onions can be trimmed. Halve each onion from root to stem, then remove the skins. Split each half lengthwise from stem to root.
Warm the butter. Heat 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Or heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil to shimmer.
Add the onion mixture. All the onions should be added to the skillet.
You can caramelize the onions. Then, cook the onions. Check them once every five minutes. With a wooden spoon, stir the onions. The exact cooking time will depend on the quantity of onions, their sugar and liquid content and their age.
* Around 10 Minutes: Onions will start to soften and turn translucent in spots. The onions will start to release lots of liquid.
* 20 minutes. Onions should be softened and beginning to separate. Some onions may begin to develop caramelized spots and some fond might start to form in the pan. They will also start to smell caramelized. Adjust the heat if the onions seem to be cooking too quickly or you notice any burnt spots.
* Around 30 Minutes: Onions should be light blonde in color and starting to become jammy. Fond is becoming more dense, but should be easy to remove with the evaporated liquid.
This is How We’ve Re-Tested It
The best caramelized onion method of all was tested against each other in September 2019. America's Test Kitchen won the contest with their method of steaming onions over high heat. After the onions have caramelized, they are cooked covered over medium heat. At this point, a mixture of baking soda and water is added.
This new method was so helpful, it felt like it was time for us to try our own caramelized onion recipe to find out how it stacks up. I pulled out my most sharp chef's knife and put my onion goggles on my eyes. Then, I started cutting.
It was important to pay attention both to timing and doneness. The onion cooked with America's Test Kitchen's method browned, leaving behind a bitter taste. Ultimately, we found that Kitchn's technique of cooking the sliced onions over moderate heat gave more consistent results.
We were able to identify some issues and clarify certain steps as a result. The onion sugars begin to caramelize quicker as the water from the onions evaporates. In order to brown the onions evenly and create fonds on the bottom, we have added directions. As a nod to the winning skills battle contender, we've also added the optional step to stir in a bit of baking soda in the end to intensify the color and sweetness of the onions.
Claire Saffitz Editor’s Note: This recipe originally appeared on August 3, 2017.
With this caramelized onions recipe, you can get amazingly delicious onions every time. After you have mastered this technique you will be able to use it for all things, including French onion soups and onions dips.
It's key to use a large saucepan. You can allow your onions enough space to steam without crowding. The best way to ensure that onions fall apart fast and are easy to digest is to slice them in the same direction as their natural grain.
This is how we breakdown the steps.
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What are Caramelized Onions and How Do They Work?
Caramelized onions are made by very slowly cooking onions so that they become meltingly soft, deeply browned throughout, and wonderfully sweet. You can slice the onions, or chop them.
In the browning process, there are two different reactions: caramelization (in which sugars become hundreds of new molecules) and Maillard reaction (in which proteins, sugars and other substances transform into an incredible number of flavors and aroma molecules). Maillard reaction, together with caramelization, transforms pungent raw onions into mild, sweet treats.
What caramelized onions don't look like: These onions have not been sauteed on high heat to brown or char unevenly. It takes caramelized onions time to slowly and evenly deepen in color and flavor. This ensures that they are consistent and without bitter flavors or burned bits. They shouldn't burn if they're cooked slow and evenly. You accidentally overcooked caramelized onions.
These photos show caramelized onions in a range of stages. I also took one batch from the image to illustrate. Caramelized onions need not be cooked at a very dark temperature. The dish may have a better argument to cook your caramelized onions at a light brown shade. For example, my French onion soup recipe encourages lighter caramelization. This approach is supported by many French chefs.
Is Baking Soda able to speed up caramelized onions?
These two samples had baking soda in them. However, the two piles of sludge on the right included baking soda. The two highest samples were prepared with butter while the bottom two were made with oil.
Answer in a short sentence: Yes. Long answer, yes, but it's disgusting.
Baking soda raises the pH of onions and speeds up the browning process necessary to caramelize them properly. Baking soda can also cause the onion to lose its pectin. The result is a bland stew made of pea-green pectin. It also has a bitter chemical taste that is just wrong.
My testing revealed that baking soda was insufficient to make the batch acceptable. Baking soda in even the smallest amounts can ruin a batch.
Perfect Caramelized Onions
Jump to Recipe Here's how to caramelize onions so they're deep brown and tender! This caramelized onion recipe is an essential technique for all home cooks.
They can be prepared in just 10 minutes. Cook them for one hour and they will begin to release natural sugars. They go from being raw and pungent, to becoming silky smooth and dark brown. They have a delicious, sweet-savory flavor with a rich texture. The caramelization transforms pasta and dips like burgers to gold. You can see how this happens: A graphic shows every stage of the caramelization.
A Quick Tutorial: How to Make Caramelized Onions
You don't really need a recipe to learn how to caramelize onions: think of it more like a rhythm. There are only three things you'll need: onions, butter/oil, salt and some pepper. Here's a quick look at the stages of the caramelization process, then scroll down for a handy graphic.
Slice the onion. It works best to slice the onions about 1/8 inch thick. A whole 3-pound bag will make approximately 2 cups of caramelized onion.
Saute the onions for 8-10 minutes at medium heat. Add the butter to the pan, and then saute them until soft.
Cook for about 40 minutes, on medium high until it turns very dark brown. The onions will go through three stages. First, they'll be golden, then turn medium brown and then darken. You can tell when the flavor is sweetened, developed, and tender.
Storage and planning tips
Do caramelized onions can be made ahead? Are caramelized onions possible to be frozen? Yes. You can, but it will take 1 hour. This is why it's difficult to do for a weeknight meal. Here's how you can make them in advance:
For up to four days, you can refrigerate. Keep them chilled until ready for use. Before serving, heat them.
You can freeze for as long as 3 months. Put small quantities of caramelized onions into a muffin tin. You could also freeze them, though you would need to unfreeze them all. You can keep them for up to three months. However, they are most effective when stored in a cool place.
slice the onions about 1/8-inch thick (we used a French cut by slicing stem to root; go to minute 1:40 of the linked video for a tutorial).
Heat the butter in a large soup pot on medium heat. Then add the onions to the butter and stir often for between 8-10 minutes until the onions are very soft.
Turn down the heat to medium and add the kosher sea salt. Cook for 40 to 45 minutes, stirring every 5 to 10 minutes and adjusting the heat so they continue to cook slowly without burning. See the graphic above. After cooking, onions should turn from very raw to extremely golden to very light brown. Take a tip from the pros: Prepare caramelized onions at once and let them cool in the fridge for at most 4 days.
Keywords: Caramelized onions.
What is the best way to caramelize onions without burning them?
Depending on how strong your stovetop burner is you may need to reduce the heat to medium or medium low to prevent the onions from burning or drying out. Salt the onions and add some sugar to speed up the process of caramelization.
How long does it take to caramelize onions?
Some recipes claim it takes from 45 to an hour to caramelize the onions. Other recipes recommend 30 to 40 mins for thin slices.
Which is better: Butter or oil?
For caramelizing onions you only need butter. The oil will prevent the onions from burning by adding some oil. Avoid extra virgin olive oil, which is sensitive to heat, in favor of light or refined olive oil.Jul 9, 2015
What is the fastest way to caramelize onions?
Baking soda accelerates onion caramelization by raising the pH level, which in turn causes the browning and release of sugars.