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Caramelizing Onions

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 

One of my most difficult cooking challenges has always been successfully caramelizing onions. The smaller pieces always blackened before the larger ones were golden. Too much added oil was used in attempt to prevent this, Et Cetera.

Here’s a very simple solution.

Cut your slices, (1/4”) discarding the small end pieces. Now cut the rings in half, place in the microwave and cook ‘till tender and translucent.

Nukes are as different as people. Even those with comparable wattage turn out differing results. I just put them into our 1000W oven for 3 minutes. After that they get tossed, examined and returned, one minute at a time until done.

They can now be used immediately or saved for just before the time of serving. If using the same day, refrigeration is not even required.

From here it’s a matter of finding the right heat for your frying pan and stove, (I got it right the first time.)  Bon Chance!

 

PS: They will be plate ready in 10 minutes instead of the 20-30 required if starting with raw onions.

post #2 of 26

The flavor cannot be the same because of the steeping and time factor. Just saute in a heavy pan and add a pinch of sugar, this will make them carmelize faster

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post #3 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by ED BUCHANAN View Post

The flavor cannot be the same because of the steeping and time factor. Just saute in a heavy pan and add a pinch of sugar, this will make them carmelize faster

 

This is why I avoid "caramelized onions" at restaurants at all costs.  Because I can tell they put sugar in them, yuck! 

 

This is not responsible cooking.  There is only one way to get a deeply sweet caramelized onion.  It's a process that is well worth following.  It takes time, up to an hour but there is no substitute that recreates the flavor.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #4 of 26

Not sure about the only one way that takes an hour. I caramelize onions at work at least once a week and usually about 6 large ones at a time. I do not use sugar and it takes me probably about 15 minutes or less. I am doing other prep projects at the same time so it is not like they require all my attention either. They turn out caramel colored and sweet just like they were meant to be, not the tan or beige insipid onions that I see at some places.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #5 of 26

when i caramelize onions i like to add a splash or two of fortified wine near the end...usually dry vermouth or a spanish sherry....i make a huge batch and freeze them.. i figure if you're gonna do all that crying, you might as well make it a good cry!!!!

 

joey

food is like love...it should be entered into with abandon or not at all        Harriet Van Horne

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food is like love...it should be entered into with abandon or not at all        Harriet Van Horne

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post #6 of 26

Aw don't cry, no onions are hurt during the caramelization process, I promise.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #7 of 26
Thread Starter 

So – Ed, I’m just wondering when you tried this method. Your opinion seems pretty firm. I agree about not using sugar as it turns into an onion relish on the plate.

I’ve often wondered about the advantages of doing them on a flat top. Maybe that somehow speeds up the cooking time?

The addition of a little wine sounds great. We all like Marsala so will give that a try next time. Freezing is a great tip too. I hadn’t thought of that.

Although no onions may have been hurt, my eyes are still trying to re-focusJ

post #8 of 26

I slice my onions polar rather than equatorial and I prefer no thicker than 1/8" (3 mm).

 

If sugar is used, it should be in scant quantities and only to encourage caramelization, not as a seasoning or sweetener
 

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #9 of 26

Never use sugar, unless you are not making chutney or marmalade..when you want to have really caramelised onion, like for instance for onion soup...roast it on high flame for a while, constantly stir, to get colour, but not too much..then lower the flame as much as possible a again, stir constantly and leave it caramelised...it loses like 2 thirds of its volume and will be soft, even coloured, sweet and have little marmalade-like consistency...and it depends of how much onion u use, but you can caramelize it for one hour or even more...unless its done..you want very soft sweet onion, not mash.:)

post #10 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Koukouvagia View Post

 

This is why I avoid "caramelized onions" at restaurants at all costs.  Because I can tell they put sugar in them, yuck! 

 

This is not responsible cooking.  There is only one way to get a deeply sweet caramelized onion.  It's a process that is well worth following.  It takes time, up to an hour but there is no substitute that recreates the flavor.

 

This the only correct answer.

 

Steelhead....when you say you caramelize onions in as little as 15 minutes, I am calling you out on this, because correctly done caramelized onions can not be accomplished in 15 minutes.

Caramelized onions have a deep flavor that can not be imitated by cooking onions on high heat with a sprinkle of sugar. The bases for a good French Onion soup relies on this important process.

Whilst I've never heard of adding any liquid (wine) to caramelized onions, I would think it defeats the purpose.

post #11 of 26

I agree with the no sugar or liquid camp. I cram my slow cooker with sliced onions only, give it about 8 hrs. The onions do not color, I store in the fridge then fry the amount I need for a few mins.

post #12 of 26

You can't caramelize onions in a crock pot or a microwave oven, they have to be cooked slowly over medium heat and be stirred, tossed, turned whatever your preference. Not too much oil, or you end up with a grease slick. Caramelizing takes time, you don't need sugar or cola or any other additives.

I posted this on another site recently where many were confused on what exactly caramelized onions are.

I do 3-4 batches a week of about 15 onions, I use them on my burgers. They have a deep sweet onion flavor, only seasoned with a bit of salt. Takes about an hour. I happen to use the flat top

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post #13 of 26

Caramelized onions = onions + butter + salt + cast iron pot + 45-60 minutes

 

No alternatives (except maybe olive oil instead of butter)

"We make our food; thereafter, our food makes us." - Winston Churchill (with a slight modification)
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"We make our food; thereafter, our food makes us." - Winston Churchill (with a slight modification)
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post #14 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by tylerm713 View Post

Caramelized onions = onions + butter + salt + cast iron pot + 45-60 minutes

 

No alternatives (except maybe olive oil instead of butter)

 

I use a combi of olive oil and butter.  And I make mine in my crueset although it can be done in other kinds of pans.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #15 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Koukouvagia View Post

I use a combi of olive oil and butter.  And I make mine in my crueset although it can be done in other kinds of pans.

I've experimented with that too. My Le Creuset definitely does the best job, but other pans will certainly work. I've even used a sheet pan on the grill. Definitely not the best method, but it works.

"We make our food; thereafter, our food makes us." - Winston Churchill (with a slight modification)
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"We make our food; thereafter, our food makes us." - Winston Churchill (with a slight modification)
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post #16 of 26

I personally add a splash of water as they are just colouring up if I'm in a hurry: It immediately softens them and makes the colour permeate.

post #17 of 26

I do an olive oil set for my vegan friends, but ghee/clarified butter is my preference as a general rule. 
Onions + ghee + salt + heavy skillet, I like to start mine in the oven and then finish stovetop (where I can watch more closely so it doesn't burn). 
It takes anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours and they are always a deep, gorgeous brown all the way through, no whites anywhere (and if I've done them right, no burned spots either). 

I've never worked in a restaurant that cheated by adding sugar.  Port wine or sherry to finish perhaps, but never sugar. And I've worked in a few terrible places but nowhere that hated food in the manner described above.  At worst they just lightly fried the onions and called them done.

When you try to 'cheat' by using the microwave you aren't really caramelizing the onions, you're just softening them.  If you add sugar 'to speed the process' you are just browning the outsides with a sugar glaze, not caramelizing the interior of the onion.  I'm sulfite-intolerant.  I'm not even supposed to have onions (or garlic), but I learned that caramelization also breaks down the sulfites enough that I don't have to give them up (which is good, because I won't).  If someone served me onions they had 'cheated on' I assure you there would be hell to pay for it, right after I was through being viciously ill.  'Softened and glazed' onions aren't the same thing as caramelized, if you're going to go that route why not just put dark corn syrup on them and call it a day?

post #18 of 26

It takes way longer then 15 or 20 minutes to properly carmelize onions., even with a pinch of sugar added.. Onions contain an oil and cooked slowly you are extracting that oil so tit will also help the onion carmelize . I do not use olive oil since I dont want any other overpowering taste. I use a light cannola and as little as possible and cook slow.

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post #19 of 26

If you have issues with the potential genetic modifications that were done to rapeseed plants to produce canola, you can also try safflower oil.  It's also got a really low flavor profile and high smoke point; the downside is it's more expensive.
 

post #20 of 26

I was happy to come across this and read the idea about using the crock pot. And not for caramelizing onions, but- I had been thinking recently about making onion paste to use in Indian masala sauces and hadn't really wanted them to caramelize at all. Ideas I had seen up to this point were to grind them raw in a wet grinder (which I don't have) or boil but try to grind with little to no water. I'd want my onions to be very soft, so they puree easily, but with minimal water and no color, if possible. It never crossed my mind to use the crock pot but for this it seems a good idea. 

post #21 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sue Lau View Post

I was happy to come across this and read the idea about using the crock pot. And not for caramelizing onions, but- I had been thinking recently about making onion paste to use in Indian masala sauces and hadn't really wanted them to caramelize at all. Ideas I had seen up to this point were to grind them raw in a wet grinder (which I don't have) or boil but try to grind with little to no water. I'd want my onions to be very soft, so they puree easily, but with minimal water and no color, if possible. It never crossed my mind to use the crock pot but for this it seems a good idea. 

 

What's a wet grinder?  A food processor would work ok but you can also grate onions by hand, I do that a lot when I make meatballs or stuffed vegetables.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #22 of 26

My 2 ¢. I prefer onions to be 1/8 inch and they MUST be all the same. I use all clad stainless, and limit the amount of oil - only what is necessary. One large onion = 1-2 tablespoons oil (I cant stand oily caramelized onions).  Get the oil hot, throw in the onions and toss so that they all get covered in the hot oil. I salt only half way through to release some liquid from the onion. Releasing all the liquid at first is like, well, never mind. 

 

I also add drops of water to deglaze the pan allowing the onions to pick up the color/ flavor. Not too much otherwise they turn to mush. Never use sugar. It takes me about 20- 30 minutes for medium dark but I babysit it constantly stirring etc.

post #23 of 26

slice the onions to what ever size you want just make sure you have them all the same, then in a heavy bottom sauce pot

sauté with a bit of canola oil, add a generous pinch of salt to draw out the water from the onions once the water is gone the sugars in the onion will caramelize

post #24 of 26


I use a pinch of sugar to star process. No matter how you cut onions make sure all cut he same(uniform cutting means uniform cooking  cut by hand with sharp knife DO NOT BURN. look at picture above color is spot on.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #25 of 26

I use bacon fat if I am using them to top burgers...

post #26 of 26

I use peanut oil and leave the lid slightly ajar to carmelize mine.  The process takes a couple of hours and I like to add some dry vermouth partway thru the process.

Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
(1 photos)
 
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Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
(1 photos)
 
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