Learning how to caramelize onions should be on every home cook’s bucket list. Caramelized onions are not simply another name for sautéed onions, but rather an intensely flavorful ascension from the simple onion which gave it birth. Caramelized onions are the butterfly to the sautéed onion’s caterpillar, with slow and patient cooking being the cocoon… Look at me being all poetic with my imagery and whatnot.
Caramelizing onions is a venture that requires minimal ingredients other than some butter and patience, but in undertaking this journey the cook is rewarded with sweet and tender onion slices coated in a delectably sticky glaze. The sugars gently coaxed out of the onion during the slow cooking process form the catalyst for the tantalizingly tasty transformation.
How to Caramelize Onions – Recommended Equipment
First of all, a stainless steel straight sided sauté pan is built for exactly such an application. The straight sides allow for more surface area on the bottom of the pan, making room for more onions to brown at a time. Plus, the tall sides allow for a greater volume, easily handling 3-4 large onions per session. Stainless steel is recommended because it is well suited to build up fond on the bottom of the pan as the onions brown. This is where the flavor is! This is the set I use and love.
Additionally a flat edged metal spatula is perfect for scraping up the fabulous fond accumulating in the pan. The more fond you can get off the pan, the more flavor your caramelized onions will have!
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- 3 large onions
- 2 tbsp butter or oil
- 1/4 cup water wine, or balsamic vinegar
Cut off ends of onion, cut in half from root to tip, and proceed to slice from root to tip in 1/4" cuts.
Melt butter and/or oil in saute pan on medium heat.
Add onion and toss to coat completely in butter.
Let saute for thirty minutes, stirring occasionally. Don't stir too often or the onions won't brown quickly. Stir when they are starting to brown, but not burning. Be sure to scrap fond off the bottom of the pan as well when stirring to incorporate it into the onions.
Once onions begin to turn brown you may need to drop the heat to low to prevent burning and ensure even caramelization.
When the onions are caramelized to your liking, deglaze the fond with water (or wine or balsamic vinegar for more flavor) and stir into the onions.
Let liquid evaporate and remove the caramelized onions from the pan.
Using only butter works, but can cause the onions to burn more easily. I typically add half butter and half oil.
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