I adore caramelized onions! There isn't anything else out there that can turn your favorite dish into something instantly, deliciously gourmet. And caramelizing onions at home is really easy to do. All you need is a few onions, some butter, a little oil, a pan, and some time.
You can't rush true caramelized onions. Too much heat and they will scorch. Add sugar to speed up the process and they may look like caramelized onions, but they'll lack the depth of flavor real caramelized onions can bring.
The only way to really cook them is to grab your biggest pan, set a burner to medium heat, and let them cook slow. At this temperature, the sugars trapped inside the onion layers caramelize steadily, never burning but growing ever more golden and delicious.
I usually cook 5 to 6 big onions at once, which takes about an hour and a half. You can shorten that time a little by cooking just 1 or 2 onions, but I love to make extra for the freezer. Freezing them in ice cube trays gives you perfect little portion sized cubes to use later in your favorite recipes. A HUGE time saver!
Any onion will caramelize, so don't be shy about experimenting. I love yellow onions because they tend to caramelize the most easily and be the most versatile in dishes. Red onions are fun for their deep purple color and are great on pizzas and salads.
I highly recommend using a stainless steel or cast iron skillet when caramelizing onions. I'm not saying you can't caramelize onions in a nonstick skillet, but part of what makes these onions so special is that stuff that builds up on the bottom of the pan — scraping this up and stirring it into the onions gives them an even richer flavor — and this won't form in a nonstick skillet.
Freezing the onions when done is a great way to save them for later. Taking an afternoon to cook several meals worth of onions will save so much time later. I love using silicone ice cube trays. The onions will just pop right out when they are frozen. Store them in a ziplock bag in the freezer and pull out a cube or two every time you need some ready to go caramelized onions.
4-6 yellow onions
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
Trim the tip and root from the onions, cut them in half and remove the skins. Slice the onion from root to stem into thin slices.
Place your skillet over medium heat and melt the butter and olive oil. Add all the onions to the pan and stir them gently to coat with butter/oil.
Check the onions every 5 to 10 minutes. Stir the onions and scrape the bottom of the skillet. Exact cooking times will vary with the number of onions you're cooking, their liquid and sugar content, and their age.
Around 10 Minutes: Onions will start to soften and turn translucent in spots. They will release a lot of liquid into the pan. Around 20 Minutes: Onions will be very soft and starting to break down. Some onions will start to show spots of caramelization and you may see some brown starting to build up 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. More brown is starting to build upon the bottom, but it should still be fairly easy to scrape it up with the evaporating liquid from the onions.
Around 40 Minutes: Onions are golden and starting to smell very caramelized. Taste one — if you like the way they taste, you can stop now! For even deeper caramelized flavor, continue cooking.
Around 50 Minutes and Beyond: Continued cooking will result in darker, richer, even more caramelized onions. Continue checking the onions every 5 to 10 minutes until they reach your desired level of caramelization.
Cool and store the onions: If you're not using the onions immediately, let them cool in the pan, then transfer them to a storage container. Caramelized onions can be kept refrigerated for around a week or frozen for up to three months.
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I love cooking with real food, knitting with good yarn, sleeping in (when the kids let me), staying up late to finish that last chapter, DIY projects, and most of all enjoying life.
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