If you wince at the sound of ‘fried onions’ in a recipe, the chances are that you have not tasted perfectly cooked onions. When cooked in the right way, the onion slices are caramelised adequately in fat and its natural sugars and taste deliciously decadent. Since onions are the backbone of a variety of savoury dishes, it is essential to know the right way to cook them. It might seem like an easy aspect of the recipe, but it has the power to make or break it. Good recipes always specify how the onions should be cooked, for example, fried until translucent or golden brown or caramelised. If you don’t know what these terms mean, read on to discover the proper and right way to cook onion!
Step 1- Choose the right pan & draw out the moisture
While most pans work fine, it is better to choose one that gives your chopped or sliced onions space to move around but holds them snugly at the same time. A wok with a deep bottom and high sides work great for this purpose. Place it on a medium-low flame and add butter or oil of your choice. Then add the onion to the pan with a pinch of salt. Stir it nicely. It will allow the onions to release moisture, which will help soften them without needing to add water.
Step 2- ‘Sweat’ the onion
The first stage of cooking onions is called ‘sweating’, and this does not take much time after the onion hits the pan. In this stage, the onion is subjected to high heat, but it is not enough to change the colour. Therefore, the onion will now release moisture due to heat and salt, which makes them glisten like they are sweating. You can also cover the pan with a lid and stir the onion from time to time. Just make sure that you do not let them turn brown at this stage.
Step 3- Let the onion turn translucent
When you keep cooking the onion, they will gradually start to lose their colour and become translucent. The moisture released by the onion will evaporate, thus causing the onion to shrivel even more. The onion will have cooked in the oil/butter and its own natural sugars, which gives them a great taste. Ensure to adjust the flame and keep stirring at this stage, so that the onion does not turn brown.
Step 4- Let the colour change to a golden brown
By now, you should start smelling a sweet aroma from the onions. They will also start getting a golden colour up at the edges, which will gradually turn to brown. This is the preliminary stage of caramelising the onion. There is a thin line between caramelising and burning the onion, so keep moving them around the pan and don’t expose them to too high flame.
Step 5- Caramelise the onion
This is the last and final stage in the right way of cooking onions. It might take anywhere between 20-45 minutes to reach this stage depending on the type of onion, pan and thickness of the slices. You should be able to see a glaze of brown colour over the pan and smell the sweet and caramel-like aroma. When the onions are done as per the need of your recipe, you can add just a little wine, water or broth to deglaze your pan. If you prefer extra dark and sweet caramelised onion, you can continue cooking them until the liquid evaporates.