Carmelized onions are a real treat in many dishes and accompanying meats of all kinds. There are some tricks to doing it right, but it’s not too hard.

Different kinds of onions provide different flavours. Yellow onions are sweet enough to carmelize on their own quite well. Vidalias are superb onions for carmelizing. Red onions less so; they are usually better raw in salads and as flavour additions on sandwiches, burgers, etc.

Directions:

  1. Peel the onion, and either chop it or cut it into slices. Cutting an onion can be an art in and of itself. The way I do it is to chop off each end of the onion, peel off the paper and tougher outer layer, slice the onion in half, then start the process for chopping or slicing.

To chop:

  1. lay the onion half cut side down

  2. make a cut horizontally most of the way across the onion from the top to the bottom (the bottom is where the stem was)

  3. make vertical parallel cuts from the top end to not quite the bottom end

  4. turn the onion and repeat the vertical parallel cuts in the opposite direction starting from the top to the bottom.

To slice:

  1. lay the onion half cut side down

  2. starting from the top, make thin slices going down to the bottom end of the onion

Mandoline:

A very cool kitchen gadget to have around is a mandoline. This lets you make very thin slices of things quickly. Just be very careful using it – always use the guard because it can be far too easy to slice a finger with these. You don’t have to cut the onion in half after to peel it; large round slices of onion are pretty nice.

Cooking:

  1. Now that you have your onion prepared, prepare the pan: put the pan on medium heat and let it warm up

  2. add a small amount of butter, olive oil or (what I usually do) a coating of cooking spray and let the oil warm up but not burn!

  3. add the onions to the pan and start them going

  4. sprinkle a tiny amount of brown sugar on the onions and mix in

  5. stir the onions occasionally, not too often. If you stir too often, they won’t carmelize. The onions need to burn very slightly to carmelize

  6. keep it going over medium heat

  7. if the onions start to get too dry, you can add a bit of water or wine to the pan (very little, don’t want to drown them)

  8. as things go along, you may find you need to stir up the onions a bit more to keep them from burning on the pan

  9. keep the onions going for about 40 to 45 minutes to carmelize them

Notes:

You can prepare a batch of carmelized onions in advance and used enough for whatever recipe you’re cooking. They will keep great in individual freezer bags. You can thaw them in the microwave and add them to the dish.

You can carmelize onions and cook whatever other food your doing together. Simply start the onions first and let them get half-way to two-thirds of the way done, then add the other ingredients (this is a fabulous way to do brats and sausages). Meat tends to cook at a higher temperature than the onions, so you want to watch them to make sure they aren’t burning.

See this great article on how so many recipes lie about how long it takes to carmelize onions!