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Sep 11, 2007 08:53 PM

Shallots vs Onions

When cooking on the fly or developing your own recipe, when would one be better than the other?

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  1. There are several things I take into consideration. Texture: if it is cooked & you want crunch use onion. Shallot,especially if it is finely minced can almost disappear, so its a good choice for a smooth sauce. Time of cooking: If you want the flavor to stand out during a short cook use onion, shallot will mellow faster and blend with the other flavors quickly. Raw: shallot can have a very sharp bite, onion usually not quite as sharp raw. Price: onion usually less expensive. A lot is just your personal preference, so enjoy experimenting!

    4 Replies
    1. re: meatn3

      It all depends but I generally think of shallots as being for sauces dressings, etc...while onions are part of the actual dish itself.

      1. re: jamesm

        I agree, I think with shallots: sauces, salad dressings, chicken piccata, roasted vegetables.

      2. re: meatn3

        when you said "the shallot will mellow faster" , did you mean the shallot will caramelize much faster than onion with butter and oil in the pan? after i seared my steak on the pan, i found troble to caramelize my onion quickly in the same saute pan with browned butter and oil. so i have to ask you if i saute shallots after searing steaks with browned butter and oil instead of onions , can i caramelize the shallots more qucikly by sauteing it 2 or 3 mins?

        1. re: hae young

          I do not know if, cut to the same size, there is any difference in saute speed between shallot and onion. Most recipes calling for shallots in sauce specify very finely mincing them. My suspicion is that one reason shallots are usually called for in sauces is that only a small amount is used and a shallot is the right size, as opposed to using just a quarter or less of an onion. Shallot is described as having a flavor between garlic and onion so the recipe can omit garlic.

          To speed the cooking time of onions, keep some chopped/minced onion frozen in a zipper bag. Break off what you need and put it directly into the hot pan. Because freezing breaks the cell walls, it will cook faster, even from frozen, than freshly-cut onion. Hard to believe, but it works!

      3. Shallots vs. onions? I'll take shallots and the points.

        1. I think it all has to do with flavor. Each onion has it's own, even within the same varieties--if you buy a big old red onion that has been hanging around for a year in the bottom bin of a deli, that's one thing, and all together different than if you buy a tiny red onion still tight and bursting with life, from the farmer. I always suggest when you are trying to get to know an ingredient, have it alongside three or four other varietes, and for onions just saute each with a little olive oil and kosher salt. Taste them all. If you want to go a step further, do one set over a medium to hot flame for about five minutes, and then same variety, but longer cooking time--twenty minutes over a low to medium flame, and then of course, raw. (of course you could braise them all together as well with aromatics and stock to see what they taste like when they are in the same pot, but they we're talking about a whole day commitment)

          1. I think shallots have a little more of a garlicky bite to them, so I usually use them when garlic would not be inappropriate. Onions cook up a little bit sweeter, I think. I like to use both together.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ChristinaMason

              I've been subbing shallots for both/either onions and garlic, I notice when I do my husband seems to enjoy the dish more. They are now a staple in my fridge.