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Feb 17, 2009 01:06 PM

how to get onions to soften

i don't know why but i can never seem to get onions to soften when i sautee them on the stove. i have tried using lower heat, adding salt, cooking for a longer time (8-10 minutes), cooking with the cover on, adding some water... they always still feel crunchy when i'm done! i cannot figure out what i am doing wrong. how do you get onions to soften?

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    1. Usually they dont need to be totally without firmness - when recipes say 'soften' they mean partially.

      A couple tsps of olive oil, medium heat put in sliced onions (or chopped) 15 mins - they are usually fairly soft. If you add stock or water along the way they are usually very soft.

      Why do you want them super soft?

      2 Replies
      1. re: marcharry

        i am usually making indian food and i like the onions to just kind of moosh into the surrounding stuff. from what i'm reading, maybe i'm using too high of heat and not cooking them long enough. keep the tips coming =) thanks!

        1. re: arifa

          I think that Indian softness needs something like a hour or more of braising. That is, the onions don't start to disintegrate and thicken the sauce until it cooks that long. But the pressure cooker is the modern secret weapon. Dice your onions, saute them briefly, and then cook at pressure for 10 minutes. When you open the lid the onions will be intact, but are soft enough to mash with a spoon. I think vegetables like onions are very sensitive to temperature, when it comes to softening them. Below boiling they take for ever, above boiling it is quite fast.

      2. Put a lid on them, they'll soften from the steam. Sorry I didn't read your topic very well. I make french onion soup often, I use a huge saute pan with layers of onions, I cut them very thin, add butter and a dab of olive oil, flip them every now and again and cover with the lid. I never add water, but then again I cook them 30- 40 min on low. Actually 8-10 minutes and not knowing the stove or the pan, doesn't sound like long enough to soften an onion. Not on my stove anyway.

        1. I find it usually takes about fifteen minutes on low - medium/low heat to soften onions. I believe that, as previously noted, the "lid on" technique helps. There should be enough natural moisture in the onions to provide the steam but it wouldn't hurt to add a little water (or wine) to help motivate the development of steam.

          1. Freeze sliced/chopped onion. This breaks the cell walls and they will soften quicker right out of the freezer and into the pan than would freshly-prepared onions. I buy 5pound or larger bags and spend an hour or so prepping them, so there's always a freezer-baggie of onions ready for instant use. Chilling them first cuts down on tear-production.