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"A medium yellow onion..." = yecch!

I've come across a number of recipes herein that call for "medium yellow onion."

I've always used either Vidalias or, if they're not available, the huge yellowish-white "chef's" onions.

My questions are as follows:

a) do any other chowhounds hate the crummy yellow things that come in the mesh bags? I certainly do.

b) do you find yourself using *more* onion than recommended in a recipe for soups, stews, etc.?

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  1. I'm kinda with you here. I use white onions more often than not unless the yellow ones are SUPER cheap on sale. I use red/green for using fresh (salads, salsas, cold dishes etc) and white ones for cooking. One of my friend's little abuelita told me that she only used white onions for cooking. She was an amazing cook, from moles to soups to potato salad. Over the past 5 years or so, I find myself enjoying cooked foods more when white onions are used.

    1. We cook with a variety of onions: Vidalia, large whites, Spanish, shallots and Bermudas. Vidalias, Spanish, shallots and Bermudas for cooking whereas the white ones and Bermudas are used in salads, etc.

      1. I grew up with onions being a rarity (my father hates them after spending a summer in college on an onion farm), so my mom would have to sneak them into things.

        I've never really noticed a difference between the yellow onions in a mesh bag and other cooking onions - except for vidalia's, which I buy whenever possible. Now I'm going to pay closer attention.

        The bag of giant yellow onions at Costco that don't necessarily say "Vidalia", are those good?

        11 Replies
        1. re: tzurriz

          Yep. Costco may sell 'em in a bag, but so long as they're the size of softballs, *those* are the onions I mean.

          They're superb.

          1. re: shaogo

            oh good, because that is what I normally use. :)

            1. re: tzurriz

              jfood loves the 8-10# bags of sweetonions at costco, either walla-walla or vidalias. He makes a big vat of onion soup or caramelized onion rounds to freeze for his hamburgers.

              1. re: jfood

                Caramelized onion rounds? Just to clarify, you take an onion slice with all the rings and let it caramelize the way you would regular chopped/sliced onion pieces in a pan? Just flip it once maybe in the pan with a spatula?

                Or are you saying that you break onion slices into the rings and caramelize those?

                1. re: Allice98

                  Oops sorry.

                  Jfood loves fried onions on his burgers, but not the boiled stuff many restaurants try to pawn off. He caramelizes an 8-10# bag of onions for maybe 2 hours. Then he places them in a round pancake like fashion (the size of a hamburger) on a baking sheet and place them in the freezer. Once frozen he wraps them individually in plastic wrap and into a freezer bag. When he grills his burgers he takes one out of the bag, into a little foil and onto the grill with the burgers.

                  1. re: jfood

                    Thanks! It was just such an interesting thought that i needed to find out more! I will have to remember that for my veggie purgers and on top of grilled portabellas. I have frozen the onions before just never thought to di it int he round like that. Fabulous idea!

                    1. re: Allice98

                      glad to help. two items jfood should mention. When they are frozen they look a little like chocolate chip cookies so warn the other members of the household they are not for late night snacking. Second, teenagers and college kids love them, so if you have them in the house the life expectancy of theonions is waaaay less.

                      1. re: jfood

                        jfood you probably could have patented this idea and sold bags of your frozen caramelized onions. It's tips like this that keep me coming back to chowhound. Thanks for sharing! :)

                        1. re: maplesugar

                          Chowhound is a zero sum game for jfood, he receives as much as he tries to offer.

                          Glad you enjoyed.

                    2. re: jfood

                      What a great idea! I plan to adopt this!

                      ~TDQ

                  2. re: jfood

                    this is a phenomenal idea.... I'm so stealing it!

            2. This is really more of a Home Cooking board question, but regardless:

              a) No, I have no problem with them. I use all sorts of onions, but in general I like the extra bite that yellow onions offer over Vidalia. The whole "sweet onion" thing seems kind of oxymoronic and pointless to me.

              b) Yes, I often increase the amount of onion in a stew. I find that long, slow cooking encourages them to disintegrate into a rich, flavorful gravy.

              6 Replies
              1. re: BobB

                I find that Vidalias and big whites loose flavor when cooked, I eat them raw alot and use yellows for more pungent oniony flavor, essential in so many dishes.

                  1. re: missclaudy

                    I agree re: Vidalias, I only use them raw or very quickly grilled. But I absolutely disagree when it comes to white onions. I find that the huge white onions - I'm talking bigger than softball size - are the very best for caramelizing and all sorts of slow cooking. They are very sharp and pungent raw but turn super sweet when slowly sauteed. Maybe I get a different variety in my store than you do.

                    To the original question, I rarely use large yellow onions, and almost never use the small yellow ones. I never buy the ones in a bag. If I want a smaller onion because of the smaller thickness of the rings, I buy a small white or maybe a small yellow, but the loose ones.

                    1. re: lisavf

                      Thanks, lisavf!

                      You've put into words what I was trying to convey about the big onions.

                      I have a recipe for a veal stew that's a go-to dinner party dish, and it depends on the ability of those onions to turn from onions into dark-amber, sweet-melted goodness!

                      1. re: shaogo

                        Well, I live alone, and one small yellow onion is just perfect when I want to make one bowl of french onion soup. Yeah, I cheat and use packaged beef broth or bouillon, but I slice my onion and grill it for a nice combination of sweet and sharp. A nice homemade crouton, and some shredded cheese, and I have some nice comfort food in less than ten minutes.

                        I like other onions - Spanish, Vidalia, white, red, whatever - as well, but I've got nothing against the little yellow ones.

                      2. re: lisavf

                        I on the other hand depend on small yellow onions - brown, really - as the backbone of most of my braising, with reds doing salad duty. Big yellows (or big ANYthings) are kind of a waste; unless I'm cooking for plenty of company, I'll use half and stick the rest in the fridge, where it may disappear until it's fuzzy and blue. I do not like Vidalias at all, finding them wimpy.

                  2. I use yellows for a lot of recipes, and I usually add more than is called for because I love onions. I love red onions and Vidalias, too, but where I am , the yellows are readily available & usually fairly good. I also agree with another poster that Vidalias can be too sweet for me in some uses.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: elfcook

                      The yellow Spanish onions is my default onion so I always keep a bag of them in my cold cellar. I only use Vidalias when they will be served raw and while onions are reserved for Mexican and Indian recipes.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          yeah but if you store them correctly they will last a while.

                        2. re: Kelli2006

                          *Brief envy of 'cold cellar' from L.A.*

                          (But not enough to accept the other temperature issues that often go with the ability to have a 'cold cellar'! Why don't we have more caves here?!)

                      1. a) I do not hate yellow onions. However, I rarely buy them in a bag.

                        b) I never measure onions, but the amount I use is more than likely at least twice what the recipe calls for.

                        c) I like any (and all) colors of onions. I'm an equal opportunity onion lover.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: pattisue

                          I totally concur with all three of these statements. I have yet to meet an onion I do not like.

                          1. re: pattisue

                            I'm down with pattisue...I live in FL and it's difficult to keep yellow onions (for me, anyway) so I only buy them loose, not in the netted bag (I used to up North in 'Jersey...kept them cool in the basement...no basements in our area of FL)....so I'll buy only 4 or 5 at a time...I also love love love red onions so I buy them too...but they are very large so one will last me a while. I use lots of onion and garlic...I think up ways to add them to dishes, too, even if not called for.

                            1. re: pattisue

                              Ditto w/ Patti, but w/ a warren of kids, yellow onions in a 10 lb. bag. W/ Mexican food and stews in winter, easy to go through 20 lbs. / mo.
                              Have chives, home grown onions and pick ramps too.

                              1. re: pattisue

                                Now we have a double Patti! I'm with you, Pattisue. I Always use more onion than the recipe calls for, and am congenitally unable to use "one small yellow onion". The bigger, the better. I hate those mesh bags of puny little onions! I also get pains in my chest when I realize I'm down to my last 2 heads of garlic.

                              2. I eat at least one of those "crummy yellow things that come in the mesh bags" every day.

                                1. Personally I go with Vidalias, but I consider those yellow onions. They're so much sweeter, which I like.

                                  1. a) Nope. I use those crummy yellow onions every single day. Different onions for different jobs. Yellow, red, white, Spanish, sweet onions, you can't substitute one for the other without affecting the outcome of your recipe.

                                    b) If you end up feeling like you need to use more onion, you might just be using the wrong kind of onion.

                                    1. i now am picky -- i only get large yellow onions in the mesh bag. $1.97 for 3# is what's the going rate at harris teeter. bigger onions = less hassle. when vidalias are in season, great -- i use them in non-cooked apps. other dishes, i like red onions (salads, etc.).

                                      1. Vidalias and other sweet onions are great. Anytime they're going to be eaten raw, sweet onions are my favorites. Same with any cooked dish where the onion is the star: onion rings, creamed onions, etc.

                                        But the "crummy yellow things" (aka storage onions) are perfect for other applications. Soups, stews, etc. are the perfect example. They pack more punch than a sweet onion, and they cook down less. If you're consistently feeling the need to use more onion than recommended, it may be that the onions you're using are too mild.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                          Sweet onions have their place- on a burger or in a salad, but for me they don't sautee or caramelize well at all. Give me good old Spanish or yellow onions (aren't they the same?) Never have luck cooking with maui's, vidalias, or walla-wallas. I like onions that bite back a littlle and make me sob when chopping them. The masochist in me... adam

                                        2. I use yellow onions for the bulk of my cooking. I cook mainly indian food, with a good helping of Malay and Chinese thrown in. Indian food uses a large amount of onions, sometimes 2-3 softball sized ones, depending on what I'm making! Vidalias don't give the right flavor I need. I do use Walla Walla or Vidalias for salads and things like that where they ill be eaten raw.

                                          1. I've never been a big fan of yellow onions, preferring red, purple, green, or really any other variety.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Caralien

                                              I like sweet onions raw, on chicken, shrimp or tuna salad sandwiches.

                                              Regular yellow or white for cooking. Walla walla's are in the stores now in Nor Cal and it looks like the season is winding down.

                                            2. Actually, for long cooking, those yellow onions (and red onions) offer the best balance of flavors. Sweet onions are the sprinters, yellow and red onions are the marathoners.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. I generally sub shallots or a sweet vidalia, even purple onion in my recipes.

                                                1. I have never bought a "bag" of onions. I pick out each one, those without any bruises, generally not huge unless I have a specific recipe in mind that's calling for a lot of onions. I've never remotely considered them "yecch"-y tasting. I too like Karl S's analogy.

                                                  7 Replies
                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                    Then you need to caramelized 10# of Walla Walla or Vidalia onions for onion soup. 2-3 hours for these creates an unbelievable base.

                                                    1. re: jfood

                                                      I haven't work with that many onions since I worked in a grocery store doing the salad bar. I had to chop up two BOXES on day. It was pretty bad though I made my own day when my boss was crying =-D

                                                      I cannot tell you how hard I was laughing during the onion scene in Julie and Julia!

                                                      I haven't caramelized that many at once though - do you just do them in pot or something different? I had just always learned that onions are happier in smaller numbers when caramelizing... on the other hand I haven't really had a problem when they were crowded either... But I don't want to rick steaming them then wasting a whole bag.

                                                      1. re: Allice98

                                                        When you are caramelizing for 2-3 hours the risk of steaming in nil.

                                                        jfood can fit about 7 pounds of onions in his soup pot so when he has more to start he just uses two pots. Then the steam starts to escape from the onions as he keeps on a medium low heat for about 45 minutes. You will know when the onions have lost their moisture. At that point jfood normally combines them into one pot.

                                                        He stirs every 10 minutes or so for another 1.5-2.5 hours. Iti s a true labor of love. But the reults are well worth the time. And the ability to grab a onion-round for a great hamburger in the middle of the week after a long day at work, mokes it double-special. Likewise if you are looking for the base for a great onion soup, there it is.

                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                          So, wise one, when you stir they don't fall apart?

                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                            Jfood starts them as semi circles and the enter and leave the party as semi circles. They start firm, then softer, then creamy soft, with a beautiful brown color with sweetness out of every pore.

                                                          2. re: jfood

                                                            Sounds great! I will try it some day. I was worried before about some of my large batches sort of steaming themselves first. Then they worked out fine each time but I chocked it up to being lucky. I mean I end up caramelizing onions ~ once a week but I worried my luck would run out! Thanks!

                                                            1. re: Allice98

                                                              I do it in the oven. Douse the onions with oil and salt and stir every 15 mins.

                                                    2. I use the medium yellow onions from the plastic mesh bag all the time. They’re just the right size. The large ones produce much more than I usually need.

                                                      The large yellow onions are great for roasting or baking.

                                                      1. My homespun onion philosophy: A plate for every onion, and every onion on its plate. :)

                                                        Red onions have become my staple. I love a good Vidalia. Like many others here, I still use the yellows, but don't buy the nasty mesh bag. There's almost always something nasty in it, and I'm a solo household, so I usually just buy the onions I need for this week.
                                                        Bermudas, scallions, shallots, are all welcome here.

                                                        So, to answer the two-part question:
                                                        a) don't hate 'em...but do hate the mesh bag collection and use many other kinds of onion without eschewing the workhorse yellows.
                                                        b) I love onions, so I might be prone to putting more onion than others might into things I cook for myself, regardless of what variety I happen to be using at the moment.

                                                        1. I would kill for a bag of those yellow yeechy onions. Where I live, you can buy very small red onions in the market, that's it. By very small I mean not much larger than an egg. If you go to one of the shops that caters to expats, you can buy beautiful big yellow and white onions imported from Australia. They are about five or six dollars apiece. I just can't bring myself to do that, so I cook with red onions.

                                                          1. All onions from ramps to chives to Vadallia to yellow to red are gifts from God and should be respected as thus. We go through nearly 20 lbs of yellow onions per month alone.
                                                            Gracias a la Cebollas

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                              LOL...I remember a deejay on our local KRock who used to say that adding a chopped onion to pretty much any "bachelor foods" that he used to eat made them soooo much better. I would say garlic too improves so many otherwise ordinary foods...in his case, he was talking about canned chili or the dreaded Hamburger Helper.