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Caramelizing onions

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I've lost it. I've lost my onion mojo. I used to knock out whole batches but these days for the life of me I can't do it. They turn out crispy and tough and definitely not brown and sweet.

I slice an onion lengthwise and then put it in a saute pan with olive oil on high heat for a couple of minutes. Then I add a pinch of salt and sugar and reduce the heat to low. I figure that should give me that deep brown amber color but it's not working out. I don't know what I'm doing wrong. It's basically a matter of principle now; I spent my entire weekend trying to get it right, but no luck.

Any advice? Thanks.

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  1. Check JoanN's method for doing them in the oven, referenced many times: http://www.chow.com/search?query=Cara...

    You should NEVER start them on high. Medium to sweat and soften - high only to brown them at the very end of a leisurely cooking on the stove for an hour or more, depending on amount.

    5 Replies
    1. re: greygarious

      The oven method is the ONLY way I will make carmelized onions now. I did 10lbs last weekend. Yes, the soup was lovely.

      1. re: smtucker

        I second that. I've done them in the crockpot as well and remember those as being excellent as well, but I don't have a crockpot here so can't compare the two methods side by side. The oven method definitely turns out a wonderful carmelized onion though.

        1. re: smtucker

          you mentioned soup.
          French onion?
          if so, do you add alcohol to it? if so, what kind? I've used white vermouth or cognac.
          I love French onion soup, think since it's raining I'll do that along with the chicken chow mein from another thread I'm also doing.

          1. re: greygarious

            greygarious, my comment to you here is that I'll share my vegetable garden with you.
            although of the west coast, I have a great throwing arm........

            now onto aesir and the inquiry........

            it's low and slow.use butter and olive oil a good douse of salt and a tablespoon of regular sugar and a tablespoon of brown sugar. lots of onions too, like 3 big guys. I slice, not chop, and turn my smaller BTU stove onto the low setting, no cover and watch, just keep an eye on...

          2. I think the high heat is your problem. I use medium to low/medium heat. You want to be able to cook them long enough to caramelize before without getting burnt, so starting off on high for minutes just means they're going to burn long before they get to any caramelization state.

            1. The thing is, the onions never really seemed burned. They're just kind of dried out and crispy at the end, but they don't taste or look burned at all. It's like I'm slow frying them or something.

              1 Reply
              1. re: aesir

                Your question has been answered and your results explained.

              2. It's like Axl Rose once sang ... "♫ have a little patience ...♫"

                1. Caramelizing and browning are two different, and I would say unrelated, things. If you want to caramelize onions, just put then in a covered saucepan on LOW heat with some olive oil and salt, and cook for an hour or more, stirring occasionally. This makes them sweet. You can brown them after that by turning the heat up to medium-high.