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Feb 19, 2013 12:34 PM


How do you choose which onion to use?

I tend to gravitate toward buying sweet onions like vidalias or walla wallas, but I think I remember reading that they have more water than yellow onions. I don't know what's right.

I use red onions to pickle or in salads.

I use white onions when I'm cooking Mexican because that's what Mexican recipes usually call for.

Looking for guidance here from my more knowledgable friends.

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  1. I use sweet onions as my all purpose cooking onion. They seem to work for me. I like shallots too, but I hate messing with the skins; they are more work than the larger sweet onions.

    And for salads, I strongly prefer the sweets.

    1. It depends on the use, what's available, what looks good. I find that yellow onions keep longer, are cheaper; that's what I usually buy. I keep them in my fridge.
      It all depends on what you want to use them for.
      I'm not sure what type of guidance you are looking for.
      Here is a google search:

      1. So, I choose onions based on what they will be used for. Onion is not even one of my preferred foods, unless it is cooked. I find it to be too hot for most raw applications. If you are going to use onions raw, then yes sweet onions are the way to go. The red onion is the most common of the sweet, but also the least sweet. Vidalia, Maui (if you can get them) and chipolini are the sweetest that I have tried. For cooked applications the sweet onions tend to break down quickly and so a more solid and less sweet onion is better. Most of the "heat" of the onion is from sulfur compounds and most of the compounds are broken down from sulfates to sulfites. The sulfates are obnoxious but the sulfites we taste as sweet. The main thing is that they retain texture during longer cooking methods (i.e. braising, roasting, stewing etc.) Try wrapping your favorite sweet onion in aluminum foil after removing the core, pack it with a mixture of beef bullion paste, pepper, and butter. Parsley, thyme or other herbs can also be added. Close foil tightly. Bake on high or grill until soft. Yummy!

        2 Replies
        1. re: BrainFoodie

          That bouillon/butter-roasted onion sounds damn lovely, brainfoodie. I'm roasting a bunch of garlic in the crockpot tomorrow and might just have to make space for that onion.

          Oh, and to answer the thread: shallots and yellow onions are my go-tos. Shallots for flavor, color, texture and versatility; yellows for storage tolerance and because that's what mom used. I know the Duke loves reds but they just don't keep as well for me.

          1. re: BrainFoodie

            To build upon what BrainFoodie said, "sweet" onions are sweet both because of their variety and because they are grown in lower sulfur soils, and therefore contain less sulfur. They also contain more water, and they won't last as long as other onions. They should be used in raw applications.

            Other onions, known as storage onions, have more sulfonic compounds in them (that's what makes your eyes water when you cut them), but that's actually a good thing, because there was a German study that showed that the "gravy" aroma in meat stews comes most from onions and leeks, not the meat . Storage onions last longer.

          2. I don't know how knowledgeable I am, but I usually stick to yellow onions unless the recipe calls for otherwise. I keep in the pantry (which is dark and cool) and they last for a very long time.

            9 Replies
            1. re: juliejulez

              do you keep them in a paper bag? a plastic bag? plastic in paper? lol

              what about storing them with potatoes?

              1. re: smilingal

                They just sit in uncovered in a plastic bowl I got at the dollar store along with garlic, and the occasional other non-refrigerated vegetable, on a shelf in a corner of my pantry. I do keep potatoes in a box down on the floor but I think they're far enough apart that the onions don't affect them... the shelf the onions are on is about 5 feet or so off the ground.

                I do live in a very dry climate so that helps things immensely.

                1. re: juliejulez

                  i have been storing them (potatoes and Onions) together in a paper bag in the bottom of a storage closet with other bags and stuff. I have been finding both onions and potatoes going bad quicker than I remember. I am wondering how to change things up.

                  1. re: smilingal

                    I keep them in the vegetable drawer in the fridge. Is that bad or wrong? They seem to keep just fine.

                    1. re: smilingal

                      Onions and potatoes should not be stored together. Keep them in separate cabinets or cupboards. Onions emit a gas (ethylene?) that hastens the decay of potatoes.

                        1. re: janniecooks

                          i was starting to realize that it must be something like that - but I thought I had always stored them together. Also, I was under the impression that it was not optimum to store onions in the fridge.

                          1. re: smilingal

                            Well, you don't store the onions longterm in the fridge. You can just put them in to chill them a little before you cut them, so as to reduce the tearing, or any leftover onion after you're finished, so it doesn't go bad. Once you cut into an onion, leaving it out isn't going to do good things to it.

                            1. re: ePressureCooker

                              Storage onions (that is, onions that have been prepared for dry storage) don't get refrigerated long term. Sweet onions (like Vidalias), however, can be kept well for a few months in the crisper if you wrap them separately in paper towels.

                2. Walla Walla, or other sweet onion, when used raw in a sandwich. Ordinary yellow onions when they are to be cooked down for a sauce. Red onions in a salad. White onions in a dip. The last can be used raw, or saut├ęd lightly to reduce the sharpness.

                  1 Reply