Know Your Browned Onions
January 6th, 2011 - By Lari Robling
A quick search on browning onions turns up contradictory advice: cook covered, don't cook covered; add liquid, don't add liquid; use butter only, use oil only. Well, you get the dilemma. Here's what works for me, so I stick with it even if the kitchen science gurus Alton Brown and Harold McGee might not agree.
To slice my onions thinly, I cut them in half lengthwise and place the halves on the flat side. Cut parallel to the root end to get nice, even half moon pieces.
I like an iron skillet, but you can use a sauté pan. Whatever you use, it should be large enough to make a single layer of onions. Heat on high and add some olive oil and butter, enough to liberally cover the bottom of your pan—then add your onions. It should sizzle.
Next I sprinkle a pinch of sugar—and I do mean a pinch, the goal here is not to sweeten the onions but help with the caramelization process. Sprinkle a pinch of kosher salt as this helps break down the onions to cook a little faster.
Reduce heat so that they are cooking gently. Be patient. There's no getting around that perfectly browned onions take a little time. Keep an eye on them and stir every so often to get nice even coloring.