Perfect Caramelized Onions

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This is not fast food.

These are about as old school as you can get.

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This is you and spoon and a pan full of sliced onions. This is you babysitting them for about an hour, gently coaxing out all that glorious flavor. This is stirring and scraping, and careful moderation of heat.

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You’re turning this…

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…into this…

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…into THIS…

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…which you can use to do this…

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…which makes for a pretty darned delicious summer, if you ask me. 🙂

The end result is a little sweet, deeply flavorful, and positively melts in your mouth. This exact hot dog is one of my favorite things about summer. I look forward to my first one every year.

Admittedly, I stacked the onion deck a little. I used Vidalia onions, which are naturally sweeter than regular yellow onions. I also added a little kosher salt and just a smidge of dark brown sugar to get the party started.

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The secret ingredient for caramelized onions

Patience.

Seriously. That’s it.

You need to stir frequently, and resist the urge to crank up the heat and try to get them done in a flash.

How to use caramelized onions

Use these for almost anything. They’re just about the best hot dog topping going. Not so bad, right? 😉

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I put mine on a grilled, all-beef Hebrew National dog, as part of the promotion and recipe development gig I’m working on right now. (Thanks, guys!)

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Other ideas for caramelized onions:

  • Top a burger or a grilled steak
  • Mix into an omelet
  • Stuff bread dough with them and form into rolls
  • Stuff into chicken breasts with spinach and bake
  • Eat ’em straight with a fork (I won’t tell)

How do you use ’em? Leave a comment below, let us know!

Perfect Caramelized Onions

4 – 5 large Vidalia onions
2 Tbls. olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 Tbls. dark brown sugar

Yields about 1 1/4 cups caramelized onions

Peel and chop your onions

Grab an onion. Whack off each end and peel him.
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I wear contacts, so chopping onions never really makes me cry. Go figure. (Do you mind it?)

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Cut the peeled onion in half, then into thin slices. Get them as even as you can. Don’t make yourself nuts.

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Toss the olive oil in your biggest pan. You want to use a big pan because caramelizing is all about surface area. You want to be able to spread the onions in a thin layer over the bottom of the pan, so as many bits are in contact with the heat as possible. Make sense?

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Add the sliced onions to the pan, separating them into individual slivers as you go.

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Repeat with the rest of your onions. Warning: It’s a RIDICULOUS amount of cut onions. That’s just fine. It cooks down to almost nothing, by comparison.

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Once your onions are all cut up, you’re ready to caramelize.

Caramelize your onions

OK, so like I said: This ain’t fast. So put on your fav tunes, and have yourself a little kitchen dance party while you’re waiting. Or whatever. (Me? I love a little J-pop in the kitchen.)

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Slide your pan onto the stove over medium high heat.

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Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions start to let out a little moisture and soften up.

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When they’re starting to get glossy and translucent, sprinkle with kosher salt and add the brown sugar. Stir well to mix. (You could add them at the beginning. I think it’s easier to distribute once the onions have cooked a little.)

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When it’s all mixed in, the brown sugar will give the onions the faintest (and I’m talking faint) of brown colors.

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Continue to cook on medium high heat, stirring frequently. If the onions start to stick to the pan or burn, lower your heat.

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After maybe 15 minutes, the bottom of your pan should start to get coated with little bits that are easily scraped up. When you see this, knock the heat down to low. Your goal is to keep the stove hot enough to cook them, but low enough so they don’t burn. Keep an eye on your pan and keep stirring, you’ll totally get the feel for it.

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Keep cooking, stirring frequently, scraping all that glorious light brown stuff up off the bottom of the pan.

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Keep going…they’ll get darker slowly.

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They’re just about done when they look like this. Give a taste, and add a little salt if you like.

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And, VOILA! You just caramelized onions.

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Scrape the caramelized onions into a bowl or measuring cup. Let cool completely. Cover and refrigerate for up to about 4 days.

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The greatest hot dog topping in the world

Here’s how I like to eat my hot dogs. Lightly toasted bun.

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Grilled hot dog. I like Hebrew National. Heaps of caramelized onions.

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Perfect Caramelized Onions

Yields About 1.5 cups

Here's how to make restaurant-style caramelized onions at home. They're a great kitchen staple. Try them on top of burgers or steaks and mixed into omelets.

Save RecipeSave Recipe

Ingredients

4 – 5 large Vidalia onions, peeled and sliced thin
2 Tbls. olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 Tbls. dark brown sugar

Instructions

  1. Toss the olive oil in your biggest pan. You want to use a big pan because caramelizing is all about surface area. You want to be able to spread the onions in a thin layer over the bottom of the pan, so as many bits are in contact with the heat as possible.
  2. Add the sliced onions to the pan, separating them into individual slivers as you go.
  3. Slide your pan onto the stove over medium high heat.
  4. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions start to let out a little moisture and soften up.
  5. When they’re starting to get glossy and translucent, sprinkle with kosher salt and add the brown sugar. Stir well to mix.
  6. Continue to cook on medium high heat, stirring frequently. If the onions start to stick to the pan or burn, lower your heat.
  7. After maybe 15 minutes, the bottom of your pan should start to get coated with little bits that are easily scraped up. When you see this, knock the heat down to low. Your goal is to keep the stove hot enough to cook them, but low enough so they don’t burn. Keep an eye on your pan and keep stirring, you’ll totally get the feel for it.
  8. Keep cooking, stirring frequently, scraping all that glorious light brown stuff up off the bottom of the pan.
  9. They're done when they're translucent, soft and brown.
  10. Scrape into a bowl. Cool completely then cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
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http://www.thehungrymouse.com/2013/06/06/perfect-caramelized-onions/


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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie works as an advertising copywriter in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.

11 COMMENTS

  1. I like on steak. Or, when they get to the translucent stage, add some bacon, then make a quiche with some cheese as well. I also like this technique for shallots. FYI: Mod Cuisine at Home has a way of making these faster, in a mason jar within a pressure cooker.
  2. Yep, I love them in a savory bread pudding with blue cheese and black olives. I'm drooling just thinking about it.............!
  3. I am super lazy when it comes to this kind of thing; my last boyfriend REALLY loved french onion soup. I found some other recipe that does this in your oven on low(200 ish?) ; it's a throw in and forget for an hour or so thing - just checking to occasionally stir. It only has onions and butter in the pan however; imagine the sugar would shake things up a bit. Smells amazing when cooking, and you could double down and roast some garlic or something since the oven is already on.
  4. I have never put sugar in my caramelized onions, though I do tend to add a pat of butter to the oil. I also sometimes pick red onions for a slightly different flavor profile and once in a while will toss a dash of balsamic in right before finishing, but not when I want a pure caramelized onion taste of course. You have it right though - patience is the name of the game!!!
  5. i love caramelized onion with brie or any cheese :) straight or on a cracker. btw is that kyary pamyu pamyu on your playlist?
  6. OH, thank you! I am hosting a appetizer dinner party for 15 people tomorrow and found a recipe for goat cheese, caramelized onions and sun dried tomatoes on crostini. So, what do I Google? Yep, 'perfectly caramelized onions'. Just what I needed and I really like your writing style. It's as if you anticipate what the reader is going to ask or think next. Thanks!
  7. Slice the onions in rings– By slicing the onions against the grain, they breakdown easier, speeding up caramelization. The finished caramelized onions will also melt into whatever you are making faster than if you cut them with the grain.
  8. Wow This Is great recipe.I love Your Way of making Recipe.I am going to make this recipe for my family now.

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