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Caramelizing Onions

I can saute mine for an hour and they don't brown. I use sweet onions -- is that why?


  • Hi Howard - I definitely don't think it's the fact that you are using sweet onions. I caramelize Vidalia (or a combo of Vidalia and yellow) onions all the time. It could just be time. Sometimes, over medium-low heat, it can take over an hour to caramelize onions properly. You do want to start them over medium-high to get them softened and then turn them down to medium-low once they soften. You also want to make sure that the pan you are using is stainless steel, carbon steel or cast iron (in other words, not nonstick) and large enough to fit the amount of onions you are cooking. If it's too small and the onions are overcrowded they will steam when they should be browning. A 12" pan can hold about 2 sliced onions. Finally, using butter (or butter and oil) as the fat in the pan can often help the browning thanks to the milk solids in the butter. Making caramelized onions - the classic way - really takes a fair amount of time, attention, and patience. There are some shortcut recipes out there that you could try if you want something quicker, but they can be tricky to avoid burning and, in my opinion, don't produce the same result. If I were to pick one to recommend, it would be this one. Hope that helps! Best, Lynn C.

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