Caramelized Onions Take An Hour And A Half Stop Lying
I’d like to talk about a falsehood the internet keeps perpetuating. I’d like to set things straight. I’m not sure if the majority of food bloggers in this world are intentionally lying or simply lying to themselves about how arduous this task is, and honestly I don’t care, I’m going to continue loving them and their butternut squash carbonaras nonetheless. But I do need to set some very misguided expectations straight right now.
It takes one and a half hours to caramelize onions. Not 45 minutes, not even an hour. You need to commit at least 90 minutes and the scent of your entire home to this project if you want the job done right, and done deliciously.
Over the weekend I made a recipe from Halfbaked Harvest, inarguably my favorite food blog though Smitten Kitchen is a close second. The recipe made absolutely no mention of how long it was going to take to cook those onions down to desired level of caramelization. Even a modest level of done-ness would have taken an hour, mine went for an hour and a half and could have used ten minutes more, but the recipe mentioned to start the cooking of pizza components only 40 minutes before the pizza dough was finished rising. I am terrible at math, but something is afoot.
I am not here to crap on food bloggers. Just the opposite. I am their champion. I am their disciple. They are keeping me in nutritious recipes and no doubt keeping Trader Joe’s in business. But I do want to tell the truth about caramelized onions and I’m going to do it now. Below, an honest recipe for a delicious, delicious thing.
One. And. A. Half. Hours.
The Truth About How To Caramelize Onions
Step One: buy an onion. For the sake of this recipe we will assume you are only using one. In this instance I used a sweet onion, but given the fact that I also used apple cider to caramelize them down, I would use a regular white onion next time. But it’s going to be awhile before there’s a next time because good lord.
Step Two: Slice the onion thinly, any way you can without eye strain.
Step Three: Heat some oil in a large shallow pan. Once hot, dump in the onions. I keep my pan on medium heat. Toss to coat with oil.
Step Four: Cook the onions for about 5-10 minutes until you notice they’re just starting to stick to the pan. Once that starts to happen, it’s time to begin caramelization in earnest.
Step Five: Add a splash of the liquid of your choice. Now that I’ve used apple cider for this task, it’s unlikely I’ll ever use anything else, but water also works fine if you’d like yours to be less sweet. You can also salt and pepper your onions if you like, though I tend to do this toward the end of the process. Which at this point is still an hour and 20 mins away.
Step Six: You need to baby these things. For the next hour or more, you will be adding in a splash of liquid, stirring, letting the liquid cook away, and then repeating the process. Over and over and over again until your onions have reached the level of caramelization that makes you happy. By my estimation and experience this will be 1.5 hours.
*I often read recipes calling for roughly a cup of liquid to accomplish this task. This is another lie. I used a quarter of a gallon of apple cider to caramelize my onions to perfection and friends, that’s more than a cup.
Step Seven: Once you’re happy with the level of caramelization achieved, remove onions from heat and add them to the top of a flatbread of your choice. You can also put them in an airtight container and enjoy them for the next several days.
There’s no neat to beat around this particular bush. Caramelized onions take an hour and a half to make and that’s okay. It is more important to me that we all know what we’re getting into before we start this process. You’re likely prepping other meal components or watching something good on Netflix at the same time, you need to be able to have a handle on time, and so this is my gift to you. The truth. The facts. The deliciousness.