Making caramelized onions “is an art, not a science,” argues former BA senior cooking editor Sarah Jampel. And mastering that skill is essential for any home cook. While there are several solid approaches you can take for caramelizing onions, we recommend starting with the caramelized onion recipe below, particularly if deeply brown (but never singed) onions have eluded you in the past. It’s easy to follow and delivers every single time.
The key to achieving perfectly caramelized onions is to use a large saucepan. The wide base gives your onions plenty of room to cook so the water released as they soften can evaporate. This prevents the onions from steaming rather than caramelizing and speeds up the cooking process.
Before you start, let us be clear about something: No matter the approach, the caramelization process will take time: 15–20 minutes for French onion soup and 45 minutes to an hour for jammy, mahogany-hued onions. Fortunately, while they cook over low heat you can take care of other things. Just be sure to stay close by and stir them occasionally so no browned bits stick to the bottom of the pan. The onions will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a week, so once you have a batch on hand, add them to soft scrambled eggs, grilled cheese with Gruyère, or this samosa tart with potatoes and fontina.
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