How Not to Mess Up Caramelizing Onions

Caramelized onions
Photo by Ryan Kwok on Unsplash

If you want to take your home cook game up a notch, you’ve gotta master caramelizing onions. Once you figure this simple task out, you can level up nearly any meal from pizza to burgers to steaks to salads to really anything.

It’s Easier Than You Think

The truth is that many people find caramelizing onions kind of intimidating. And it’s true, you can mess it up really badly. But once you get it right once, you’ll find it much easier to do again and again. And if you follow these tips, you should have no problem getting a good result next time you try.

  • Use more onions than you think you need. They’ll reduce significantly throughout the cooking process.
  • Use a bigger pan than you think you need. If you overcrowd your pan, your onions won’t brown as nicely.
  • Cook over medium heat. Too low will take too long and too high will burn your onions.
  • Use plenty of salt to help draw moisture out of the onions.
  • Be patient – even if it seems like nothing is happening. It can take ten or fifteen minutes for the onions to caramelize properly.
  • While you may be tempted to stir constantly, just shaking the pan every once in a while will do the trick.
  • Deglazing the pan—with water, wine, or liquor, whatever you prefer—can be a great way to add flavor.
  • Follow your own taste buds to decide when the onions are caramelized enough. When in doubt, wait until they’re a dark, golden brown.