Soft, smoky, sweet and rich caramelized onions. This is an oldie but goodie. Caramelized onions are a simple way to enhance and add sophistication to your dishes. I'm thinking about caramelized onions on pizza, salads, and grilled meat. Yummy!

There is a dash of science involved in caramelizing onions, but most of it is art.

First, how to slice the onions, across or lengthwise? Slicing the onions across the bulb into rings will yield a product that retains greater texture than slicing lengthwise. Because of the linear cell structure of the onion, slicing lengthwise will yield a softer and a more jammy consistency. I personally prefer slicing across the onion for the extra texture in my caramelized onions.

Second, should you brown in a cast iron or stainless steel pan? I have caramelized onions in both, and found that the cast iron yielded better results. Cast iron retains a greater level of heat, evaporating the juices faster, and browning more consistently.

The stainless steel took longer to sweat the onions, resulting in a mushier texture, before browning. Great for topping grilled meats and pizza, not as much for salads.
  1. Slice the onions.
  2. Heat pan on medium low. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the onions, sprinkle salt and pepper, and saute the onions until most of the juices have evaporated. This should take roughly 20 minutes. The onions should have a nice sheen from the olive oil as you are sauteeing. Don't be afraid to add additional olive oil along the way if the onion is too dry; this will prevent the surface from burning (versus caramelizing.)
  3. Give the onions a quick saute every minute or so until the batch is nicely browned, which should take roughly 30 minutes from the start of cooking.