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Video:How To Caramelize Onions

with Danilo Alfaro

The key to fantastic caramelized onions: GBD, or golden, brown, delicious. Take a few extra minutes when cooking an onion, and you'll have a treat for the family right in your saute pan.See Transcript

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Transcript:How To Caramelize Onions

Hi! My name is Danilo Alfaro and I'm About.com's Guide to culinary arts, and today I'm going to show you how to caramelize an onion.

What is Caramelizing?

Caramelizing is a term that describes what happens to sugars when they are heated up - they kind of turn brown, which is where we get the word caramel from, just sugar that's been cooked and heated and it turns brown. One of the best kinds of onions to use for caramelizing onions happens to be what's called a sweet onion, because there's more sugar in it.

Chop the Onion

We're going to trim off the bottom root, and then we're going to spin it around and trim off that top stem. And then we can just set it down on the flat side, and take our knife and just go right through the center of it there. And now we've cut it in half and we can just set that thing on its side there. To keep your fingers from getting cut, it's always a good idea to curl those tips under and you can just tuck them away there, so that they're not in any danger of getting cut. And, as you move the knife backward, you just kind of readjust a little bit.

Saute the Onions

Okay, so the way I like to start my caramelized onions is with a mixture of butter and oil in a saute pan like this. Oil has a higher smoke point so combined with the butter it's not going to burn quite as easily - you can get it a lot hotter without it starting to smoke and burn. Once you have a nice foaminess happening, we can go ahead and add our onion.

Slowly Caramelize the Onions

The trick to caramelizing onions is that you want to cook them fairly slowly over a longish period of time because it takes a little while for those sugars to develop. What has to happen first is the moisture kind of has to get cooked out of them, but one of the things we don't want to do is let them burn. So it's better to have a lower temperature, and if nothing seems to be happening, you can always raise it up.

I'm just kind of keeping it moving here for a little bit, but once everything is nice and coated with that butter and oil mixture, I will be content to just let it cook for a little bit and only come and fuss with it every once in awhile.

There's a saying in the food service world, or an expression, "GBD: Golden, Brown, Delicious," and that golden brown is what we get when caramelize something. From beginning to end, this process will probably take maybe 20 to 30 minutes - it's definitely a labor of love. But, we're definitely also starting to see some caramelization happening here - there's just a little hint of it happening there, and there's no point being impatient about it. It's going to happen when it happens - but it will happen.

Determine the Caramelized Onion Doneness

It's a little bit of a judgment call in deciding when you're done with these, because we could keep going, and going, and going. But these are clearly and definitely, deliciously brown and caramelized. The moisture is cooked out - flavor, caramelization is cooked in. If you could smell this, you would be amazed at how amazing it smells because you can't. But it really does smell good, and it looks pretty nice, too, doesn't it?

So, that's how you caramelize an onion. Thanks for watching! To learn more, visit us on the web at About.com.
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