carmelizing onions

Joined Jul 3, 2002
Which pans are better for carmelizing onions: non-stick or regular? and why?

thanks guys! :)
Joined Jan 8, 2003
NON Stick pans are OK but I prefer if you want a quick carmelization use a regular stainless steel. I believe it gets hot quicker and more evenly. Deglazing is better too because you get more bits to scrape up.

If I'm using a NON-stick I use a little sugar to help with the carmelizing.
Joined Jul 31, 2000

I prefere to use stainless pans because they are porus and allow a deeper fond to develope before deglazing.
Joined Jan 5, 2001
There aren't many non-stick pans that have the weight required for a nice steady heat conduction. When caramelizing onions, you want to cook it fairly low. If you're lucky enough to have an all-clad type pan with a high polish finish on the inside, then you're really rocking! It won't scorch, it will leave you lots of tasty brown bits and it's virtually non-stick so it'll be easy to clean.

What are you making with your onions?
Joined Mar 3, 2002
I use both stainless and enamelled cast iron. I give a slightedge to the LC.
Joined Jul 3, 2002
I had a feeling that the non-stick pans weren't giving me what I wanted, with just about anything.

Alexia: what's "LC"?

Anneke: I make a few things with carmelized onions. But this was specifically for a really simple onion thyme tart I was taught to make at a savory tart class a few weeks ago held at The New School of Cooking. I think most of us were there to get a better grip on making tart shells and galettes (it was VERY helpful). This tart calls for spreading a combination of ricotta, creme fraiche, salt, pepper and thyme over the bottom of the tart shell, then distributing carmelized onions over that and sprinkling some parmesan and more thyme over the top and baking. Very good.

I also make a simple but really yummy pasta sauce recipe from Evan Kleiman's Cucina Rustica called "Genovese Finto." It calls for cooking the onions covered for 3 hours (I've used an electric frypan for that--idea curtesy of Alton Brown). After the onions have wilted a bit, red wine is added and later some prosciutto. Then broth is added to deglaze periodically. Very addictive stuff!:D
Joined Mar 3, 2002
Sorry, LC is my shorthand for LeCreuset, enameled cast iron. Your onion tart sounds good. My favorite savory tart in the world is caramelized onions liberally graced with anchovies and olives. I'm addicted and frozen in pissaladiere mode! It's that sweet onion/salt on flaky butter pastry combination. If only I could figure out how to include some chocolate. :lips:

Your pasta sauce suggestion sounds good, too. I often add some wine to caramelizing onions (often port or madiera). And if the onions are very sweet, I will sometimes add some good sherry vinegar for a little complexity.

Do you have any other good uses for caramelized onions? I sometimes use leftovers up by adding to braised meat dishes, etc.
Joined Aug 4, 2000
An issue of FCM exactly one year ago (JAN? 2002) elaborated on the technique of sweating and carmelizing onions - to be used in a braise.
Joined May 26, 2001
I have heard good things about, but never tried, caramelizing onions in a slow-cooker/crockpot: fill the pot with sliced onions, toss in a stick of butter, turn in on Low and let it cook. This is probably the first thing I will try when I get a crockpot. :D
Joined Mar 3, 2002
Suzanne, please report back IMMEDIATELY! We who are addicted to caramelized onions want to know. :bounce:
Joined Apr 30, 2001
This comes from Southern Living if I recall correctly. It sounded a bit odd to me...but ohhhhh the onions are good.

Caramelized Onions

2 extra large sweet onions (about 3 pounds)

1 (10 ½ ounce can chick or beef broth, undiluted)

1/4 cup butter or margarine

Cut onions in half, cut each half into ½ inch thick slices. Combine with other ingredients in a 3 ½ quart slow cooker. Cook, covered, on high for 8 hours until golden brown and very soft. Yield...2 cups.

The Soup!

1 recipe caramelized onions

1 (10 ½ ounce can beef consume)

1 (10 ½ ounce can beef broth, undiluted)

2 cups water

½ tsp dried thyme

1/4 cup dry white wine

6 cups large croutons

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Swiss cheese


Combine onions, consume, broth, water, and thyme in a 3 ½ quart slow cooker. Cook, covered, on high 2 ½ hours. Stir in the wine.

Ladle soup into 6 oven proof bowls and top evenly with croutons and sprinkle with swiss cheese. Place bowls on a cookie sheet with edges (so they don’t slide off). Broil 3 inches from heat 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

Well...I prefer to make my own croutons...But my heavens....the caramelized easy and so wonderful!


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Joined Oct 5, 2001
I also like non-stick for fish and eggs and that is it. I think you will probably get the best results from cast iron that has been seasoned although stainless steel works fine.
Joined Feb 19, 2003

Please excuse my ignorance, but I'm an onion saute'er from way back, and thus I think I have an interest in this topic.

Is carmalizing onions the same thing as sauteing them in some butter or shortening until they become translucent?

Onion Lover
Joined Jul 3, 2002
Hi TomBrooklyn,

No, they're not the same. Carmelizing means cooking the onions in oil or butter or both over low heat for a long time: 30 minutes to an hour, until they turn a kind of mahogany color. Unlike sauteed onions, which are mild, these are very sweet and rich-tasting. :lips:
Joined Oct 28, 2001
Carmelizing means taking them to California and letting them hang out in a pretty little town just south of SF. What you described is caramelizing. ;)
Joined Jul 3, 2002
I could use the excuse that the magnetic pull Carmel exerts on us Californians has an effect on the spelling cells in our brains. ;) But I never much cared for Carmel, so that won't work.
The truth is, I say "carmelize" when I slowly brown onions. "Caramels" are candy to my ears. :D
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