How to: Caramelise onions

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    Make the perfect sweet-yet-savoury caramelised onions with our easy guide


    Caramelised onions

    Makes about 1 cup

    • 2 large onions
    • 30g butter
    • 50ml white or red wine, vegetable or chicken stock, balsamic vinegar, or water
    • Salt
    1. Place a heavy stainless steel or cast iron pan over a medium heat and melt the butter and oil together. Add the onions and stir to coat.
    2. Cook over a medium-low heat for 40-45 minutes, checking and stirring the onions every 5-10 minutes.
    3. After 40 minutes, the onions should look golden and smell caramelised. If you like the way they taste, stop cooking now. For an even deeper caramelised flavour, continue cooking for another 5-10 minutes, adding a splash of water if they begin to catch or burn on the bottom of the pan.
    4. When your onions have finished cooking, add the wine, stock, balsamic vinegar or water. As the liquid bubbles, scrape up the sticky bits from the bottom of the pan using a wooden spoon and stir it into the onions. Use additional liquid as necessary. Salt the onions to taste.
    5. If you’re not using the onions immediately, let them cool in the pan, then transfer them to an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to one week.

    Common mistakes

    Using only butter

    Butter adds fantastic flavour to your onions, but it’s best to include a splash of oil to avoid burning.

    Crowding the pan

    If you pack too many onions into the pan, they’ll take forever to caramelise. For a 30cm pan, caramelise no more than two large onions at a time.

    Too hot

    Caramelising onions is a completely different process to frying, and it takes time. Keep your pan over a medium-low heat for the entire process.

    Not deglazing the pan

    Take full advantage of the flavoursome brown bits in the bottom of the pan by deglazing with stock, wine, beer or vinegar – whatever best fits the dish for which your onions are destined.

    Being impatient

    Caramelisation takes time. Don’t declare them ready too early. The onions should be a rich brown, much reduced from where you started, and very soft.

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