Caramelized onion in a frying pan
13 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Caramelizing Onions
Onions take a lot of time to break down to the point that the natural sugars can start to cook. Any method that promises quicker caramelizing is deceiving you.
Generally, caramelizing onions can take 30 minutes to an hour, if not longer. You can't shorten the time by turning up the heat, as they'll burn before they caramelize.
Slicing Too Thin
Smaller pieces of most foods have more surface area exposed to heat, so they cook quicker, but if you do this with onions, they'll be even more prone to burning.
Sure, they will heat faster, but they'll heat up too fast for true caramelization to occur. It's also hard to slice onions too thin, so you're better off not trying this at all.
Cutting It Wrong
Cutting onions against the grain — the lines running across the onions from root to stem — may cause them to disintegrate, release excess water, and turn mushy.
Slice onions evenly by cutting them along the grain, which helps onions retain their shape while giving consistent slices, resulting in evenly textured caramelized onions.
Adding Sugar
Adding sugar to sauteed onions, whether to caramelize them or simply speed up the process, will yield results that are a far cry from correctly made caramelized onions.
Onions have natural sugars released during the slow cooking process, causing their caramelization, so you don't need to add any.
Too Little Fat
While the onions will release water and cook in their own juices, it's important to add at least enough oil to coat the entire surface area of your pan.
To ensure the onions cook slowly enough and release their natural sugars, use your senses: If the onions look too dry and stick easily to the pan, only then add a little more oil.