Basics: How to Saute an Onion

There are a few basic kitchen skills that can equip even the most uneducated home cook and empower them to cook.

from theempoweredmomma

from theempoweredmomma

Cooking is easy–if you’ve got good instincts,

from cosmosmagazine

from cosmosmagazine

pay attention to food,

from torontosun

from torontosun

obsessively watch the Food Network,

from lasvegassun

from lasvegassun

or pour over cookbooks like they’re a treasure map.

from ehow

from ehow

Sometimes, however, even that is not enough. You need to be taught the simple basics, step by step.

And that’s why, for the next little while, it’s basics time on Suck It, Martha.

from sodahead

from sodahead

Onions are one of the most versatile ingredients you can use. They’re in almost everything, and if you don’t know how to properly sauté an onion, you’re missing out on one of the most simple pleasures in cooking.

from familylovegod

from familylovegod

But before you can sauté an onion, you need to learn how to cut up the onion.

Gather your tools:

  • a freshly sharpened knife
  • a cutting board
  • The Onion
tools

tools

Let me digress here.

We all know that onions can make even the most stalwart cry.

from newsthump

from newsthump

There are a few tips to help prevent that. Or you could just wear the safety goggles you saved from Organic Chemistry in college.

from mwt

from mwt

To help prevent crying you can:

  • cut the onion next to the sink and run hot water while you chop. The hot water does something to the cry-inducing enzymes and keeps them out of your eyes.
  • periodically rinse the onion in the hot water to wash off some enzymes
  • stick your onion in the freezer for a few minutes before cutting. This freezes some of those nasty enzymes.
  • a lot of the enzymes in the onion are located in the root area. If you chop this part off last, you can avoid some of the enzymes altogether.

I use the hot water trick.

Okay, so the first thing I do is cut off both ends.

cutting the stem end

cutting the stem end

Yep, I even cut off the root end.

the root end

the root end

ends off

ends off

Then I slice it down the center.

center slicing

center slicing

Now all that onion skin has to come off. Start peeling.

peeling

peeling

Now turn both onion halves onto their flat sides.

turned

turned

Slice thinly along the long side.

slicing

slicing

sliced

sliced

You can cut an onion into any shape you want. If you wanted long onion pieces, stop here. I wanted diced so I continued.

I turned the whole onion unit 90 degrees and began slicing that way.

slicing again

slicing again

Do it for both halves.

diced

diced

You’re done cutting!

Now it’s time for the fun part.

Grab a saute pan, and add either olive oil or butter. I was feeling like butter today.

buttering

buttering

Spread it all around, then add the freshly chopped onions.

in the pan

in the pan

Let them sizzle for a couple of minutes, and then use a wooden utensil to push them around a little. You don’t want them to burn.

pushing around

pushing around

Now you need to babysit these onions. If you walk away and forget them for a while, it’s not okay.

Not even a little.

You’ll notice that they’ll start to turn brownish. And they’ll start to smell really, really good.

turning browner

turning browner

and browner

and browner

When they reach your desired brown-ness sprinkle them with salt. and give them another toss.

This was my level of desired brownness.

done

done

See? Easy. And delicious. You could probably eat them straight out of the pan and be a pretty happy person.

onions...

onions…

suck it, martha.

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Categories: Food & Drink, Life, Tips

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4 Comments on “Basics: How to Saute an Onion”

  1. January 8, 2013 at 7:28 pm #

    I love cooked onions. I could definitely eat them out of the pan! Think I’ll be cooking some this weekend.

    • January 12, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

      Me too! I don’t need an excuse to sauté an onion.

  2. Michael Collins
    January 9, 2013 at 7:15 am #

    How much heat should I use? Mine are never this pretty, and I suddenly suspect I may be making my pan too hot.

    • January 12, 2013 at 5:15 pm #

      I keep my heat on low/medium (closer to low). Couple that with constant stirring and your onions don’t have a chance to burn and will be beautiful and brown and sweet! The spatula is important here, as well as with eggs.

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