Cooking onions with ease

Onions are a fundamental part of cooking and are found in almost every recipe. Photo: Mary Payne Moran

LOS ANGELES, October 18, 2012 - Onions are a fundamental part of cooking and are in almost every recipe, so it’s important to figure out how to cook them right. Sometimes the simplest things are the most difficult to conquer and onions qualify as exactly that.

One summer I took a class on making French Onion Soup.  I’ve always been a huge fan of its combination of sweet, acidic and cheesy flavors. After a few different batches I realized that expecting onions to caramelize quickly was a losing battle. 

They take as long as they take and it’s longer than you would anticipate. Onions received the respect from me that they deserved.

Onion Tips:

  • Onions should be sliced and diced into similar sizes.  They will cook unevenly if they’re varied in size.  Once you’ve mastered the slicing and dicing you can start cooking them. 
  • Use a Teflon pan to cook them. It has an even temperature across the entire surface.
  • Add enough oil to lightly coat the entire pan and keep it on a medium low heat.  If the fire is too hot you run the risk of burning the outside of the onion while leaving the inside undercooked.
  • Cook the onions on a low heat.
  • Make sure you stir the onions frequently for a long period of time .  Sliced onions take longer to cook (it could be as long as an hour depending on the quantity) than diced onions.  As a chef, you get to make the choice of how you want to cook your onions.  There are some recipes with caramelized onions that are slightly black on the edges and a little brown in the middle.  They offer a different flavor and texture to dishes like fajitas or a medley of roasted vegetables.
  • Don’t crowd the pan.  If there are too many onions in the pan they may never caramelize.
  • Last, but not least, don’t forget to add fat (olive oil, rapeseed oil or canola oil) and deglaze the pan with water or chicken stock.  When you deglaze the brown, color is released and absorbed into the onion. 

Onions are one of those really simple but very easy things to mess up.  It’s such a crucial part of cooking and it’s very important to get it right.  If the onions are burned, it can give the whole dish a burned flavor in the after taste, which is very unpleasant.  I’m thrilled you’re cooking and please don’t be embarrassed about the simple questions.  There are tons of people who feel exactly like you do.

Try Tyler Florence’s French Onion Soup

Chef Mary’s Tip: If you’re making a large batch of French onion soup, you may need to make it in batches or use multiple pans. 

Happy Cooking!

Chef Mary

For more great cooking tips, recipes and stories from Chef Mary, visit her www.cookingwithmary.blogspot.com. To learn more about Chef Mary, check out her Hail Mary’s, Inc. Web site www.marypaynemoran.com. E-mail questions for Ask Chef Mary Fridays to mary@hailmarysinc.com or click the Ask Chef Mary link above.

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The information provided is general information about healthy eating. It is not intended as a substitute for the advice or treatment that may have been prescribed by your physician or other health care provider. Always consult a physician before starting any new diet or regimen. 

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Mary Moran

Upon graduating from the California School of Culinary Arts in 2002, Chef Mary Payne Moran began her professional career shelling crabs at the world-renowned restaurant, Michael's in Santa Monica.  Simultaneously, she launched her own company, Hail Mary’s, founded upon the belief that good food nurtures the soul, and began catering weddings, parties and large corporate events.

In the fall of 2008, Mary began teaching her culinary skills to others.    Currently she can be found at Hollywood School House teaching her after school cooking class, and teaching her popular "Vegetables or Not Here I Come" assembly.

Most recently, Mary has launched another division in her company as well as a chef she is now also a Certified Nutritionist for high profile clients.  She helps her clients discover their healthy way of eating.  Mary has recently been published in the Los Angeles Magazine, & The New Jersey Star Ledger.

Daily she addresses cooking aficionados through her blog - Cooking with Chef Mary as well as her how-to webisodes on You Tube.

Contact Mary Moran

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