But their sweet, complex flavor can come with a cost—sometimes more than an hour of careful cooking over a low flame.
Here are some of our findings.
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1. Cut the onions pole to pole instead of crosswise
Slicing the onions through their root end prevents them from breaking down too much during cooking.
2. Start cooking the onions with water over high heat and covered
Surrounding the onions with steam (and submerging some of them in the added water) heats them more quickly and thoroughly than just relying on the heat generated by the cooking surface of the skillet alone.
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3. Press and stir the onions until deeply browned
Since browning occurs only where the onions are in direct contact with the hot pan, gently press the softened onions into the bottom and sides of the skillet to allow for maximum contact. Let them sit for about 30 seconds and then stir them until they’re softened and deeply browned.
4. Finish with baking soda
Baking soda boosts the onions’ sweetness by encouraging the breakdown of flavorless inulin into sweet fructose.