We recently discovered a technique that retains more of the raw onion flavor and crunch while preventing burning.
When raw onion slices are used as a pizza topping, they tend to char in the fierce, dry heat of the oven. This is because an onion’s moisture is trapped within its cell walls, and in the short amount of time that it takes to bake a pizza, the cells don’t have long enough to break down and release their moisture to prevent the onion from burning. Sautéing the onion slices before topping the pizza is one way to jump-start the breakdown process and thus help prevent burning, but cooking them in oil or butter changes their flavor and texture, making them softer and sweeter—and that’s a different topping altogether.
We recently discovered a technique that retains more of the raw onion flavor and crunch while preventing burning: tossing the onion slices with a little bit of salt and sugar. Both ingredients draw water out of the onion cells, and the combination (we like a 1:2 ratio of salt to sugar) ensures that the onion slices don’t become too salty or too sweet. You can also use this approach to soften red or sweet onions before using them in salads or sandwiches.