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Sugar Is The Simple Ingredient For Caramelized Onions In Record Time

Caramelized onions in a pan with a wooden spoon
Caramelized onions in a pan with a wooden spoon - Mindstyle/Getty Images

Caramelized onions add a rich, deep flavor to so many dishes. While raw onions are difficult to eat in large quantities due to their pungent flavor, cooking them down in oil, wine, or any other liquid brings out a deep yet more subtle flavor that works perfectly alongside meat as the star of a dip or even in a creamy pasta. But, traditionally it can take up to an hour to get those onions to cook down to that exact flavor and tenderness you're looking for. If you want the process done in a pinch, try adding some sugar.

Sugar is the secret ingredient you need to speed up the process of cooking down those onions. Plus, that sweet flavor contrasts perfectly with the sharp taste of onion. When it comes to the caramelization process, the addition of sugar is just one of a few tips that will help your onions turn out perfectly.

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Add A Little Sugar To Quickly Caramelize Onions

Close-up of caramelized onions in a pan
Close-up of caramelized onions in a pan - Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Typically, caramelizing onions is a slow, drawn-out process. It can take up to an hour because the onions are delicate, meaning you need to cook them slowly enough -- and deglaze them frequently enough -- that they won't dry out or burn. However, adding sugar helps speed up the process because of the way sugar reacts with heat. When onions cook down, their sugars get released while they heat. This creates what is known as the Maillard reaction, which is essentially a series of chemical processes that helps foods develop those deep, bold flavors while they cook.

When you introduce more sugar to the onions, the assumption is that the Maillard reaction happens faster, meaning your onions will get that perfect color and deep flavor in less time. Pure sugar caramelizes when it hits heat (hence why caramel exists), so next time you're caramelizing an onion, don't hesitate to add a little brown sugar. You don't need much, though -- no more than ¼ teaspoon for one onion.

Other Tips For Perfectly Caramelized Onions

Pork chop with caramelized onions on mash
Pork chop with caramelized onions on mash - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

To properly caramelize onions, they need a good amount of liquid. Adding liquid to the pan is known as deglazing, and it's meant to keep the onions in a state to ensure they don't burn. For extra flavor, you can deglaze the pan with a wine of your choice -- white, red, or sherry will all work. You can also use beef broth, but if you don't have anything on hand, water is fine as well.

Keep the heat low when caramelizing onions; if you turn the heat up too quickly, the onions will burn. The idea is to get them silky smooth, meaning you don't want them to crisp. Season them well with salt, too, to help bring out even more flavor. If you find that you cooked more than you need, they will keep in the refrigerator for about four days. Or, you can freeze them for as long as two months.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.