I love onions. I use them in nearly everything I cook so I will occassionally brown or caramelize onions. When I’m done I’ll put them in the refrigerator to be used in sandwiches, salads or dinners later that week. The main difference between browning and caramelizing onions is time and temperature. I’ll explain more below.
Browning is a technique that uses a little oil (I use grapeseed / or canola oil) and a sprinkling of salt over thinly sliced onions. The outsides of the onion will brown in 15 – 20 minutes (just be careful not to burn the onions by stirring regularly). This isn’t something you can walk away from once you start.
The image above is what it should look like when you are done browning onions. In this batch, there is a lack of conistency in coloring but for my purposes it was more than fine. Don’t let imperfection prevent you from giving this a try. What matters is you like the taste and they add flavor to whater you add them to.
Caramelizing follows a similar technique (I use olive oil) and a sprinkling of salt over thinly sliced onions. However, I start by heating the pan with oil on medium heat and after a minute or two add the onions. Immediately turn the pan to down to medium low heat and stir until the onions are a dark brown, which takes a good 45 minutes.
In the photos above you can see how the onions start to brown on the left after cooking for a few minutes. The image on the right is what the onions looked like after approximately 20 minutes of browning.
Cooking tip: After I brown or caramelize onions, I usually make a dinner with that pan so the flavor and bits of onion still in the pan can be used to flavor my meal. Add a bit of wine or butter and use a wooden spatula to scrape off the bits to add more flavor to whatever you are about to cook.
Cleaning tip: Add some water and soap detergent then place the pan on your stovetop on low heat. After 2-3 minutes take the pan off the stove and wash in the sink.