Sauteing onions concentrates their natural sugars, so as the onions soften, they also take on a glorious sweetness. Cook them longer and they eventually caramelize into a golden brown.
Sauteing onions simply means to cook them in a pan that is coated with butter or oil until the onions are tender. This cooking method is super flexible -- it doesn't matter what kind of onions you use or how you cut them up. Some recipes call for cooking the onions until tender but not brown, while others continue cooking until caramelized or golden. We'll show you how to do both, as well as offer pointers on purchasing onions, ways to cut them, and how to use sauteed onions.
Rinse the onion thoroughly under cool tap water. On a cutting surface, use a chef's knife to slice off the stem and root ends. Remove the papery outer skins and cut the onion in half from the top end to the root end.
To Chop: Place each onion half, flat side down, on the cutting surface and make side-by-side vertical slices from stem end to root end. Holding slices together, cut across the slices, making tiny pieces.
To Slice: Place a peeled onion on its side on a cutting surface and use a chef's knife to cut it crosswise, making slices as thin as desired. Discard the top and root slices.
To Slice into Wedges: On a cutting surface, cut the peeled onion in half from stem to root end. Place the flat side of a half down and cut from end to end, angling toward the center to make desired-size wedges.
In a large skillet or pan heat cooking oil or butter over medium-high heat until hot. Use about 1 tablespoon fat per onion. Add chopped or sliced onions and cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula. If desired, cook a little longer until edges just start to brown. Remove from heat and use as desired.
Tip: The onions will cook more evenly if you don't crowd them. Do stir frequently and keep an eye on the heat. If the heat is too high, the onions can burn.
Cooking onions at lower heat for longer results in onions that are soft and golden and laced with brown. This breaks down the natural sugars, so the onions taste extra sweet and wonderfully special. We recommend using butter for the best flavor.
Easy Ways to Use Sauteed Onions: