How to Boil Water: Sautéing onions

Genevieve Ko
  (A. Sparrow / For The Times)

With so many of you having to stay home and cook for the first time — ever or more than you have in a long time — we get that it can be overwhelming to have to cook all your meals from scratch. So we’re here to get you started.

Each weekday, we’re going to post a new skill here and go into detail about how to do it — a resource for cooking basics so you can get food on the table and get through this.

Lesson 2: Sauteing Onions

Once you know how to properly saute onions, you are never far from a delicious meal. You can scrape them out of the pan and onto rice, pasta, steak, sandwiches, tacos — just about anything. Or you can use them as a starting point and add more ingredients to make a soup, stew, braise, curry, omelet, scrambled eggs, vegetable or meat saute. There are two ways I think about doing it.

To get sauteed onions that are lightly browned around the edges and just translucent in the center with a faint crunch to each bite, start by setting a medium skillet over medium-high heat. After a few minutes, add 2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil. As soon as the oil glides fast on the surface like a speed skater — it’s a matter of seconds — add a diced or sliced small onion (about ½ cup). Sprinkle with salt and stir well. Cook, stirring now and then, until the onion is as browned and tender as you’d like, 4 to 6 minutes. If you’re going to add other ingredients, do it right now.

My preferred method results in onion pieces that are evenly tender and golden or browned all the way through. Combine ¼ cup vegetable or olive oil with a diced or sliced small onion (½ cup) in a small skillet and sprinkle with salt. Spread out the onions in a single, flat layer. The oil should just cover them; if not, add a little more. Turn the heat to medium and let the onion cook, stirring now and then, until it's as browned and tender as you like, 8 to 10 minutes. If you’re going to cook other foods in the same skillet, drain excess oil into a bowl if you’d like before adding more ingredients. Save that oil for the tastiest future sautes or scrambled eggs.