A fantastic article on caramelizing onions and how long it REALLY takes. 5 minutes (which all the recipes say) and the 40 minutes it ACTUALLY takes!
Layers of Deceit
Why do recipe writers lie and lie and lie about how long it takes to caramelize onions?
By Tom Scocca
Browning onions is a matter of patience. My own patience ran out earlier this year while leafing through the New York Times food section. There, in the newspaper of record, was a recipe for savory scones with onions, currants, and caraway. Though I wasn’t particularly interested in making savory scones, one passage caught my eye:
“Add the onions to the skillet and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook until they begin to turn dark brown and somewhat soft, about 5 minutes. Add the oil and a pinch of the fine sea salt; continue cooking until the onions are soft and caramelized, about 5 minutes longer.”
Soft, dark brown onions in five minutes. That is a lie. Fully caramelized onions in five minutes more. Also a lie.
There is no other word for it. Onions do not caramelize in five or 10 minutes. They never have, they never will—yet recipe writers have never stopped pretending that they will. I went on Twitter and said so, rudely, using CAPS LOCK. A chorus of frustrated cooks responded in kind (“That’s on some bullshit. You want caramelized onions? Stir for 45 minutes”).