Caramelized onions aren’t difficult. You just need a few onions, a pat of butter, a turn of olive oil, and a lot of time. Its the time commitment that always causes problems. I’d love to have 45 minutes at the end of the day to caramelize onions for a pizza, but that rarely happens. In the past, I’ve made up for that lack of weeknight time by caramelizing a large batch of onions on the weekend and freezing them. But, when I go that route, the 45 minute time commitment jumps to about an hour and half because 3lbs of onions have to be done in at least 2 batches. Not a particularly efficient way to spend very precious time.
It is not surprising that I was intrigued by the possibility of cooking caramelized onions in the crock pot, the bastion for fix it and forget it cooks everywhere. First discovered on Pintrest, I took to Google to do some more research before trying it out on my own. All of the examples I found online were pretty much the same – onions, butter/oil, and a crock pot for 6-10 hours. I decided to go with my normal “recipe” for caramelized onions, scaled up, and see what the results were.
A note on picking onions: I always choose yellow onions. Not only are they cheaper than sweet onions, but I think that the final flavor is nuttier and more complex than that of sweet onions. I read somewhere long ago (okay a year or 2 ago) that the chemical in yellow onions that makes your eyes tear up also are what create this fabulous complexity. I’m not sure if that is true, but I am sure that caramelized sweet onions just aren’t as good as caramelized yellow onions.
Crock Pot Caramelized Onions
3 pounds yellow onions
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1) Peel and thinly slice all of the onions. I used my mandolin, with the thin slicing guide.
2) Place half of the onions in a 6-quart size crock pot. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over the onions. Add the rest of the onions. Drizzle the second tablespoon of olive oil over the second layer of onions and top with butter cut into smaller cubes.
3) Turn crock pot on low and cook for approximately 6 to 8 hours.
Stir the onions every hour or so. You may notice some of the onions on the outside burning, if it is more than just a sliver or two, consider turning down the heat on the crock pot even more.
THe Final Verdict?
A rousing success!
It turns out, that the process is no more difficult that traditional onions, and that, while it does take longer in general, the time I had to spend with the onions dropped from 45 minutes of babysitting them on the stove to a total of 10-15 minutes of stirring throughout the 6 hour cooking time. This meant I was free to do other things- like my laundry and writing posts for you. It was a win-win all the way around!
Plus, with so many caramelized onions, I was able to freeze several small containers of onions for use later. No need to thaw them in advance either, just pop them in the microwave on a low power setting or in a hot water bath and they defrosted in no time.