The right way to prepare and cook onions

You must master this main ingredient

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

The right way to prepare and cook onions

Onions are especially common in Indian food. But they pop up in cuisines all around the world and it’s likely that anyone who’s ever done a bit of cooking has at least chopped an onion – and cried over a chopping board too!

Despite their popularity, they can be a bit tricky. Whether it’s struggling to cut them to the right shape, to making sure they don’t burn and stick to the pan.

Onions are such a crucial ingredient, it’s important to get them right. So here are my top tips to help you on your way.


The first step is learning how to prepare your onions before they even get close to the heat. The more experienced chef will have their technique down perfectly and will be able to show it off with some speed – although this guy puts many of them to shame in bravery alone. But being quick is no substitute for getting it right!

Whether you’re slicing or dicing onions, there’s a quick and safe technique that leaves you with nice, even results. I put this video together to demonstrate:

It’s important that you choose the right knife for the job – in this case, a Chef’s Knife – and that you use the proper knife techniques to stay safe and efficient. Also, remember to always keep your knife as sharp as possible, as a blunt knife is not only harder to use, but also far less safe.


There isn’t just one way to cook onions, so this will entirely depend on the recipe and type of food you’re making. Some recipes will call for browned onions, while others will not. Make sure you know which before heating up the pan.

If you’re after a deeper flavour, which is often the case with curry sauces, then you’ll want to brown your onions. Getting this right can be tricky as you’ll want to make sure you get an even browning without any burning.

Using ghee rather than oil makes things a bit quicker, as ghee can reach a higher temperature than oil, so the onions will cook faster. If you’re inexperienced, you should only really do this when browning as it will mean keeping a very close eye to ensure nothing’s burnt.

The onions will go through a few phases, first becoming translucent and then browning fairly quickly. Keep watching and be sure to keep stirring to make sure everything is cooked evenly. Keep some water on hand and, if you think some of the onion is about to burn, add in about a tablespoon of water to slow the process.

It’s impossible to achieve a rich, thick curry sauce without properly browned onions, and undercooking is one of the most frequent mistakes made by curry novices. Generally you should fry onions for at least 30 minutes to make sure they’re properly browned. This seems like a long time, but trust me, the results are worth it!

Put your skills to practice!

chicken dopiaza hero

What better way to test out your new found onion mastery than with the double onion curry, AKA Dopiaza.

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