This Is The Secret To Perfectly Sautéed Onions

So, you're in search of the ever-illusive, soft and golden, sweet and spicy, wonderfully-aromatic batch of sautéd onions? Who isn't? Let's start with the basics. First, sauté white onions or Cipollini onions. Second, avoid cutting the onion's root end unless you're looking for a good cry. Third, never cut straight down. Angle your knife as you cut to get even, sauté-ready slices. Last but not least, for heaven's sake don't throw out your onion skins! They're a superfood, rich in vitamins A, C, E, antioxidants, and flavonoids. And if you don't want to eat them, you can always use them as an all-natural hair dye. 

That was the easy part. Now choose your oil. Opt for olive oil if you're going to infuse garlic and pepper into your sauté, coconut oil if you're going to sauté veggies, sesame oil for a nutty flavor, or grapeseed oil for healthier, low-temperature sautéing (via Thrillist). But maybe you prefer butter? While butter will add rich flavor to onions, it's prone to burning. You'll want to clarify it or combine it with olive oil (via Cooking Light).

But even when you pick the right fat for your onions, you might be hard-pressed to get the soft, golden brown you're craving.       

The surprising pantry staple behind a beautifully browned onion sauté

If you've never managed to sauté your onions to perfection, that may be because you're not allocating enough time. According to The Kitchn, onions are among the vegetables that require the longest to cook, and lengthier processes like caramelizing them can take up to an hour (via Professional Secrets). A good sauté, in turn, can take up to 10 minutes (via Start Cooking). But isn't there a faster way? Because, we have dinner to get on the stove!

That's where baking soda comes in. Yes, the same stuff that you use to deodorize your shoes, dry shampoo your hair, and clean your oven (via HuffPost). As it turns out, adding just a pinch of baking soda to your pan while sautéing onions will change the pH of your onions as they react to the heat, and butter, or oil. This will not only give your onions the golden hue you long for, but it will also soften them up faster, cutting down dramatically on cooking time (via Women's Health and National Onion Association). It's a win-win. Just how much is a "pinch" of baking soda? The National Onion Associations recommends 1/8th teaspoon per pound of onions.