The Ice Cube Hack That Solves A Classic Onion Mistake

When you're cooking some foods there is a point of no return. It's when the ingredients have cooked for too long and are now unusable in your recipe. Onions are among those ingredients and when a recipe calls to sauté them, the fine line between perfect caramelization and burnt has been the bane of many cooks having to toss them and start over. However, there is a last-ditch effort you can make to salvage your onions that are teetering on the edge of waste.

Many dishes call for sautéed onions, like Bobby Flay's Shrimp and Grits recipe. Epicurious took a look at why caramelized food is so popular, explaining that as the process occurs, the proteins inside the foods produce "complex, savory flavors." They essentially appeal directly to the umami taste buds on your tongue. As Science of Cooking explains, adding a umami flavor element provides a great balance to salty and sweet flavor notes in your dishes.

It's possible to go too far, though, as Epicurious mentions. Cooking them too long or too quickly can turn sautéed onions into the charred remains of a once great society of onions. If you have some ice cubes, though, you might be able to intervene before it's too late.

Put your sautéd onions on ice, literally

With some ice you can make sure your onions turn out nice, even if you've neglected them for a bit too long. If you notice that the onions in your pan are getting a little too close to overdone, immediately throw an ice cube in. The heat will quickly turn the frozen water into vapor and rescue your onions from their seemingly inevitable plight.

To be clear, even the power of frozen water can't bring burnt onions back from the dead. This isn't a trick to revive onions that have already burnt, it's merely an 11th-hour "Hail Mary" that you'll need to employ the very second you become aware of your onions cooking too quickly. Of course, the best way to caramelize onions is to never let them get to the point where they need rescuing, but the ideal and reality don't always coincide. If you're preparing multiple dishes at once or simply if you don't have the patience for caramelizing onions, the use of an ice cube can give you a much-needed assist.

You can just opt to buy products with caramelized onions already in them, too, like Giada De Laurentiis' caramelized onion dip with a secret ingredient. If you decide to prepare your own at home, though, you now know exactly how to give some almost-burnt onions the life-saving intervention that could prevent having to throw them away.