Onion Tips and Hints

As always, feel free to add your own tips in the comment section.

  • Understand that there are difference in the types of onions available at the grocery store. Some onions available are fresh (Typically the Vidalia’s, Walla Walla’s, and Paz’s) while other are produced for long term storage.
    Generally speaking, if there is no fancy name in front of the onion, it’s likely a storage onion. Yellow onions, Red onions, white onions, shallots and some Spanish Onions are considered storage onions.
  • Storage Onions are dry cured to prevent spoilage and have longer shelf lifes. Fresh onions are not and will only be available for a limited time per year.
  • Storage onions will have more sulfur than the fresh onions, and will cause more tearing when they are chopped.
  • When thinking of flavor, use colors as your guide. Red = sharper and hotter. Yellow = sweeter and higher in sugar content. White = mild and juicier.
  • Italian Red Onions are in season April though August.
  • Vidalia Onions are available April through Mid June.
  • Walla Walla Onions are at their peak in June and July.
  • A medium onion (about the size of an average mans fist) will work out to 3/4 cup to one cup of chopped onion
  • 4 medium onions will be approximately one pound.
  • The better onions are the ones that are shiny, dry, firm and have thin,papery skins.
  • Bulb onions should have no sprouts growing from the neck, as they are more likely to taste bitter.
  • Pearl Onions should be of uniform size and free of bruises and blemishes.
  • Scallions should be of medium sized and have meat 2 to 3 inches above the root.
  • Avoid onions with soft spots, bruises, or with dark patches.
  • Humidity will increase spoilage in onions.
  • Onions should be stored in a dark, cool, dry location that has good ventilation.
  • If your planning on storing your onions for a long period of time, individually wrap them in aluminum foil and store in the refrigerator. (The foil keeps the onion dark and dry, not to mention limiting its affect on other foods)
  • Do not store onions with potatoes. Potatoes give off moisture that may cause the onion to spoil sooner than expected.
  • Pearl onions should be kept away from fluorescent lighting, which may turn them green.
  • Use an onion as soon as possible after slicing or chopping, as oxidation will give the onion a bitter flavor.
  • If you plan on saving your copped onions, once chopped, they should be kept in a screw top glass jar or double wrapped in a plastic bags.
  • Chopped onions should be used within one week.
  • Whole onions will stay intact while boiling if a small, 1/4″ deep ‘X’ is cut into the stem end of the bulb.
  • “Boiled” onions keep their shape better when simmered rather than cooked at a rolling boil.
  • To prevent red onions from turning a blue/gray when cooking, add something acidic to the dish, such as lemon juice.
  • To jump start onions which are slow to carmelize, add brown sugar to the pan.
  • If you only need one part of an onion, leave the skin on the part of the unused portion. Cover tightly and refrigerate.
  • To cut down the sharp taste of onions, place in a bowl of ice water for 30 minutes after slicing, cutting or chopping. Drain the water and blot dry the onions.

I will be covering slicing onions and tear prevention in a later post.


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