The Best Tool For Stirring Caramelized Onions

The rule to perfecting caramelized onions is to understand that they are caramelized -– not charred, browned, or sweated. This is especially the case for classic French onion soup, which relies on these strings of gold to give the soup its sweet and savory body. Some cooks caramelize onions superficially by adding brown sugar into the pan, which is fine but doesn't offer the same sweet onion flavor as true caramelized onions. When it comes down to it, you're going to need to hover over the pot for around 45 minutes, stirring, modulating your heat, and adding fats or liquids as needed (via MasterClass). A lot of effort goes into a good batch of caramelized onions, and there are certain tools or ingredients that help with the process.

The first tool you need is the pan you're sauteing the onions in. MasterClass suggests that you look for the widest pan you can find, preferably a heavy-bottomed stainless steel pan, so that the onions aren't overcrowded. The second tool to choose carefully is the spatula or spoon you will use to stir the onions with. Achieving harmony between the pan and the stirring utensil can make the caramelization process much easier for you.

Silicone spatula

When it comes to stirring a pan, people tend to choose between the traditional wooden spoon and the silicone spatula. Both have their pros and cons, but a silicone spatula takes the cake for caramelizing onions. Of course, wooden spoons definitely work. According to Home Cook World, they are non-conductive and sturdy, which means that you can hold them for long periods of time without feeling the heat come up to the handle. However, wooden spoons are porous and thus more difficult to wash. Imagine stirring a pot of browning onions for up to an hour -– surely, your wooden spoon will absorb some of the sharp allium notes while having traces of caramelized sugar clinging to its surface.

A cooking process as long as caramelization requires a tool that is less porous than wood, making silicone the best option. Not only are silicone spatulas heat resistant, but they are smooth and non-abrasive to the pan (via Simply Recipes). To stir effectively whilst deglazing the sugars stuck to the bottom of the pan, you must have a spatula with a flat and stiff edge. The added flexibility of silicone also makes stirring delicate foods like onions much easier. 

All in all, making sure you have the essential tools for your cooking needs is always the first step to making a good meal, and a good silicone spatula will help you caramelize onions to perfection.