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Learn How to Cook Onions for Thanksgiving Dinner

I used to work in my family's restaurant and helped run it. I love good food, and I've cooked family meals for over 60 years.

An onion has many layers

An onion has many layers

Beginner's Guide: How to Cook Onions

When I first left home, I didn't have any idea how to cook. I was brought up in Africa in a household with a cook—and I was barely allowed in the kitchen at all, in case I got in his way. So getting married in England and having to learn cookery from scratch at the age of 20 was quite a culture shock. All I could do was make toast and boil an egg.

I'm sure that lots of people start adult life with very little knowledge of how to cook basic dishes, so this article will explain what you need to know to cook vegetables properly: vegetables which are neither underdone nor cooked to death.

I have also included a poll and a quiz about onions, as well as an amazing musical vegetable video.

About the Onion

The onion is a good vegetable to use to flavour stews and soups, or you can roast it as an accompaniment for meat. It is used as a popular vegetable all over the world; it is used as an ingredient of curries, stir-fries and many sauces.

The outer parchment-like leaves are inedible, so the onion should be peeled by stripping them off with a sharp knife.

A large onion, chopped small and fried lightly

A large onion, chopped small and fried lightly

For Soup, Stews or Fried Onions

  1. Slice the onion in half, and then slice it or chop it into small pieces.
  2. Then add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a frying pan, and fry the onion on a moderate heat until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
  3. It can then be added to your soup or stew pot, to mix with the other ingredients.
A very large onion, sliced, chopped into small pieces and cooked till brown. Cook for a minute more to crispen it up.

A very large onion, sliced, chopped into small pieces and cooked till brown. Cook for a minute more to crispen it up.

Crispy Fried Onions

If you want plain fried onion, as an accompaniment to burgers, cook it on a slightly higher heat to make it a bit crispy, stirring it, to prevent it sticking to the pan or burning.

Onion, garlic and ginger

Onion, garlic and ginger

How to Give a Stew or Soup a Stronger Flavour

  1. Add 1 clove of garlic and a 1-inch slice of ginger.
  2. Both of these should be peeled first, and then crushed, either in a garlic crusher or with something flat, like the handle of your kitchen knife. This brings out the juices and aroma.

Shortcut: Bottled Garlic-Ginger Paste

Whilst it tastes slightly blander than the fresh product, bottled ginger-garlic paste is very popular and easy to use, saving time and, of course, washing up. I use it myself when I'm in a hurry.

Roast Onion

  1. Peel a medium-sized onion.
  2. Place it on a baking tray.
  3. Pour or spray about 1 teaspoon of cooking oil over it.
  4. Add a little salt.
  5. Cook it in the oven, medium heat for about 45 minutes, until brown, basting it with oil once or twice ("basting" just means covering it with oil).

Note: You can cook roast potatoes and meat in the same baking tray, with some extra cooking oil, as the onion flavours the meat and potatoes.

Red Onions

I haven't overlooked red onions, but the method of cooking is the same as that of cooking brown onions.

Red onions are slightly sweeter than brown onions, and very nice when roasted. Personally I don't think you can taste much difference between red or brown onions in stews and other recipes, so, as red onions are usually a bit more expensive, at least in England, where I live, I don't normally use them, except for an occasional roast dinner, when I buy just a few.

Onion Quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. 1.Which one of these vegetables is NOT part of the Allium family?
    • Onions
    • Garlic
    • Leeks
    • Potatoes
  2. 2. Are left-over onions poisonous once cut open and stored in the fridge?
    • No - Onions emit sulphuric acid which protects them from bacteria after being cut
    • Yes
  3. 3. Do onions have health benefits?
    • Yes, they have a number of significant health benefits
    • No, they are not especially good for you
  4. 4.Are onions and garlic toxic to cats?
    • Yes, but they are unlikely to eat enough to be poisoned
    • Yes, any quantity will make them very ill
    • No
  5. 5. What does the expression "To know your onions" mean?
    • To be good at gardening
    • To know what you are talking about
    • To be a good cook

Answer Key

  1. Potatoes
  2. No - Onions emit sulphuric acid which protects them from bacteria after being cut
  3. Yes, they have a number of significant health benefits
  4. Yes, but they are unlikely to eat enough to be poisoned
  5. To know what you are talking about

Interpreting Your Score

If you got between 0 and 1 correct answer: Never mind, you can't be an expert in everything

If you got between 2 and 3 correct answers: Better luck next time!

If you got 4 correct answers: Not bad!

If you got 5 correct answers: Excellent - Top of the class! And you certainly know your onions

An Amazing Vegetable Orchestra

Finally, a Labour-Saving Tip

When I peel onions for cooking, I often peel more than is required, chop it up and put it in a small container in the fridge or freezer. Then if I need it for sandwiches, salad or any other appropriate recipe, I have it immediately to hand.

Sometimes I cook more onion than is needed and store it to use later to make tomato sauce for pasta or to add more flavour to a sauce or stew or even an omelette.

The mixture of onions, tomatoes and peppers makes a tasty sauce, or filling for stuffed vegetables, or an omelette filling.

The mixture of onions, tomatoes and peppers makes a tasty sauce, or filling for stuffed vegetables, or an omelette filling.

Do leave a comment! I love your feedback.

Diana Grant (author) from London on December 23, 2015:

Yes, everyone in my family loves onions and garlic in large quantities. I can remember a time in the 1960's when people didn't use garlic much in England, because it was smelly - food was a bit bland. Times have changed, and "foreign" foods have been incorporated into what the English eat - Mediterranean and Asian food especially. I eat curry once or twice a week nowadays.

Barbara Radisavljevic from Templeton, CA on December 19, 2015:

I love putting onions and garlic in almost anything savory. They are very popular at our house. Love your photos. They remind me I need to cook another batch of soup.

Diana Grant (author) from London on July 15, 2015:

Curries are so popular in the UK that they are almost considered as English food nowadays - I have some kind of curry at least once or twice a week. I use lots of onions, and then sometimes I use bought curry paste or curry sauce, and other times I use all my own spices and herbs. An Indian taught me how to cook curry when we were working together in a restaurant

Diana Grant (author) from London on July 15, 2015:

Yes, I'm a great fan of onions too - I use large quantities in stews, curries, Chinese stir fry and salads, not to mention sandwiches and toasted cheese

Anukampa on June 25, 2015:

wow. great post. We use lot red onions in gravies and curries in India.

Nice piece of info. Thanks

Lorelei Cohen on June 24, 2015:

I love onions raw or cooked so it really is a good thing that they are such a healthy vegetable.

Diana Grant (author) from London on February 22, 2012:

I have now written and published Parts 2 and 3, and added them as links above.

Eiddwen from Wales on February 22, 2012:

Thank you for sharing this gem and I vote up plus bookmark in with my recipe all from Hub pages. I will now keep my eye out for part 2.

Take Care And enjoy your Day.

Eddy.