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How to sauté an onion

Last year I began a tradition of cooking a heart-shaped pizza for Valentine’s day. This was ambitious because I don’t know the first thing about cooking.

As a novice, my biggest challenge is that cookbooks assume you already know how to cook. They’ll tell you to do things, like marinating meat, or sautéing an onion, without telling you how to do those things. And it’s not at all obvious to me where you can find that information if you don’t already have it.

So naturally I started searching the web. And I found that there were only three pages in all of google’s universe that contained the phrase, “how to saute an onion”. And none of those pages told you how. Disappointed in the usefulness of the web, I called Kay and she walked me through it by phone.

Fast-forward a year. Valentine’s day was two weeks ago, and I was reminded of this episode. While trying out GoodSearch, I found that the only page it returned for “how to saute an onion” was my own page, where I related the story about not being able to find instructions for sautéing an onion. That just didn’t seem right. I asked Kay to sauté an onion while I took pictures, so we could fix that situation.

Without further ado, here it is: How to sauté an onion.

1. You will need an onion.


2. Peel the onion. It’s easier if you cut the ends off first.

Peel the onion

3. Chop the onion according to what your recipe specifies.

Chop the onion

4. Put a little vegetable oil in your pan. Kay recommends olive oil for the best flavor.

Oil in pan

5. Heat the oil over medium-high heat.

Medium-high heat

6. When the oil begins to shimmer (or when it’s hot, but not smoking), add the onion.

Add the onion

7. Stir frequently so it cooks evenly.

Stir frequently

8. Most recipes want you to cook the onion until it is tender and slightly translucent. If the recipe calls for a caramelized onion, keep cooking until it starts to brown. This results in a sweeter onion flavor. Don’t believe the recipe if it says to sauté the onion until it is transparent. I can tell you from experience that this will NEVER HAPPEN.

Below is a nicely sautéd onion.

Sautéd onion