Slow cookers, i.e., Crockpots, are great appliances when cooking your favorite meat to perfect tenderness.
People these days mostly prefer slow cookers over conventional pressure cookers, possibly because of safety concerns or perhaps just because they’re so easy to switch on and forget about until your meal is ready.
Most Crockpot recipes call for throwing in the raw onions together with the other ingredients.
While you can do this, you will not obtain the same depth of flavor as if you just spend an extra ten minutes caramelizing the onions a little before adding them to the other ingredients.
Do You Have to Sauté Onions Before They Go Into the Crockpot?
If you’re someone who enjoys well-prepared food, you will certainly notice the difference between a dish with the raw onions added and one where the onions were fried beforehand.
Why Don’t We Saute Onions More Often?
Most people who use a pressure cooker or Crockpot are doing so because they’re in a hurry. They’re not trying to make a gourmet meal. They’re just trying to get dinner done to feed a hungry family.
Caramelizing onions takes time. To do it properly, they should be fried low and very slow for up to an hour. It’s impossible to get that gorgeous honey-brown color and sweet-umami flavor in a few minutes on high heat.
So, you need to decide whether you want a rich depth of deliciousness to your dish or dinner-on-the-go-no-matter-what-it-tastes-like! There is a middle ground to this though.
While most of us cannot spare an hour to caramelize onions properly over low heat, most of us can afford ten minutes to saute them on medium heat.
What Happens When We Saute Onions?
1. When onions come into contact with heat, a chemical process takes place. The bigger starch and sugar molecules in the onions break down and become single molecules with a sweeter, milder taste.
Of course, the onion’s texture and appearance change too. The onion changes from white, crispy, and astringent to caramel-colored, soft, and sweet. This is all thanks to the natural sugars found in an onion.
2. Another thing that happens when we saute onions is that they release moisture which then evaporates.
This is especially important in Crockpot cooking because many dishes turn out watery and flavorless because of too much liquid. The more liquid you can get rid of at the beginning, the more concentrated your flavors will be.
3. The fibers break down and the onions melt into the dish. This gives the finished dish a silkier texture.
Whether you cook your dish in a Crockpot, a conventional pot, or a stovetop, it is best to saute the aromatic vegetables first. Browning onions can help step up your cooking game hugely.
We hope this will encourage you to do more than dump some meat and vegetables into your slow cooker before rushing off to work.
Investing just an extra ten minutes to saute your onions and other aromatics like garlic, ginger, carrots, and spices will make everything made in your slow cooker taste better.
You may be lucky enough to have one of the newer slow cookers that have a built-in saute mode, meaning that you won’t need to use a separate frying pan.