Caramelizing onions is a scientific process. There's complicated stuff that goes on, like Maillard reactions and acid conversions, but all you really need to know is that by cooking them low and slow, moisture comes out and the onions' natural sugars take on a delightful nutty flavor. While it's nothing short of alchemy, it only takes 40 minutes and lots of stirring, so it's infinitely easier than your ninth grade chemistry experiment where you burned the sugar. Once you have a batch, top your favorite burger for a rich boost of flavor or add them to the mix in green salad or tacos when you want an extra layer of subtle sweetness.
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At this point, the semi-cooked onions will get soft and start to break down. Some will start to caramelize, and browned bits will build up in the pan. If you notice burnt spots, though, turn down the heat.
After 30 minutes
The onions will be golden in color and start to become jammy. They'll still be releasing liquid, but the pan will brown up more.
After 40 minutes
Now they'll really start to caramelize! The color and the sweet, nutty smell will indicate that. They'll be soft, but not mushy.
After 50 minutes
The onions will be darker, richer, and even more caramelized. Pour 1/4 cup broth, water, or wine into the pan, and as it simmers, scrape up the browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan and stir them into the mixture.