How to Carmelize
Carmelizing is one of those cooking techniques even the most amateur of cook is likely to encounter, yet many novice and intermediate chefs are unsure about. Fortunately, carmalelizing, which cooks and browns sugar, is a pretty simple procedure. It just takes a watchful eye.
When sugar is heated, it melts and turns brown while changing chemically. The result is a more buttery, nutty, and acidic flavor.
How to Carmelize
Typically, water and sugar are mixed during the carmelization process.
1. Place the saucepan (which shouldn’t be flimsy or thin, or burning may occur) over medium-high heat.
2. Stir in the sugar and water until the sugar dissolves.
3. Continue cooking (without stirring) until the mixture is browned. At first, some areas of the mixture will look darker than others, but resist the urge to stir because it may cause crystallization.
The darker the color of the mixture, the stronger the flavor will be. Pale gold offers a mild taste; a more amber color is richer with just a hint of bitterness.
Watch the saucepan constantly. Once the mixture turns amber, it will quickly burn if you don’t promptly remove it from the heat and move along to the recipe’s next step. Don’t allow the mixture to sit in the pan longer than necessary, or it will burn and/or harden.
Carmelizing Onions and Other Vegetables and Fruits
Possibly the most common item to carmelize is not ordinary sugar and water, but onions. Other vegetables and fruits may be carmelized, too, and the process is ideal for sweetening more bitter tasting vegetables, like Brussel sprouts.
To carmelize onions and other fruits and veggies:
1. Place onion rings or fruit or vegetable slices in hot cooking oil. (Butter may be used, also, but it tends to burn more easily.)
2. Stir the vegetable or fruit until it is covered with oil.
3. To hurry the carmelization process, you may add a pinch of salt. At this time, you could also add black pepper.
4. Keep stirring. After about a minute, the vegetable or fruit will stick to the pan and begin turning dark.
5. Keep stirring until the food is browned. If the vegetable or fruit sticks too much to the pan, add a tad bit of water, wine, or broth.
Okay, now it’s time to practice what you’ve learned! Check out Gourmandia’s carmelization recipes on video.