Author Topic: What are the BEST onions to use?  (Read 13002 times)

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Offline pologal

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What are the BEST onions to use?
« on: March 03, 2010, 08:10:13 PM »
what are the best type of onions to use on pizza? what is the best way to prep them? do you use a sweeter onion? what onion gives the best or most robust flavor?

thanks for the help!


Offline TXCraig1

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Re: What are the BEST onions to use?
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2010, 08:21:35 PM »
The best onions for anything are Texas 1015's, but I'm obviously biased... Seriously, any sweet onion will be a good choice.

I slice them and roast them in a 400F oven with a little olive oil and some smoked salt until tender and begining to brown on the edges.

Craig
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Offline scott123

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Re: What are the BEST onions to use?
« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2010, 08:28:21 PM »
Do you have a time machine? ;)

Seriously, the best onions are yellow onions from about 10 years ago and older. In the last 10 years, onions have been progressively losing flavor and losing tenderness. Vidalias are still pretty soft, but, other than sweetness, they have almost no flavor whatsoever.

The exact same compounds in onions that make you tear up are the ones that provide flavor.  I used to cry like a baby when I sliced onions. Not any more.

About 4 months ago, I purchased a bag of yellow onions that, although still almost tough as celery, had some flavor.  It had nothing to do with the type of onion, though or the store I bought them in. It might have been the time of year, but I buy onions in the fall all the time.

In other words, it's a complete crap shoot. Stay away from sweet onions, but, other than that... there is no special trick for getting good onions.

As far as prepping them goes, slice in half top to bottom, then put the flat side down and cut very thin slices.  This will give you long slivers.


Offline Randy

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Re: What are the BEST onions to use?
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2010, 08:45:13 PM »
Try this for both onions and peppers.  A few hours before making your pizza slice as much as you are going to use.  Place them in a bowl and give them a good salting.  You will notice in a bit that the bottom of the bowl is starting to collect water and the pepper water will have a tint of green.  Stir them once in awhile.

You will be glad you did.

I grow my own Vidalia onions so that is what I prefer but onions from Peru are not bad for this time of year.  My onions have struggled to survive all the wet weather but hopefully they will make a good crop.

Randy

Offline TXCraig1

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Re: What are the BEST onions to use?
« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2010, 09:47:43 PM »
The exact same compounds in onions that make you tear up are the ones that provide flavor.

Yes and no. The enzyme allinase contributes the "onion flavor" to the onion (and also makes your hands stink after touching them). It is the the action of this and another enzyme on the sulfur compounds in the onion (the sulfur compounds and enzymes are allowed to mix when the onion is cut) that result in a gas that forms dilute sulfuric acid in your eye and makes you cry.

Sweet onions are bred to have very low sulfur content. I don't know, but I wouldn't be surprised if other onions today have lower sulfur than years ago which might explain why less tears today. I don't believe that less tears directly correlates to less "onion" flavor. I think it has more to do with the higher water content of today's onions which are bred to be bigger. Higher water content would lower the allinase% and dilute the flavor. Bigger onions do directly correlate to more profit for the growers and the retailers.

My guess is that small, hard onions would have the most "onion" flavor.

Craig
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Offline GotRocks

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Re: What are the BEST onions to use?
« Reply #5 on: March 04, 2010, 09:27:04 AM »
I like a large standard yellow onion, and I prefer an onion that has been sitting in storage for several months over the freshly picked ones.

Things have changed,
 products from different growing regions are more available to us than 20 years ago, so we are not seeing as many onions that have had a few months of dry-storage age on them with their resultant moisture loss and flavor concentration.

I always had a problem with fresher onions with my shredded onion rings, they were perfect in the winter, but when I got shipped fresh onions they were so wet and juicy my onion rings would fail, they would be a pile of sloppy wet slop instead of a mound of crisp rings.

I ended up soaking the slices in heavily salted water for at least 24 hours to draw the excess liquid out, shake them off, then batter & flour as usual to get a better end result, but it was still not the same as my old onions.

So i think your onion complaints are due to them being fresher than what you used to get, Some people may see fresh as a bonus, but when it comes to onions I see it as a detriment.

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Offline Essen1

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Re: What are the BEST onions to use?
« Reply #6 on: March 04, 2010, 10:39:15 PM »
Regular red onions. They go on uncooked unless someone requests them caramelized.

Not too sweet and not to sharp. Red onions are especially good when you make a Frutti Di Mare pie.
Mike

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Offline Jackitup

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Re: What are the BEST onions to use?
« Reply #7 on: March 04, 2010, 11:09:51 PM »
Regardless of what onion you like, fresh is best. Grow some if you garden sometime and you'll taste the difference. Just like anything, especially tomatoes, fresh from the dirt.....there's nothing else!!!
Jon
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Offline Randy

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Re: What are the BEST onions to use?
« Reply #8 on: March 05, 2010, 08:01:54 AM »
Most of your store onions come from nitrogen store houses after the season.

 My onions will be ready end of April and they will last till September in open storage.  Vidalia onions I grow are mostly for fresh eating like on a good chilidog or onion rings.

Randy

Offline pologal

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Re: What are the BEST onions to use?
« Reply #9 on: March 05, 2010, 08:54:14 AM »
wow thanks for all of the answers. i love this website. i had no idea there were other people out there on a mission to make the best home made pizza possible! lol

well i just started my seeds for the garden this year. i will have to try growing onions too!

i am going more for flavor and i love onions on pizza. will be doing some experimenting this weekend.

thanks for all of the replies!! much appreciated! ;D


Offline dms

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Re: What are the BEST onions to use?
« Reply #10 on: March 05, 2010, 08:27:01 PM »

Sweet onions are bred to have very low sulfur content. I don't know, but I wouldn't be surprised if other onions today have lower sulfur than years ago which might explain why less tears today. I don't believe that less tears directly correlates to less "onion" flavor. I think it has more to do with the higher water content of today's onions which are bred to be bigger. Higher water content would lower the allinase% and dilute the flavor. Bigger onions do directly correlate to more profit for the growers and the retailers.

My guess is that small, hard onions would have the most "onion" flavor.

Craig

Sulphur content varies with soil condition.  Vidalia, GA and the surrounding area (which is where vidalia onions come from; the same variety grown anywhere else isn't a "Vidalia", by law.) have quite low sulphur in the soil.  That's true of the other geographically known onions (like the Walla Walla and a couple others that escape me.).  Not incidentally, most "sweet" onions have a lower sugar content than plain old yellow storage onions.  That makes them inferior for uses where they're going to be cooked.  for some people the discomfort of chopping onions is enough reason to use sweet onions even when cooking htem.   

Offline TXCraig1

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Re: What are the BEST onions to use?
« Reply #11 on: March 05, 2010, 10:25:47 PM »
Sulphur content varies with soil condition.  Vidalia, GA and the surrounding area (which is where vidalia onions come from; the same variety grown anywhere else isn't a "Vidalia", by law.) have quite low sulphur in the soil.  That's true of the other geographically known onions (like the Walla Walla and a couple others that escape me.). 

This is true, but it is not why we have sweet onions. Rather, they are the result of selective breeding. Low sulfur in the soil just helps to make them less pungent (and sweeter - it has been demonstrated that lower exposure to sulfur tends to yield onions with higher sugar content). The Vidalia, by the way, started out at the Texas-bred Granex.

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Not incidentally, most "sweet" onions have a lower sugar content than plain old yellow storage onions. 

This is probably not accurate. There is no official standard, but storage onions typically range from 3-5% sugars where sweet onions typically range from 6-15%. 6% sugar is generally considered to be the minimum for an onion variety to be considered "sweet."

Quote
That makes them inferior for uses where they're going to be cooked.

I agree that storage onions are better in many recipes, particularly those with long cooking times. Not pizza though - sweet onions are better - for my taste anyway.

Craig
« Last Edit: March 05, 2010, 10:46:39 PM by TXCraig1 »
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Offline dms

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Re: What are the BEST onions to use?
« Reply #12 on: March 05, 2010, 11:34:43 PM »
This is true, but it is not why we have sweet onions. Rather, they are the result of selective breeding. Low sulfur in the soil just helps to make them less pungent (and sweeter - it has been demonstrated that lower exposure to sulfur tends to yield onions with higher sugar content). The Vidalia, by the way, started out at the Texas-bred Granex.

Via Bermuda, if I remember right.  Temperature and water availability are also big contributors. 

Quote
This is probably not accurate. There is no official standard, but storage onions typically range from 3-5% sugars where sweet onions typically range from 6-15%. 6% sugar is generally considered to be the minimum for an onion variety to be considered "sweet."
 

Ah, but but you ignore that storage onions have substantial quantities of fructans, which when heated become fructose.  (Slowly sweating the oninons is the best way to do this: it's moist heat that does the hydrolization.)  (And your numbers seem low: what's the method used to measure that?)  The lower fructan content and higher moisture level of sweet onions is one of the big reasons they keep poorly. 



Offline Randy

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Re: What are the BEST onions to use?
« Reply #13 on: March 06, 2010, 07:33:55 AM »
If I remember right, Bermuda onions from Bermuda were the original sweet onion a very long time ago.  Texas onion growers started calling their onions Bermuda onions and flooded the market with fake Bermuda onions then to make their takeover of the Bermuda name complete pushed forUS legislation  to control the name Bermuda onion and got it.

When I was in high school Bermuda onion got to mean any yellow onion.

When I lived in Vidalia,in  the seventies, the onion market was just starting grow outside of the region.  Every company car we had smelled of onions during the harvest as people carried loads of fifty pound bags back to family and friends. 

The region for growing vidalia onions is controlled but is quite large crossing several counties.  I live in the county just south of Vidalia.  My home grown onions are very sweet.

Randy

Offline TXCraig1

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Re: What are the BEST onions to use?
« Reply #14 on: March 06, 2010, 08:38:53 AM »
If I remember right, Bermuda onions from Bermuda were the original sweet onion a very long time ago.

Yes, that is correct. Bermuda onions were first planted in Texas in 1898, and the seeds were from the Canary Islands not Bermuda. Most of the seeds for Texas production came from the Canary's until the 1940's.

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Texas onion growers started calling their onions Bermuda onions and flooded the market with fake Bermuda onions then to make their takeover of the Bermuda name complete pushed forUS legislation  to control the name Bermuda onion and got it.

Popularity of the Texas grown Bermuda onions exploded almost immediately. The increase in volume had nothing to do with flooding the market and everything to do with demand. The name Bermuda is a reference to the variery of onion not the country though Bermuda the country was the major grower until 1920 or so. There was nothing fake about the Bermuda onions grown in Texas.

By the 1920's they were growing so many in Texas, the demand for seed brought in new, inexperienced seed growers who drove the Canary Island seed quality down and per-acre yields in Texas became so low that Texas growers began looking at other varieties such as the Grano from Spain.

Because of low yields, there have been few, if any, Bermuda onions grown commercially since the late 1940's when the sweeter, higher yield Grano-based cultivars became widely available.  To my knowledge, control of the name "Bermuda" has never been at issue.


Craig
« Last Edit: March 06, 2010, 08:51:13 AM by TXCraig1 »
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Offline TXCraig1

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Re: What are the BEST onions to use?
« Reply #15 on: March 06, 2010, 09:26:04 AM »
Via Bermuda, if I remember right.

The first sweet onions grown in Texas were Bermuda variety but the seeds came from the Canary Islands. The “mother” of most super-sweet onions (Vidalia, Maui, Texas 1015, etc.) however is the Grano 502 which traces back to Valencia, Spain. The Granex has ancestry in both lines.

Quote
Ah, but but you ignore that storage onions have substantial quantities of fructans, which when heated become fructose.  (Slowly sweating the oninons is the best way to do this: it's moist heat that does the hydrolization.) 

Sugars and fructans make up almost all of the dry weight onions. Since sweet onions have more sugar, storage onions should have more fructans.

The hydrolysis products of fructan polymers are fructooligosaccharides and fructose. I believe that at 100% fructan conversion, fructose makes up about 80% of the total converted carbohydrates. Complete conversion isn’t fast unless you are at temperatures that will quickly burn the sugars – as you note, slowly sweating is the best. Any bite (as in al dente) is long gone before you get there – not to say that some conversion and a noticeable increase in sweetness doesn’t happen relatively quickly. With agave, for example, it takes 24+ hours to maximize the conversion of fructans to fermentable sugars for making tequila.

Froctose is perceived ~3-5x sweeter than fructooligosaccharides. Fructose tends to make up a much higher percentage of the total sugar in sweet onions as compared to storage onions, but you’re right, when a large portion of the fructans are converted to fructose, a lot of sweetness is created. Onion chutney cooked for hours is good stuff… The heat of cooking also degrades the sulfur compounds reducing pungency which masks sweetness.

Quote
(And your numbers seem low: what's the method used to measure that?) 

I’ve never done it. I would think HPLC (High Performance Liquid Chromatography), refractive index, or NIR (Near Infrared Radiation) absorbance. The % figures I noted are of fresh weight. Of dry weight, I think the sugars typically represent 40-55% in storage onions and 55-60%+ in sweet onions.

Quote
The lower fructan content and higher moisture level of sweet onions is one of the big reasons they keep poorly. 

Hence the name “storage onion.”

So what does this all have to do with pizza???
I like sweet onions for pizza because, depending on the pizza, I can roast them until they just begin to turn translucent or a little longer until they just begin to brown and in either case have a beautifully sweet flavor with no sulfur pungency yet still have a nice texture that contrasts slightly with the soft cheese.
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Offline Pete-zza

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Re: What are the BEST onions to use?
« Reply #16 on: March 06, 2010, 09:58:14 AM »
I have found this discussion on onions interesting and informative and am impressed with the knowledge that many of our members bring to this forum, even if they don't always agree. They have figuratively peeled back the layers of the humble onion on this one, and I will perhaps never look at the onion the same way again  :-D. Like Craig, I prefer the Texas 1015's for pizza, because of their mildness and sweetness. I also try to use other Texas products wherever possible, to help the state's economy.

Peter

Offline Randy

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Re: What are the BEST onions to use?
« Reply #17 on: March 06, 2010, 04:45:17 PM »
Final answer, salt the onions before use.  I think you are right Peter, we want agree on this one. ;D

Randy

Offline Puzzolento

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Re: What are the BEST onions to use?
« Reply #18 on: March 23, 2010, 12:06:39 PM »
Quote
Vidalias are still pretty soft, but, other than sweetness, they have almost no flavor whatsoever.

I have to agree. I never use Vidalias or other sweet onions in food that isn't served raw, because the flavor seems to disappear, and they turn to mush.

Seems like I get the best results with big ol' white onions.

Offline Randy

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Re: What are the BEST onions to use?
« Reply #19 on: March 23, 2010, 03:27:57 PM »
I prefer Vidalias for fresh eating like hotdogs and hamburgers, pizza  and onion rings but not for long cooking.


 

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