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How to Caramelize Onions

Caramelization is the oxidation of sugar that is widely used in cooking to add specific flavor (“What is Caramelization?”). In the planned experiment, the onion is used as the main product that will undergo this process. The composition of this vegetable includes sugar which means that during the caramelization onion cells start to break down releasing components which are a mix of sugars, proteins, and aromatic elements (Morales et al.; Lopez-Alt). At the same time, there is a lot of water in it that preconditions the demand for the evaporation during the process to alter the texture of the vegetable and achieve the appropriate result (Christensen). The caramelized onion should possess a particular color (brown), texture (more resilient), and taste (“Cooking Onions: Flavor Chemistry Changes”). The combination of these factors is achieved due to the chemical processes occurring during the heating.

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The following research question is formulated for the project:

  • What is the impact of adding sugar, baking soda, vinegar, or leaving it alone on the process of the onion’s caramelization and its results?

In terms of hypothesis, it is assumed that adding sugar to the onion will increase the speed of the caramelization process. Adding water will alter the texture and tenderize it. Vinegar will have an impact on the color making it browner. Leaving the onion alone the color and texture will remain almost unchanged.

The following variables are introduced

  • Independent variables
    • Sugar
    • Baking Soda
    • Vinegar
    • Leaving alone
  • Dependent variables
    • Color
    • Texture
    • Taste
  • Control variables
    • Temperature
    • Time

Scales for qualitative dependent variables:

  • Color
    • White
    • Pale
    • Yellow
    • Brown
    • Dark brown
  • Texture
    • Soft
    • Crumbly
    • Hard
    • Crispy
    • Mushed
  • Taste
    • Five-point scale 1 – the best taste, 5- the worst

The investigation presupposes simple though effective procedure. There are 4 stages that are needed to collect data about the impact selected substances have on the caramelization of onion. First, a frying pan should be heated using the medium heat (110C – 130C). It will be the controlled variable as the temperature will remain constant. Than 4 several portions of onion should be prepared. These preliminary activities will create the ground for the experiment.

  • Stage 1. Onion and sugar are added on the frying pan. Then, sugar is added and the time is recorded as it is another controlled variable. In general, 50 minutes are needed to caramelize the onion. After this period of time, the results of the caramelization are evaluated to determine taste, texture, and color.
  • Stage 2. The same preliminary activities. Vinegar is added and the same time is recorded. We control results by examining the texture, color, and taste of the final product.
  • Stage 3. The same preliminary activities. Baking soda is added. In 50 minutes, we should evaluate results to record such characteristics as texture, color, and taste.
  • Stage 4. The same preliminary activities. Onion is left alone. In the end, results are analyzed to compare the texture, taste, and color.

Works Cited

Christensen, Emma. “How to Caramelize Onions.The Kitchn. Web.

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Cooking Onions: Flavor Chemistry Changes.Quirky Science, 2018. Web.

Lopez-Alt, Kenji. “The Food Lab: A Better Way to Caramelize Onions (Plus, French Onion Dip!)”. Serious Eats. Web.

Morales, R., et al. “Soft Robotic Manipulation of Onions and Artichokes in the Food Industry.” Advances in Mechanical Engineering, vol. 6, 2014. Web.

“What is Caramelization?” Science of Cooking. Web.

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