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Do You Cook Meat Or Onions First? What You Should Know!

If (like me) you love to cook and busy yourself in the kitchen, you may have some questions about the process to follow when preparing dishes with onions.

You would think it would be pretty obvious whether to cook your meat or your onions first, but with a bit of research, I’ve found that the answer is not quite so simple. In this article, I’ll be debunking questions about which comes first.

Do You Cook Meat or Onions First?

Whether you cook your meat or your onions first depends on the dish you’re preparing. Meat that takes a while to brown, like steak or mutton, should be seared before adding your onions. Poultry like chicken that browns quickly should be cooked only after you’ve fried up your onions a bit. And for dishes like meatloaf or burger patties, you can cook your meat and your onions simultaneously.

Do You Cook Meat Or Onions First?
Do You Cook Meat Or Onions First?

Cooking Beef or Mutton with Onions

Have you got a glorious steak fillet on hand that would go perfectly with some fried onions and chips?

You might be wondering about how to cook your various components to make sure they’re prepared to perfection.

To my mind, the obvious thing to do would be to fry my onions first to make the most of the sizzling hot oil in my skillet.

But this is not the case.

The correct method is to sear your meat first to make sure it has a crisp outer coating that seals in as much moisture as possible for the rest of the cooking process.

Once your meat is sufficiently browned (on high heat), you can add in your onions, which in turn will pick up the flavors of your meat.

In cooking beef or mutton, it is important to sear the meat first to seal in juices before adding your onions .
In cooking beef or mutton, it is important to sear the meat first to seal in juices before adding your onions .

The reason for this process is that onions contain a lot of moisture.

When added to a hot pan, they actually cool down its overall temperature, making it more difficult and time-consuming for your meat to brown.

You’ll also end up with soggy, limp onions.

As an alternative, you can fry your onions separately in their own pan.

Needless to say, this will leave you with more dishes and slightly less flavor in both your meat and vegetables.

Cooking Chicken, Turkey Pieces, or Duck with Onions

Poultry meats brown and cook faster than red meat like beef or lamb.

So, if you’re cooking chicken or duck with onions, you want to brown your onions first.

An additional benefit of cooking your onions first is that their flavor will absorb into the hot oil in your pan.

Consequently, your chicken pieces will take in the flavor of the onion, making them tastier overall.

If you brown your chicken first, there is also the possibility that your onion won’t cook completely.

This is because poultry cooks fast, and onions don’t always have the time to catch up.

Finely diced onion might be okay, but then I recommend at least cooking your meat and onions at the same time.

In the case of chicken and poultry, onions should be added to the pan first and browned before adding the chicken.
In the case of chicken and poultry, onions should be added to the pan first and browned before adding the chicken.

Cooking Ground Meats with Onions

Some recipes call for “melty” onions that almost dissolve into the meat you’re preparing.

This includes recipes incorporating ground beef, mutton, or pork, like burgers and meatloaf.

In this case, it’s good to mix your onions into the meat before you start the cooking process.

But by the same token, you need to make sure your onions are diced very finely, or you’ll end up biting into undercooked chunks of it.

Chopping your onion into small pieces before adding it to your meat also makes it easier to shape it (if you’re making patties or meatballs).

When cooking onions with ground meat, it is important to finely chop onions before adding them to meat to make them blend for seamlessly into you ground meat. Add them prior to cooking your meat.
When cooking onions with ground meat, it is important to finely chop onions before adding them to meat to make them blend seamlessly into your ground meat. Add them prior to cooking the meat.

Cooking Onions in Soups, Stews, and Curries

For soups, stews, and curries, my general rule is to sweat my onions a bit before adding other ingredients.

This is to ensure I get the most out of their flavor.

Sautéing vegetables like onions and garlic in a bit of fat draws out their aromatics, making the entire dish more flavorful in the long run.

They might melt away in the final product, but you’ll definitely be able to taste them better.

Once your onions are glossy, you can add in your meats and softer vegetables, as well as the liquid or broth you’ll be cooking them in.

In making soups and stews, sweating the onions before adding other ingredients releases their flavor better than simply adding them with the other ingredients.
In making soups and stews, sweating the onions before adding other ingredients releases their flavor better than simply adding them with the other ingredients.

Roasting Onions in the Oven with Meat

Who doesn’t love a good roast?

Personally, I adore a Sunday lunch of roast beef baked to perfection, provided it’s served with some buttery onions and gravy.

To achieve this effect, you can cook your onions and your meat at the same time.

Simply place your roast in the center of your baking dish and keep your onions on the outer edges.

This will give them ample time to cook, even if they’re quite chunky.

Ideally, when you serve your onions, they’ll be nice and crispy on the outside and a little soft and tender toward their centers.

During the cooking process, your meat will also absorb the aromatic flavor of the onions, amplifying the overall taste of your dish.

Conclusion to Do You Cook Meat or Onions First?

Onions maketh many a dish, and while the above serves as a good guideline, it really depends on the recipe you’re following.

If you like to fly off the seat of your pants in the kitchen like me, then I suggest sticking to cooking your onions second with red meat and first with poultry, but ultimately you’ll learn best through a process of trial and error until you find the method that works best for you.

Frequently Asked Questions On Do You Cook Meat or Onions First?

Can You Cook Onions in the Oven?

Roast onions baked in the oven are delicious. Simply cut your onions in half and season them generously with salt and spice. Then sprinkle them lightly with oil and pop them into the oven at a high heat (400F/200C). Place them cut side down so their largest surface area has the most contact with direct warmth. Once they are tender inside and golden brown on the outside, they’re ready to be served.

What is the Best Oil for Frying Onions?

Olive oil is my preference for frying onions. It’s more flavorful and has a lower smoke point, meaning you won’t be dealing with plumes of smog in your kitchen. Indeed, olive oil is better for most shallow-frying vegetables.