How to Cut Onions for Burgers

How to Cut Onions for Burgers

Burgers and onions are, as every foodie knows, besties. To get the best out of our burgers we need to celebrate and respect that glorious meeting of oniony sweetness and umami dripping beefiness. 

Key to any good burger is the presentation of the onions – just how should we be cutting and serving them for maximum yum?  

Popular food culture holds that onions cut ‘pole to pole’ are the winners in the burger category, so we’re going to cover that as well as some other techniques.  Here in this article, we like to give you options and well - rounded solutions! After all, YOUR burger is a very personal affair, and we all have different tastes when it comes down to what makes up the ‘best’ burger. 

We’ll also pack in lots of other interesting info too, so let’s get cracking.

What kind of onions are best for my hamburger?Choosing onions

First, this is largely a matter of taste. If there’s a particular type/cultivar of onion that you swear by, use it.  You also need to consider whether you’re going to be cooking the onion or not, and what sort of flavors you’re looking to get.

Let’s put this into a table format to keep things clear in an easy reference guide.

Match your onion to your tastebuds table

WHAT YOU WANT

BEST ONION PICK

Sweet, raw crunch and bite on your hamburger

Either sliced raw red onion or raw yellow (Vidalia) onion

Onion in the burger meat itself

Diced yellow onion added into burger meat prior to cooking

Caramelized onions on your burger

Sliced red, yellow, or white onion cooked down

Soft, cooked sweetness without bite

Grilled red or yellow onion rings with a heavy sprinkle of balsamic vinegar 

Garlicky flavor to your burger meat

Minced raw shallots added to burger meat prior to cooking

Pickle flavor and fresh crunch

Raw yellow or white onion rings pickled in vinegar for 2 hours

Fried onion strings or shreds for taste and texture

Sliced yellow or white onion, fried, and perhaps breaded

Onion jam to dress burger

Yellow or red onions finely diced and cooked down


Cutting onions for hamburgers – methods and advice

PrepFor all these onion cutting methods you’re going to need:

  • Your onions
  • A sharp chef’s or utility knife
  • A stable, non – slip chopping/cutting board
  • A bowl to decant prepped onions into to keep your work surface clear

Dicing onions for hamburgers

Method:  

  1. Holding the onion firmly on your board with your non – chopping hand, you’re going to trim off the stem end of the onion, about ¼ inch. 
  2. You’re going to leave the root end uncut to stabilize the onion as you chop, as one end of the onion flesh is still attached, you’ll have more control.
  3. Next, you’re going to discard the stem end and peel away the papery skin. Discard the skin too.
  4. Now cut the onion in half, from the root end or ‘pole’ to the stem end or ‘pole’. 
  5. Place half of the onion face side down on the chopping board, so that the large flat surface is facing down, and hold the onion by the root end with your non – dominant hand to secure it for chopping.
  6. Make vertical cuts from the stem end almost through to the root end, making sure that you don’t cut into the root, that’s what holding the onion slices together.

The further apart your slices, the bigger the slices will be, so here’s a simple guide:

  • Fine dice, slice at ¼ inch intervals
  • Regular dice, slice at 3/8 - inch intervals
  • Large dice, slice at ¾ inch intervals

Now you’re going to cut down, perpendicular to the slices in the same size/inch intervals, to give you perfectly shaped and sized blocks of onion, or dice.

Slicing onions for hamburgersCut onions

Method: This is known as the ‘pole to pole’ method and aims to eliminate excess onion bitterness and intense smell. Here’s how:

  1. Holding the onion firmly on your board with your non – chopping hand, you’re going to trim off the stem end of the onion, about ¼ inch. 
  2. You’re going to leave the root end uncut to stabilize the onion as you chop, as one end of the onion flesh is still attached, you’ll have more control.
  3. Next, you’re going to discard the stem end and peel away the papery skin. Discard the skin too.
  4. Now cut the onion in half, from the root end or ‘pole’ to the stem end or ‘pole’. 
  5. Place a half of the skinned onion face/cut side down on your chopping board, and holding the root end of it firmly, slice through the onion along the lines on the onion in increments. Those fine lines on the onion surface look a bit like lines of longitude on a globe, you’re cutting along those.

Remember, the wider apart your cuts are, the thicker the slices you’ll get.

For thinner slices of onion, aim for slices about ¼ inch.

For thicker, more substantial slices, aim for slices around ½ inch. 

Cutting onions into rings for hamburgers

Method:  

  1. Holding the onion firmly on its side on your chopping board, trim off the stem and root ends at about a ¼ inch width. 
  2. Once the ends are removed, discard them, and remove the peel from the onion and discard that. 
  3. Cutting the ends off the onion has given you 2 flat surfaces to the ends of the onion, so balance the onion securely on a flat end, with the cut surface face down.
  4. Now slice straight down through the width of your onion, bearing in mind that wide spaces between the cuts will give you thick rings of onion, whereas cuts closer together will result in thinner, finer rings of onion. 

For raw onion rings on hamburgers (crunchy garnish) you’ll want to keep the rings of onion thin. 

For breading and frying the onion into onion rings for your hamburger, you’ll want to cut the slices quite thick so that they hold up through the deep - frying process and have enough surface area to hold the batter.

Flavoring your onions for hamburgers

If you’re going the cooked onion route for your burger, there are some ways that you can ramp up the flavor. Here are some ideas:

Caramelizing your onionsCaramelizing your onions

Caramelized onions are simply onions that have been cooked for a significant period over low heat – they’ve lost moisture and released more sugar and become ‘sticky’ and unctuous. Here’s a simple method:

Slice or dice your onions as you prefer them, yellow or red onions are best here. Add into a large saucepan with either butter or oil to coat and salt to taste. Fry the onions on medium heat for 3 or 4 minutes to add some color and crispiness, then reduce the heat to low and cook further for another 45 minutes or so, stirring often. 

If the onions are getting too dry in the pan, add a touch of stock and deglaze the pan by scraping it gently with your spatula. 

Allow the onions to cook down enough that they’re caramelized to YOUR liking, keeping an eye on them to prevent burning.   

Grilling your onions

Another way to accentuate onion flavor and add smokiness is to GRILL your onions, and here’s how:

The best onion to use is the yellow Vidalia, sliced into thick orbital (round) rings. 

Oven: Toss the rings with oil and season. Place on tray/baking sheet under grill at 425 F for about 30 minutes, turning occasionally to prevent burning. A sprinkle of balsamic vinegar will add tart sweetness.

Barbeque: Season and then skewer the rounds of onions with a skewer to hold the rings together and cook on the grill alongside your burgers. They’ll take around 10 minutes and should be done before the burgers, so keep an eye on them and get them onto your bun as soon as they’re done!  

Onions & hamburgers – FAQs

How do I stop onions murdering my eyes and making me cry?

Easy peasy lemon squeezy! Simply rinse your onion under warm water for 30 seconds before chopping it or put your onions in the freezer half an hour before chopping. Others swear by wearing swimming goggles whilst chopping onions.

Where’s the best place for onions on my burger, layer wise?

Burger aficionados swear by placing the onions under the cheese for maximum bite pleasure. Try this option but don’t be afraid to experiment and find a layering solution that satisfies you.

In conclusion

We’ve so enjoyed taking this trip to ‘onion on a burger’ heaven with you.

This simple guide to cutting, slicing, dicing, and using onions to best effect on hamburgers has hopefully upped your cooking knowledge and given you some great tips to boot.

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