Smoked Onions are a game-changer in everything from dips to a topping for burgers. They take little effort but have so much rich flavor.
When most people think about smoking, we think of a huge chunk of meat, like a big juicy brisket or shoulder. I think that because those are great wonderful things. I am here to tell you that if you start smoking some veggies, it will open a whole new world of flavors and make vegetables more enjoyable to eat.
I get emotional whenever I cut onions. It doesn't bring back sad memories or anything like that. Onions just make me cry. In my house, I am the one always tasks with cutting up and dicing onions. I love to smoke them because you only need to peel them and cut them in half and you are done. Put them on a tray and get them outside to the smoker so I don't have to deal with the fumes anymore.
Why Smoke Onions?
When it comes to onions, there is a whole wide spectrum of doneness and edibility where people have some strong preferences. I do enjoy a raw crispy onion slice on my sub, burgers, or in a salad. My wife won't touch a raw onion. She prefers caramelized onions, grilled onions, or onions that are cooked down a lot like in a french onion soup. What is my point? There are two aspects that you need to consider when smoking onions. The first is doneness, determining how firm or soft do you like your onions. The second is how much smoke flavor you are looking for.
Some good questions when deciding to smoke your onions.
- How do you enjoy your onions?
- Are you combining them into another dish or eating them on their own?
- What other flavors are going to be present with the meal?
We don't want to overpower with smoke flavor, but we do want the flavor to combine nicely and balance everything else we have going on.
How to Make Smoked Onions
Cut the onions in half, you can score them if you'd like for easier use later. Drizzle them with a little olive oil and a dash of salt. Pop them in the smoker at about 225 - 250 for a few hours depending on the doneness you are looking for.
Here are some tips to nailing the desired doneness. If you like a firm onion with some crunch still in tack, cook the onions at 225 for about 1 hour. You will be all set.
Tips for Tender Onions
If you like a softer texture, after about 2 hours, place the onions on a piece of aluminum foil and add about a teaspoon of whatever liquid you choose. It could be vinegar (apple cider is great), butter, oil, or I used bourbon. Then wrap up the foil being careful to seal it well to contain the liquid. Then put them back in the smoker. The goal is to allow this flavorful liquid to steam cook the onion to your desired doneness while also imparting some additional great flavors. The smoke flavor is already permeating through the onion. This is just to add a complexity of flavor as well as finish cooking it. Let it cook for up to another hour or more until you reach the texture that you desire.
What Type of Onions Should I Use
There is no wrong answer here. You can use any type of onions or sweet onions. We normally just use yellow onions but red onions, sweet Vidalia onions, or even shallots work well with this method. The beauty is that you can apply this to any dish you are planning on making and add that pop of smoke flavor. It really is so yummy!
How to Use Smoked Onions
If all you are looking for is the smokey flavor, you can absolutely just smoke the onions for about 1 hour, then dice, slice, or chop them up and add them to any food that you are making that requires onions. It just adds a great complexity of smoke flavor to the dish. You could use them in soups, barbecue sauces, smoked onion dip, salads (throw some on our grilled grapes & brie salad, in a low-carb philly cheesesteak casserole, or garnishes for smoked burgers and sandwiches. See our amazing smoked turkey burgers in the photo under this section!
If you do prefer the softer onions, or if your recipe requires that texture, then cook them a little long in the foil as mentioned above. When you add the bourbon or other whiskey (or even a splash of wine), use them along with bacon to stuff a chicken breast or pork chop that you plan to throw on the grill. They will add another dimension of flavor to the dish.
- 2 lb yellow onions peeled and halved
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- Place onions on a piece of foil and drizzle with one tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Add the onions to the smoker. Smoke for 1 hour on medium (225 degrees).
- Enclose in the foil and cook for about 2 hours until the onions are softened.