Exercise 3: Onion Brulee
Intermediate Lessons > Intermediate Stocks, Sauces, and Soups > Intermediate Stocks > Onion Brulee
Exercise Checklist:
Recommended Pre-requisites
Introduction to Cooking Methods, Topic 2: Dry Heat Methods With No Fat Added
  • 1 Medium or Large Onion
Tools & Equipment
  • Cutting Board
  • Chef’s Knife
  • Medium or Large Sauté Pan or Skillet
  • Utility Tongs
Estimated Time
15 minutes
1 Onion Brûlée

Are you a Smart Kitchen™ Chef?

Try it FREE or take a TOUR to explore Smart Kitchen!
Exercise 3: Onion Brulee


An Onion Brulee, like a Bouquet Garni or a Sachet d Epices, is an enhancement, not a mandatory step, used to add flavor and improve the appearance of a Stock. Typically, a single enhancement, not two or more, is used for any given stock.

The subject of this exercise is Onion Brulee, also spelled "Onion Brûlé," is principally used as a nice chef’s trick to help darken the color of a liquid. It will add some flavor as well, but in the chefs’ repertoire it is better known for adding rich color.

Before you write-off Onion Brulee as mere window dressing, remember from the How We Taste, “your eyes feast on your food long before the ingredients reach your mouth.” How food looks influences the entire dining experience; it even affects how the food tastes and is a critical component of Presentation and Flair, the 4th of Smart Kitchen’s 4 Levers of Cooking.

Onion Brulee can be used to make Brown Stocks, Consommés, Soups or Sauces look richer, with inexpensive Onions which improves costs and yield without adding additional costly bones to the simmering Stock. Basically, the French word "brûlée" means “burned.” There are various wrinkles to the definition, but they all have to do with burning. In the food world, we most often hear "brûlée", in connection with Crème Brûlée, a rich custard dessert.

Essentially, Onion Brulee is an Onion burnt, or blackened, on one side before being used as an enhancement for Stocks, Soups, etc. When the natural sugars in an Onion are exposed to High Heat, they turn brown and Caramelize; and they will blacken if exposed to the heat long enough. Longer exposure and a blackened color is what we are aiming for with an Onion Brulee. The Onion needs to be very dark, to positively impact the color of the liquid. If the Onion were to be caramelized only until it was brown, it would not darken the liquid to the same extent.

Making an Onion Brulee is not difficult. The only ingredient is a medium or large Onion (either Red, Yellow, or White). Unlike other times we heat/cook an Onion, no Fat will be used.

To make the Onion Brulee, first place your skillet or saute pan on High Heat. The Onion is left whole, unpeeled and untrimmed. As shown in the Instructional Video, halve the Onion horizontally. Place both halves cut side down in the heated pan. The Onion should be blackened on the cut side after about 10 minutes. You may wish to check the color near the 10-minute mark by tipping or lifting it with your tongs to peek.

Add the blackened Onion to your Stock, Soup, etc. Don’t worry about the root or skin, it will all be strained-out or fished-out before service. Only the color and a bit of flavor will remain.