How To Pick and Store Red Onions: Ultimate Guide


Onions are one of the basic ingredients in the kitchen. They come in different sizes, shapes, and colors, each with its unique uses in cooking. Being a culinary staple, people tend to buy them in bulk. However, they often go soft or sprout before you get to use them. To save money and avoid wasting them, here is the best way to store red onions.

The best way to store red onions is in a cool (40-50°F), dark, and well-ventilated space. Avoid leaving onions in plastic bags which cause them to spoil quickly due to poor ventilation. Darkness helps onions last longer because the lack of sunlight can lessen the changes in temperature and humidity.

The places that may provide these conditions include the cellar, pantry, basement, and garage. Aside from this, you can also try these tips to store your onions properly.

Best Way to Store Onions

There are two common ways to store onions in general:

Do not store the whole onions in the fridge

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Store-bought onions have papery skin since they have been cured soon after harvesting.

Curing helps remove excess moisture, allowing them to last longer. This is the reason why onions are best stored in a cool yet dark, dry, and well-ventilated place. These conditions ensure that they do not absorb too much moisture or experience heat and humidity.

Storing whole onions in the fridge exposes them to cold and humid conditions.

Because they absorb too much moisture very easily, they may become mushy and spoil faster. Meanwhile, this does not apply to peeled, sliced, or diced onions. Peeled onions can be stored in the fridge and can last for around two weeks. Diced or sliced onions will last only for 10 days.

Store onions in a cool, dry, dark, and well-ventilated room

Regular onions are available throughout the year. According to the National Onion Association (NOA), they are best stored in a cool, dry, dark, and well-ventilated room, such as in the basement, cellar, or pantry. It is because they easily absorb moisture. If the temperature or humidity is too high, they may start to sprout or may rot.

The ideal temperature for storing onion must be around 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit (4 to 10 degrees Celsius).

At these temperatures, they best maintain their characteristics. It also helps in ensuring proper ventilation to prevent molding and rotting. Therefore, you can place them in an open basket, bamboo steamer, mesh bag, netted bag, or even pantyhose.

Do not leave the onions in plastic bags, as this can make them spoil quickly due to poor ventilation. Furthermore, the darkness helps them last longer. The lack of sunlight lessens the changes in temperature and humidity levels, which are known two factors that can cause them to go bad faster.

Storing Onions at Different Processing Stages

To ensure that your onions last as long as possible, storing them properly is necessary. Here are the best ways to store onions at different processing stages:

Peeled

Once the onion is peel, it should be stored in the fridge to prevent bacterial contamination. When you are done peeling an onion, place it in an airtight container and ensure your fridge is set to 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) or lower. Generally, peeled onions can last for around 10 to 14 days when placed in the refrigerator.

Sliced, cut, or diced

Sliced, cut, or diced onions can be stored in the fridge and last for up to 10 days. Simply wrap them tightly in plastic wrap or keep them in a resealable bag. Another way is to buy pre-sliced onions at many supermarkets. Make sure to keep them refrigerated and use them before their expiration date.

For long-term use, sliced, cut, or diced onions can be put in the freezer for three to six months. They are best used in cooked dishes like stews and soups,

Cooked

Cooked onions can be stored in the fridge and last for three to five days. Simply place the onions in an airtight container or resealable bag within a few hours of cooking. If you leave them outside for long periods, they may get some bacteria.

Cooked onions can also be stored in the freezer for up to three months.

Pickled

The best way to extend the shelf life of your onions is through pickling. It involves storing them in a solution that hinders the growth of bacteria, which typically spoil the vegetables. If prepared properly, they can last up to six months.

To pickle onions, place the peeled onions into a glass or ceramic jar filled with vinegar and a combination of salt, sugar, and spices that suit your taste preferences. Once opened, they must be kept in the refrigerator that will help them last longer.

Storing Different Types of Onions

Sweet Onions

Sweet onions are commonly produced in the early summer, having a high moisture content, so they don’t store well.

If you have a variety of onions on hand, use this onion first. To prolong the storage life of sweet onions, it is recommended to wrap each onion in a paper towel and keep them in your refrigerator.

However, you still need to use your sweet onions within a few weeks; all that moisture makes them prone to mold. Toss your onions sooner, if you see signs of mold

Dry bulb onions

The pungent onions harvested during the late summer and early falls can be stored for months. They contain sulfurous compounds, the one that makes you cry when you cut them, but they are helpful when preserving them.

To maximize their storage life, store the dry bulb onions in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place. Here is the proper way to do it.

What you need:

  • Pantyhose

Instructions:

  1. Inspect all the onions for soft spots, molds, and other signs of damage. Only perfect onions are suitable for long-term storage. If you see signs that they are sprouting, don’t think of storing them, use them right away.
  2. Cut off the legs from a clean pair of pantyhose, then drop the onion into the foot of the first leg and tie a knot. Continue adding the onions and tying the knots until both legs are full.
  3. Hang the pantyhose in a cool, dry place (a location with a temperature between 40 to 45 degrees is ideal).
  4. When you need an onion, just cut a slit in the side of one of the tied-off sections. This technique allows you to reuse the pantyhose again and again. Next time, just slip an onion into the section via the slit.

Green onions

There are many ways to store green onions, you can place them on the windowsill.

Put the onions in a heavy-bottomed jar that is tall enough to hold the scallions without flopping over. Place the green onions root-side down and fill the jar with an inch or two of cold or room temperature water, just enough to cover the roots. Change or add water every couple of days as needed.

Another way is to store them in the refrigerator. If you don’t have a windowsill, you can store them in the fridge. If you are using the grocery bag, place a rubber band or string around the bag where it meets the mouth of the jar.

For a zip-top bag, just close each side a little bit. Once in place, store in the refrigerator, just be sure to put the jar where it is not likely to get hit. Remember to replace the water every couple of days.

Chives

Since they have a higher water content, chives are the most delicate and have a shorter shelf-life.

If you are using them within a few days, you can stand them up in a jar, containing a few inches of water and cover them loosely with a plastic bag before popping them into the fridge.

You can also store them in a resealable plastic bag with the air still inside to prevent excess moisture from spoiling them.

Wash the chives only when you are ready to use them. If they are wilted, you can rehydrate them before using them by soaking them in a bowl of cold water.

How to Pick Good Onions in the Grocery Store

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Red Onions

Red onions have a milder flavor than white onions. Generally, red onions do not have as strong an onion aftertaste just like white or yellow onions. They get sweeter and milder when cooked, though they lose some of their reddish-purple colorings.

When picking red onion, look for onions that are heavy for their size, firm, and unbruised. Store them in a cool, dry, and dark place with their skin on. Store the precut red onions in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Because of their vibrant color and milder flavor, they make good choices for salads. They are a great choice for salsa and guacamole. They also taste great on pizzas as toppers.

White Onions

White onions have a strong, sharp, pungent flavor. They have a nice, crispy texture. Unlike yellow onions, they do not get sweeter when cooked.

White onions have a thin and papery white skin. Choose white onions that are heavy for their size, firm, and free from bruises.

Store the whole white onions in a cool, dry, dry, dark place with the skin on. White onions require ventilation to remain fresh, so do not store the whole onions in a plastic bag. Pre-cut white onions can be kept in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

You can serve white onions raw or cooked. Due to their astringent flavor, use them sparingly when served.

Yellow Onions

Yellow onions are milder than white onions.

They have a sharp flavor, but it is balanced with a bit of sweetness. Yellow onions get sweeter as they are cooked. Yellow onions have a tough yet papery yellow outer skin, which is usually a bit thicker than the skin of white onions.

When choosing yellow onions, look for onions that are heavy for their size, firm, and without bruises.

Store whole yellow onions in a cool, dry, dark place with the skin on. Do not store the whole onions in a plastic bag since they need ventilation to stay fresh. Yellow onions that have been pre-cut should be stored in an air container in the refrigerator.

Think of yellow onions as your go-to all-purpose onion. They work in just any dish you cook. Since they get sweeter as they cook, they are great for caramelizing. They work well in soups, stews, sauces, and braises.

Sweet Onions

From the name itself, these onions taste sweet. They lack the astringent flavor of white or yellow onions.

Sweet onions vary in color from white to yellow and are usually a bit squattier than the yellow ones.

When choosing sweet onions, always pick the onions that are firm, heavy for their size, and are free from bruises. Wrap each sweet onion in a paper towel and store them in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer with the vent closed. Do not store them with potatoes.

Sweet onions can be frozen for later use.

First, peel and chop them, then spread the onion pieces evenly on a baking sheet and place them in the freezer.

Once they are frozen through, place them in a zip-top bag and store them in the freezer. Some sweet onion variants can only be grown in certain regions, they are only available at certain times of the year. They are best stored in the freezer so you can ensure you can enjoy them all year round.

They are great cooked or raw and they caramelize greatly. Sweet onions are a great onion of choice for onion rings, onion petals, and blooming onions. They also taste well on top of burgers or in salads.

Pearl Onions

Pearl onions are small, about the size of a large marble.

They are typically sold together in bags or containers, instead of individually. They range in varieties of colors from white to yellow to red, depending on the variety. Look for pearl onions that are free from bruises, have papery outer skin, and firm. Store them in a cool, dry, and dark place.

Just like with other onions, you need to get rid of the outer skin before using. Though it takes a bit of effort to remove the outer layer, you can blanch them by putting them in boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes.

Then, dunk them in ice water to cool them. Remove the onions from the ice water, cut the root ends off, then pinch them with your fingers to slip the outer skin.

Pearl onions are delicious when roasted. They can also be pickled and used in cocktails.

How to Dehydrate Onions for Food Storage

Due to their versatility, onions are used in different recipes, either freshly chopped or even dried. Although dehydrating onions is not popular due to the process of dehydration already sounds complicated, with these easy-to-follow ways and steps, the process of dehydration may become simple.

Using a dehydrator

If you have a dehydrator at home, this is probably the easiest way to dehydrate onions. All you need to do is:

  • Cut the onions and lay them on the trays
  • Arrange them into the dehydrator and set the temperature to 135°F (60°C)
  • Leave the onions for 4-12 hours until they are already leathery in appearance.

Once the onion gets inside the dehydrator, you can continue with your other tasks without the need to constantly check them. If you are constantly drying other fruits and vegetables aside from onions, using a dehydrator can be very helpful and time-saving.

Here are some good brands of dehydrators on Amazon (affiliate):

Using an Oven

Another easy way to dehydrate onions at home is by using an oven. Here is the step-by-step guide of dehydrating onions in the oven:

  • Preheat the oven at 140°F (60°C).
  • Lay the thinly-sliced onions in a single layer on a cookie sheet and place an oven thermometer in the middle.
  • Place it inside the oven and leave the door open at  about 2 inches to promote air circulation.
  • Monitor the temperature every 30 minutes to ensure that the onions are heated evenly.
  • After  6-12 hours of waiting, you will notice that the onions shrink and is ready for storage

Because ovens are usually found in any kitchen, using this to dry onions is one of the easiest ways. Plus, the preparation is not complicated. The only downside of this process is leaving the oven door slightly open, because it can pose risks for kids or pets playing around the kitchen. Therefore, be careful while doing this.

Using Microwave

Using a microwave in dehydrating has become popular in drying onions. It gains more pros than the traditional process because the quality of the onions is less damaged because of its shorter exposure to the machine.

To do this, here are the steps to follow:

  • Cut the onions into long thinly-sliced pieces.
  • Place them on a microwavable plate, and then put them inside the microwave.
  • Set the timer for about 30 minutes and make sure to set it at the “defrost” setting to avoid burning the onions.
  • Check the onions every after 30 minutes and flip it to check if it has dried completely.

Though this process is easier and faster, microwaving the onion can cause the charring of the product.

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