How far will you go to perfect that resounding crunch? Is a double or a single dredge in flour the way to go for the perfect onion ring cover? Can the onion please not slide out when I bite into it? I’m going to deal with all of these questions and more in this super awesome masterclass in fried food.
Heavy rain showers and that last episode of Game Of Thrones deserved a bowlful of good onion rings. Some ancient ranch dip from the back of the refrigerator was thawed, a Hodor-sized bottle of Coke was twisted open, but the perfect onion rings still posed a fairly serious threat to my evening of couchsurfing. Google searches will only get you so far, before you retire to some old fashioned, godawful AllRecipes or Food Network recipe, but I refused to budge. I wanted to make the best onion rings, ever. These mythical beauties, I decided, shouldn’t be too thick on batter, should be earth-shatteringly crisp, and not have you reaching for too many fancy ingredients. Yes, this immediately writes off panko breadcrumbs. Here’s the final guide, plus a recipe if you’re too lazy to read and prefer to scroll all the way down.
Find big white onions. Cut thick roundels of the onions. I prefer them at least a centimetre thick, but sometimes go up to as much as 2 cm. Freezing an onion for an hour before you start on the recipe will help tenderise the onions before they begin their life as an onion ring. Alternately, you can opt for the trusty soaking method too, where you soak your roundels in whipped fresh curd from the dairy, as this takes away any harsh onion taste and mellows the taste considerably. Plus, I really like that slight tang it leaves behind. We tenderise the onions so that they don’t worm their way out of the batter, when you bite into one.
FLOUR + BATTER
Turn away if you like your onion rings with breadcrumbs. All-purpose flour mixed with some makki ka atta (cornmeal) is the way to go. For the batter, I went the Bon Appetit way of using beer, baking soda, as well as club soda. This adds shitloads of air to the batter, and that’s exactly what we want. Serious Eats’ J Kenji Lopez-Alt says that adding vodka to your batter doesn’t allow for too much gluten formation, which makes for a crispier crust, but I haven’t tried my hand at this yet. We must also not overmix the batter. I used some chilli powder from the spice box for seasoning, because why not? You can season it with garlic powder, onion powder, cajun seasoning, dukkah, jerk, really anything that’s not been shown some love for a few months.
There are several recipes on the internet that will insist you side with a double dip in the batter and flour, before its dropped into the hot oil. I say otherwise. It’s not so much that I’m lazy, it’s just that I’ve never felt an onion ring requires that extra coat.
Deep-frying, as opposed to baking is the way I like to cook my onion rings. When fried correctly, the coat of your onion ring batter will seal beautifully without breakage, and not allow for any excess oil to seep in. Drop a bit of batter to test if the oil is hot enough, use wooden chopsticks, or just drop a corn kernel into the oil and it’ll pop when it’s hot enough. Follow the no-overcrowding rule when deep-frying, because if you don’t, it will dramatically bring down the temperature of your oil and lead to yucky, greasy onion rings.
White Onions 3-4, large, cut into 1.5-cm thick rounds
Curd 2 cups, whipped (optional)
Makki Ka Atta (cornmeal) 1/4 cup
Baking Powder 1 tsp
Chilli Powder 1/2 tsp
All-purpose flour 3/4 cup, plus 3/4 cup more for dredging
Salt 1 1/2 tsp
Soda 1 cup
Beer (I used Budweiser) 3/4 cup
Oil for frying
If you’re going to be freezing the onion rings, omit the curd from the recipe. If you’re soaking the onion rings in buttermilk, you ought to soak it for an hour at least, or overnight.
Whisk together the cornmeal, baking powder, chilli powder and 3/4 cup flour and salt. Mixing constantly, add in the beer and soda and stir till it resembles a dosa batter. You may have to add more beer/soda to adjust.
Begin heating the oil.
Place the remaining 3/4 cup flour in another bowl and fish the onion rings out of the buttermilk one by one. Dredge this in flour and shake off the excess by tapping on the side of the bowl. Dip it in the batter and drop into the hot oil. Do this in batches for all the onion rings, being careful to not overcrowd the pan. The onions could also stick together, and we don’t want that. Fry until they re puffed up and brown. Use a slotted spoon to remove them and season with some salt.