Know Your Onions

Cooking and handling onions

This indispensable bulb, used all over the world, varies from country to country and from season to season. Onions range from tiny red onions of pickling size to those as large as grapefruit. As a result, when a large onion is stipulated, it could mean different things to different people.


To introduce some uniformity in judging the size of onions, here is a guide. A large onion is one that weights over 250g (8 oz); a medium onion is about 125g (4 oz); a small onion weights in  around 60g (2 oz). Weigh some onions to get an idea of the sizes and it will save you much deliberation.


Flavor and pungency also vary tremendously, but your discretion and judgment as a cook to tell you when to increase or decrease the quantity is expected. The small purple shallots so widely used in Asian countries are not easily available in Australia, so recipes have been tested using the common white or brown onion. If you do get hold of some shallots, use them by all means, but in a smaller quantity than onion, and be sure to cook them very carefully and not let them burn.


Spring onions are also useful in Oriental food and usually both white and green parts go into the recipe unless otherwise stated. Strangely, in Australia the spring onion is called a shallot; spring onions are also known as green onions or scallions in the United States. Those best for the purpose are straight, without a large, well developed  bulb.

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