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When making e.g. spaghetti sauce, do I:

  • first sweat the onions and then add the minced meat?
  • first brown the minced meat and then add the onions?
  • do both at the same time but in different pans and add them together afterwards?

What are the advantages of preferring one of the options over the others?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted

In order to develop browning for a good, deep flavor on the meat, you need a high temperature and a long enough time that having the onions in the pan the entire time would leave them overcooked. Also, the onions would express water, which would lower the temperature to simmer or steam, preventing the beef from browning.

For these reasons, it is common to sear or brown the ground (minced) meat, and then add the onions to cook through when it is done or nearly done.


You certainly could cook the onions separately, either in the same pan, or in a different pan. Many people don't consider the extra effort and cleanup to be worth any marginal improvement in results.

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My wife's family are Italian and it would seem they all run restaurants, they put me right on this (and other sources). The way they do it is to;

"Wizz" up carrot, red onion, garlic, celery, fresh basil and parsley (even a zucchini if it needs using) and then cook until the garlic nearly turns.

Then brown off mince.

Once brown add a load of white wine and reduce.

Once reduced add a tin of finely chopped tomatoes (not too much)

Add mushroom stock and simmer for 4+ hours (adding water when needed).

Done, all in one pan.

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This bolognese recipe is how Batali and Burrell do it:

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Please don't add link-only answers. You can edit the relevant information from the link into your answer. –  rumtscho Dec 12 '13 at 21:31

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