French Onion Soup

Chef Ludo Lefebvre’s French Onion Soup uses a special technique for caramelizing onions: he starts with a cold pan, adds the onion, then turns the heat to high. Starting with a cold pan offers a few advantages. First, it allows you to more precisely control the temperature, letting the onions cook evenly all the way through, without shocking (and possibly burning) the outside when it first hits the pan. It also lets flavors build more gradually as you increase the heat; a definite benefit for sweet and tender caramelized onions. It still takes time, as caramelizing does, but with this technique, you’ll have just-dark-enough, golden, delicious onions every time.

Active Time:
1 hrs 30 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs 10 mins


  • 1 garlic clove, halved

  • 1 bay leaf, scored

  • 2 thyme sprigs

  • 6 cups veal stock or beef stock (homemade or store-bought, see note below)

  • 4 medium onions, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices

  • 6 tablespoons grapeseed oil

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter

  • 1/4 cup dry sherry

  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

  • 20 (1-inch) croutons, to cover soup

  • 16 slices Emmental or Gruyère cheese


  1. Tie the garlic clove, bay leaf, and thyme in a sachet of cheesecloth with twine. Set aside.

  2. Coat the bottom of a cold heavy-bottomed large saucepan with the grapeseed oil. Add the sliced onions to the cold saucepan, being sure to separate all the pieces. Cook over high for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so the onion does not burn. Reduce heat to medium, and caramelize gradually, about 1 hour.

  3. When the onions have caramelized to a golden brown, add butter, and season with salt. Deglaze the pan with sherry. Add beef stock and sachet of aromatics, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove and discard the sachet, and stir in the Worcestershire sauce.

  4. Carefully ladle the soup into 4 oven-safe 12-ounce bowls set on a large rimmed baking sheet. Top each bowl with 5 croutons and 4 slices of cheese. Broil on HIGH until the cheese melts and browns, 3 to 5 minutes.


When using store-bought stock, please reduce to a third of the original volume. For example, for 6 cups of stock use 18 cups of store-bought beef stock, and reduce.

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