As you may or may not know, I am a connoisseur (connoisseuse?) of onion rings. Wherever I find onion rings on offer, I like to try them. They vary greatly from one establishment to the next. When judging diamond rings, your friendly neighborhood jeweler will tell you to look at the Three C’s: cut, color, and clarity. For onion rings, I consider cut, crust, color, and condiments.
Cut: These rings from a local pub called the Beer Engine are cut extremely thick and wide. Many chefs seem to think this is a good idea, but it’s not my favorite way to eat them. First of all, you have to put them on a plate and cut them up. Second, they may not cook all the way through. In this case, one of the rings was a tough outer part of the onion, and that “bad” ring amounted to a quarter of the order! (Perhaps I should have sent it back, but we had already sent back an order of fried macaroni and cheese which the server brought by mistake. Yes, here in the United States, cubes of deep-fried mac and cheese are a popular pub food.)
Crust: The ideal onion ring should be encased in a light and crispy batter, with no gummy uncooked bits. Beer Engine gets points for using house-made batter instead of throwing frozen, pre-breaded rings into the oil. But making your own is tricky–too much batter or overly thick batter means it won’t cook evenly. Unfortunately, the gummy factor was a bit too high in this case.
Color: The appearance of these rings is golden brown and inviting. This is the only area where they earn top marks.
Condiments: These rings come with a basic ranch dressing, which is tasty but nothing special.
Beer Engine, you have some work to do! I recommend finer, more delicate rings, obsessive attention to the batter thickness/hot oil ratio, and a little creativity in the condiments (how about letting us choose from two kinds of aioli, or a chutney?)
For more onion rings, see here.