Onions are one of the most commonly used ingredients in the kitchen. Whether you’re making a soup, stir-fry, or salad, onions always seem to make it into the recipe.
However, one drawback to working with onions is that they can make you cry. It’s an annoying problem that many home cooks have faced, but fortunately, there are some tricks that can help you cut onions without shedding a tear.
In this blog post, I’ll explore some of these tips and tricks, so you can cook with onions without worrying about tears running down your face.
Why do we cry when we cut onion
Have you ever wondered why cutting onions makes you cry? Well, here’s the scientific explanation: when you cut onions, a gaseous substance called Propanethial S-oxide is released.
This gas reacts with the water in your eyes and forms sulfuric acid, which then causes your eyes to tear up in defense. The more you cut, the more gas is released, and the more tears you produce.
But don’t worry! From chilling the onion before cutting to wearing onion goggles, there are plenty of techniques to help you cut an onion with ease and without tears.
10 proven ways to cut onion without tears.
There are plenty of ways to avoid those pesky onion tears that come with chopping up your favorite cooking ingredient. Here are ten proven methods to help you cut onions without tearing up.
1. Use a sharp knife
To avoid crying while cutting onions, it’s essential to use a sharp knife. A sharp knife makes clean slices, which damages fewer onion cells and releases fewer irritants.
Using a dull knife crushes the cells, causing more damage and releasing more irritants in the air, leading to tearing eyes. It’s also important to cut the onion in a well-ventilated area and away from your face and nose.
To avoid the root while cutting, it’s advisable to make a shallow cut at the top of the onion to avoid releasing the juice.
Additionally, cutting an onion under running water helps to prevent tearing eyes as the water carries the irritants away.
2. Cut the onion under running water
Cutting an onion under running water is another technique to reduce the risk of teary eyes. By holding the onion under a stream of water, the sulfonic acid that causes irritation is washed away, preventing it from reaching the eyes. This method is efficient and simple, as long as you keep the onion steady and slice it carefully.
Plus, running water reduces the likelihood of the onion juice sticking to your hands, which is another common cause of irritation. Cutting an onion under running water is just one of the many ways you can take control and avoid tears while preparing your favorite dish.
3. Cut the onion in a well-ventilated area
Cutting an onion in a well-ventilated area is a tried-and-true method for reducing tears. As mentioned earlier, onions release gas once cut, and the more confined the space, the higher the concentration of irritants that will reach your eyes.
By cutting the onion in a place with good airflow, such as under a kitchen air vent or near an open window, you can limit your exposure to the gas and reduce the likelihood of tears.
It’s also helpful to make sure that the air is flowing in the direction away from your eyes, carrying the irritants with it.
Combine this technique with other methods like using a sharp knife or chilling the onion beforehand, and you should be able to slice and dice without shedding a tear.
4. Avoid the root while cutting
Another way to minimize onion tears is to avoid cutting through the root. The root contains a higher concentration of the gas that makes your eyes water.
By leaving the root intact, you can minimize the amount of gas released while you chop. When cutting, start from the opposite end of the root and work your way towards it, leaving a small portion of the onion uncut.
You can then easily slice the root off once you’ve finished chopping. This technique may take some practice, but it’s worth trying out to avoid the pungent fumes that onions emit.
5. Use onion goggles
Another effective way to avoid tears while cutting an onion is by using onion goggles. These special goggles are designed to protect your eyes from the irritants released by the onion. This is available in most kitchen supply stores and online.
In addition to using onion goggles, it’s important to follow other tried and true methods such as using a sharp knife and cutting in a well-ventilated area. Freezing the onion before cutting and cutting it near a flame are also effective techniques to minimize onion-induced tears.
By incorporating these methods, one can successfully cut onions without shedding a tear.
6. Freeze the onion before cutting
Another effective way to avoid teary eyes while cutting onions is by freezing them for about 10 to 15 minutes before cutting.
As stated earlier, cutting an onion releases an enzyme that combines to form acids that break down into a gas called propanethiol S-oxide, which irritates the eyes.
Freezing the onion beforehand slows down this process and reduces the amount of gas released during cutting. This method works best when the onion is only partially frozen, as a completely frozen onion may be difficult to cut.
Remember to use a sharp knife and cut in a well-ventilated area while keeping your face and nose away from the onion to reduce the risk of irritation.
By following these tips, anyone can confidently chop onions without shedding tears.
7. Cut the onion near a flame
Another effective way to chop onions without shedding tears is to cut them near an open flame. This technique involves lighting candles, a gas stove or any other open flame nearby while you chop the onion.
The heat from the flame helps to burn off the irritants that are released when you cut the onion, reducing the amount of gas that reaches your eyes. This is a go-to method for Martha Stewart and many other experienced cooks.
However, be careful not to set your kitchen on fire! Remember to keep a safe distance between the onion and the flame.
8. Chill the onion before cutting
Another way to reduce the likelihood of crying while cutting onions is to chill them before cutting. This can be done by placing the onions in the refrigerator for a while, or even soaking them in ice-cold water for up to an hour beforehand.
Harold McGee recommends this method as well. When the onion is cold, the layers separate more easily, making it easier to cut and reducing the amount of irritants that are released.
Additionally, chilling the onion can provide some relief from the heat that is released during the cutting process. This is especially helpful if you have a sensitive nose or if you are working in a poorly ventilated area.
9. Keep your face and nose away from the onion
Another effective way to cut onions without shedding tears is to simply keep your face and nose away from onion. As mentioned earlier, the propanethiol S-oxide gas that gets released when an onion is cut is what causes us to tear up.
By simply keeping a safe distance from the onion while cutting it, you can significantly reduce your chances of coming into contact with the gas.
10. Cut the onion in half
Cutting an onion in half is another effective way to reduce tears. By slicing the onion in half, you only expose a limited amount of the irritant compounds.
This makes it easier to control the amount that is released into the air, increasing the likelihood of a tear-free experience.
Combining this method with using a sharp knife and cutting in a well-ventilated area can further reduce the amount of onion gas released.
So, if you want to avoid those tears, try cutting your onion in half before chopping or slicing it. You’ll be surprised at how such a simple technique can make a big difference in your onion-cutting experience.
With these ten proven ways to cut onions without tears, you can say goodbye to the agony of onion tears and enjoy cooking without any obstacles.
There are several ways to cut an onion without shedding tears. By using a sharp knife, cutting under running water or in a well-ventilated area, avoiding the root, wearing onion goggles, freezing or chilling the onion, and keeping your face and nose away from the onion, you can minimize the irritants released during the cutting process.
Don’t forget to cut the onion in half before dicing it for added ease. Try out various techniques to discover the most effective one that suits your needs. With a little practice, you can chop onions without any tears. Happy cooking!