It’s one of the oldest cooking related questions – what are the ways to chop an onion without shedding tears? Onions are a major ingredient in so many of our recipes and if you’re like me, you never know when you are going to slice an onion that will make your eyes stream. There are lots of old wives tales and lots of chef tips on ways to chop an onion without shedding tears – maybe one of them will work for you.
1. Use a Cold Onion
One of the best ways to chop an onion without shedding tears is to refrigerate the onion until it’s cold. The reason is that the cells that cause your eyes to water won’t react as fast when an onion is cold, and therefore you should be able to avoid the tears. Around half an hour in the refrigerator, or 15 minutes in the freezer, should be enough to keep your eyes tear-free.
2. Use a Flame
Lighting a candle or turning on a gas stove next to where you’re cutting an onion can help avoid creating tears. The heat from the flame acts as a magnet for the sulfur that is released from the onion, which causes your eyes to experience less irritation. The closer you can get to the flame, the more effective it will be.
3. Wear Goggles
While you might associate swimming goggles with the beach or swimming pool, they can be really handy in the kitchen as well. If you have an especially large number of onions to peel and slice, you might want to consider getting them out of the attic and wearing them while you do your job. The fumes released from the onion can’t get to your eyes, and therefore you can avoid crying while chopping onions. The next time you have the whole family round for a stew, you might thank me!
4. Chop under Water
The sulfur released when chopping onions is absorbed by water, so you might want to consider chopping your onion under water. You can either do so under running water, or it might be safer to fill your sink with water and chop them on the bottom of the sink. As long as the onions stay submerged while you are chopping, this method will work for you.
5. Use a Stainless Steel Knife
Many chefs will swear that one of the ways to cut onions without tears is to use a freshly sharpened, stainless steel knife. The sharper the knife the better, as it will cause the onion to be cut more smoothly and therefore won’t disturb as many of the particles which can irritate your eyes. Stainless steel is believed to absorb some of the sulfur that is released, which makes it a very good type of knife to use when chopping onions. If you want to completely stop your eyes from watering when chopping onions, you might want to consider running the knife under some cold water before slicing; that way you’re combining two methods in one.
6. Chew on Something
This might sound crazy, but one of the methods to prevent crying when chopping onions is to have something in your mouth to chew on. The idea is that this forces you to breathe through your mouth, not your nose, and so you are likely to breathe in the sulfur rather than have it hurt your eyes. Next time you’re chopping onions get some gum and see if it works for you.
7. Use a Fan
This is a very basic method, but it’s proven to work. Have a fan blowing across the onion away from the direction of your face – it will disperse the droplets that cause your eyes to hurt.
8. Chop Just One End off
It’s believed that if you refrain from chopping off the root of the onion, you will experience fewer sulfur particles coming at your face. Next time you chop up an onion, keep the root on until the very last moment and see if it works.
9. Spray Your Surface with Vinegar
A solution of half vinegar and half water works best, but if you notice this isn’t working, you might want to try just using undiluted vinegar. The reason is that vinegar stops the sulfur from reacting with your eyes and therefore should allow you to chop an onion without crying.
I hope that if you have experienced problems in the past, one or more of these methods of chopping onions without shedding tears works for you. Or maybe, you have a method of your own – passed down from mom or gran?