You know the drill–the sharp pain, the crying, sniffling, cursing, and frequent breaks. All because you want to (or need to) put an onion in your dish.
Yes, it could be better. But how?
Today, I’m going to show you a few simple strategies for cutting onions without all the fuss.
Why You Cry
If it’s not already evident, you cry when cutting onions because of the chemicals an onion releases into the air when it’s cut. These react with your eyes and cause pain.
All of today’s strategies look at two mitigation angles: reducing how much is released from the onion (or at what strength), and reducing access to your eyes.
Good: Chill the Onions
The simplest and most readily available strategy is cooling the onion before it’s cut, either by putting it in the refrigerator or freezer for a period of time before dinner prep.
For whatever reason, a cooler onion releases less reactive material into the air than one that’s sat around for a while at room temperature. Just don’t forget your onions in the freezer for too long, or you’ll end up with a block of ice!
Better: Soak the Onion
Another strategy, and one that’s a bit more time-intensive, is to soak the onion in water or a water/vinegar solution for a few minutes before starting to cut.
The water/vinegar will start to pull out and neutralize the chemicals in the onion that are responsible for crying. To provide better access for the water to enter the onion, cut it in half before placing it in the solution.
Soaked onions will also be milder in taste, which is desirable for many people when using raw onions in salads or other dishes.
While this is the method that looks the funniest (if anyone is around), I’ve also found it to be the most effective. It involves the use of any air-tight mask or goggles, like those worn for swimming or diving.
The goggles create a boundary between the onion and your eyes that can’t be penetrated by the pain-causing chemicals. They can get uncomfortable if worn for too long, and they can fog up if not fit to your face properly, so use your own pair if possible.
Any number of other strategies that prevent the transfer of chemicals from the onion to the eye can also help, like using a fast-moving fan in the kitchen to circulate clean air between you and the onion.
While I don’t recommend it for safety reasons, a lot of people also have success cutting onions under running water or while completely submerged.
Your Best Tip
How do you deal with onion tears? Share your best tips in the comments!