Do you ever wonder how to cut onions without crying?
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OH, THE STING IN THE EYES- onion tears! For some people this is reason enough not to ever cook with onions.
DON’T MISS OUT on one of the most flavorful and healthy ingredients. Elevate your cooking by cutting your own onion (rather than using precut). Nothing comes close to it.
This post is all about how to cut onions without crying.
If you can do only one of the tricks: Do number 5! It is the most effective one!
WHY THE TEARS? WHY DO WE CRY WHEN CUTTING ONIONS?
This is a pretty complex process involving enzymes, sulfur containing substrates and reactions in our eyes.
The main thing to understand is this: Onion cells contain a substance and an enzymes that gets released when onion cells are damaged (aka cut). They ultimately form syn-propanethial-S-oxide which is a gas that reaches your eyes and turns into sulfuric acid when it comes in contact with your eyes. This is very irritating to the eyes and the tear glands spring into action to defend your eyes: All tears on deck, march and out… you start crying!
Onions have these substances in order to protect themselves from being eaten by all sorts of animals while growing. This is their defense mechanism.
The bottom line is: onion cells contain substances that will lead to airborne vapors that irritate the eyes.
Most of the compounds are found in the onion root.
How should we handle onions to minimize the irritating effect? Read on…
And after reading, check out my YouTube Video where I demonstrate these tricks: Cut Onions Like A Pro YouTube Video Veganakia.
TIPS ON HOW TO CUT ONIONS WITHOUT CRYING
Tip #1: Use a Designated Onion Board
Did you ever notice a nasty taste when eating fruit that has been cut on the same cutting board with onions? (I’m looking at you watermelon)
The best way to avoid “onion flavored fruit” is to have one cutting board designated to use with onions and garlic. You can of course use this cutting board to cut other savory ingredients, especially if they are all going in the same pan as the onion (e.g. I will cut my onion on the onion board for the tomato sauce and after that use the same board to cut the mushrooms, kale, bell peppers, parsley that also goes into that sauce).
Tip #2: CUT ONIONS WHEN THEY ARE COLD
The release of the obnoxious substance is slowed down significantly if the onions are cold.
Store your onions in the fridge or chill them in ice water for 30 minutes prior to cutting.
TIP #3:USE A SHARP KNIFE
As mentioned above: the more onion cell injury occurs the more irritating substance gets released. Try and cause the least amount of onion cell damage by using the SHARPEST chef’s knife you can afford. They can be expensive but well worth the investment for any home chef. Make sure to sharpen the blade regularly with a knife sharpener (as I demonstrate in my YouTube video). Once a year consider bringing them in for sharpening, I know Williams and Sonoma will do that.
TIP #4:CUT OFF THE ROOT FIRST
Onion roots contain the most amount of the irritating substance. Cut off the root (and the opposing pole) first to remove the concentrated amount of irritant.
TIP #5:RINSE UNDER RUNNING WATER
If you do NOTHING ELSE- do THIS!!!!!
The irritating substance is an airborne vapor and will be weighed down by water.
After cutting off both poles, cut the onion in half and before peeling or doing anything else, rush to your sink and thoroughly rinse the onion parts under cold, running water.
TIP #6: TOSS GARBAGE IMMEDIATELY
Peel your onion (with your hands) and toss the roots / poles and peel IMMEDIATELY. If you keep it lying down on the board close to you then the chemicals can still reach your eyes and bring on those tears.
TIP #7: WASH HANDS FREQUENTLY
When handling onions your hands are full of “onion juice” that contains our problematic substances. Wash your hands after peeling, after cutting and as needed during handling to minimize how much of the chemicals are on your hands.
TIP #8: DON’T TOUCH YOUR EYES / FACE
There will be an amount of onion chemical on your hands, as mentioned above, wash them regularly. But also remember NOT to touch your eyes and face while handling onions to avoid any exposure.
TIP #9: USE GOGGLES
If you follow tips 2-8 then you really don’t have to worry about the following tips, unless you are extremely sensitive to onions or have an especially harsh onion that you are trying to handle.
Some find it helpful to wear goggles- if you do: make sure to put them on first before ever touching the onions. The last thing you want is to touch the onion, get chemicals on your hands and then put on your contaminated googles.
TIP #10: KEEP YOUR DISTANCE
The farther your eyes are from the onions the better- this makes it more difficult for the chemicals to reach you. Keep the cutting are at a distance or put a shield between you and the onion offender.
TIP #11: CUT UNDER KITCHEN VENT
If needed: set up your cutting station under your kitchen vent. Put it on the highest level and chop along.
TIP #12: CUT NEXT TO A FAN
Consider positioning a fan next to your cutting station. Make sure it blows the air away from your face.
TIP #13: CONSIDER OTHER TYPE OF ONIONS
Red and white onions are the MOST OFFENSIVE onions, when it comes to eye irritation and crying while cutting. The tricks above should make it so that you can actually cut even these types of onions without crying. However, if you really can’t tolerate chopping them, consider using other allium root vegetables. See below.
BONUS: LESS IRRITATING ONION TYPES
The least irritating onion types (allium family) are: the beloved sweet (yellow) onion, shallots, garlic, green onions, leeks and chives. All of these are healthy and bring an onion flavor to the table.
WHY EAT ONIONS AT ALL?
The flavor profile of onions and allium root vegetables is so special that they really are irreplaceable in the kitchen. No other ingredient is so frequently used and makes such a BIG DIFFERENCE. Onions are sweet, tangy and full of umami. They elevate everything they touch. I can’t imagine cooking without these beauties!
And then of course… Onions are HEALHY!
This should not be a shocker. They are in line with the other wonderful fruits and vegetables and have health benefits beyond our wildest dreams! Onions have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties all while being so good for your gut health- providing pre-and probiotics to your microbiome.
If you want to take it to the next level and fully geek out on the subject: Check out this article on the plentiful and amazing health benefits of onions.
Now that you are a pro at cutting onions, while not make amazing healthy, vegan Greek zucchini fritters?
Check out my YouTube Video where I demonstrate these tricks here: Cut Onions Like A Pro YouTube Video Veganakia.