Tips For Cutting Onions Without Tearing Up

Tom Gaffey
by Tom Gaffey
Credit: Shutterstock / Amarita

Onions are a key ingredient in recipes for nearly every type of cuisine on the planet. Sometimes they are used to add nuanced flavor. Other recipes feature these root vegetables as the main ingredient, as is the case in French onion soup. Onions are loaded with flavor, inexpensive to buy, and relatively easy to cook with. The only downside to cooking with onions is the fact that they can cause severe eye irritation when you cut them. If you chop onions frequently, you have probably wondered if there is a way to cut onions without tearing up.

To cut raw onions without crying, choose onions with a lower sulfur content, like sweet or green onions. Cold onions are less likely to cause eye irritation, so place them in the fridge or freezer first. Chop the top and bottom of the onion before chopping it, use your sharpest knife, and use precise cuts to chop it quickly. You can also use goggles or position a fan nearby.

If you are sick of crying every time you chop an onion, then you have come to the right place. You don’t need to swear off onions or omit them from your favorite recipes. There are several methods you can try that will help eliminate, or at least decrease the tears that are known to appear when you cut onions. Keep reading to learn the best proven ways to stop crying when chopping onions.

Why Does Cutting Onions Make Your Eyes Water?

Before you learn all the best ways to eliminate tears when cutting onions, it’s best to better understand exactly why onions make people cry. The answer is rather scientific and involves allinase and other natural chemicals coming in contact with the air.

The process is all rather complex, but the short version is that when you cut into an onion and it is exposed to the air, a defense mechanism of sorts is triggered. The result is a natural tear gas that Mother Nature designed to prevent animals (and humans) from eating up all the onions in the ground.

A natural reaction happens in all onions, but not all have the same chemical makeup. This is why you might find some onions make you cry hysterically, while other onions, like some sweet onions, have far milder effects, and might not even make you shed a single tear.

This also explains why chopping onions into tiny pieces produces a more severe reaction. The more you chop and expose raw onions, the more this chemical reaction occurs.

1. Choose Onion Varietals That Won’t Burn Your Eyes

One of the best ways to avoid a sob fest every time you chop an onion is to choose onions that cause the least severe reaction. This will depend on what onions are available where you live, and it might even take some trial and error.

Some varieties that tend to cause less of a negative eye reaction when cutting include sweet onions like Vidalia and also green onions. Red, white, and yellow onions tend to cause stronger reactions.

2. Chill The Onions Before Cutting Them

Another method that is simple and effective is to cool your onions before you slice into them. The idea behind chilling your onions before cutting them is that colder onions tend to have a chemical reaction time. Therefore, they may still cause some eye irritation, but it is likely to be less intense, and may even be delayed.

To chill your onions, consider storing them in the refrigerator. This helps preserve them for longer than if you store them in the pantry. Otherwise, you can stick an onion in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes before cutting it to achieve similar results.

3. Wear Glasses Or Goggles

One method of chopping onions without crying involves putting on some eye protection. If you have a pair of full-coverage glasses or goggles, try wearing them next time you cut onions. This may seem a bit extreme, but it is a great option for those who are cutting a lot of onions for onion soup. Or in preparation for a Thanksgiving feast.

Goggles work especially well, but are not perfect, as the gas can make its up your nose. Still, protective eyewear does help mitigate this onion-chopping problem and is worth trying if you already have a pair of goggles handy.

4. Position A Fan Near Your Cutting Station

The gas that causes you to cry when cutting onions must reach your face to cause tears. Therefore, one great way to prevent this from happening is to blow the fumes away before they can reach your eyes. A fan is the best way to make this happen.

Position a fan in your kitchen, and have the airflow positioned at the cutting board, with it blowing away from you. This will help push all the irritating fumes away from your face. You can also use a kitchen ceiling fan if you have one, or try turning on your exhaust vent to help pull the fumes away from you, but a strategically placed fan is likely to work best.

5. Use Efficient Cuts To Save Time

Chopping onions is a race against time. The longer you chop, the more tears you are likely to cry. Since the more you chop onions the worse the reaction is, you want to be strategic in your cuts. The best way to do this is to practice chopping vegetables and get precise with your cuts. Cutting skills develop over time, but try to make fast and precise cuts to speed up the process.

6. Use Your Sharpest Knife

In addition to making fast and precise cuts, another great way to minimize the tears shed while cutting onions is to use a sharp knife. If you use your sharpest knife to cut onions, you will make exact cuts. This saves time and also causes less bruising and irritation on each layer of the onion. This will also result in fewer fumes released into the air. A dull knife means it will take longer to cut the onion, and also cause a more severe reaction.

7. Cut Onions Under Running Water

Another trick for cutting onions without crying is to chop them underneath cold running water. Running cold water over onions as you chop them works similarly to other methods mentioned.

The cold delays the process, and the running water helps to block the fumes from reaching your face, and instead washes them away. This method can be a bit messy and awkward and can take some time to perfect.

8. Remove The Top And Bottom Of Onion Before Cutting

One last method that some swear by is to chop off the “root” of the onion before slicing and dicing it. The highest concentration of chemicals responsible for the tear-producing gas is said to be found in the root of this vegetable. The idea is if you remove the source, the reaction will be less severe.

The jury is still out on this last method, but cutting the top and bottom of the onion off, then slicing it in half is a great way to help quickly peel and chop the onion, so it is worth a try.

Wrapping Up How To Cut Onions Without Crying

Onions are in almost every dish we make. Nearly every sauce, dressing, and side dish has onions in some form or fashion. They are in almost every pantry and refrigerator and are used constantly. But they are also one of the least enjoyable vegetables to chop because they can cause tears to flow from your eyes.

To prevent crying while chopping onions, use sweet or green onions that are less likely to cause these effects. Try wearing goggles when you chop onions or position a fan to help blow away the fumes before they reach your face. Chilling onions and cutting them in water also helps to delay and mitigate their tear-inducing effects.

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Tom Gaffey
Tom Gaffey

Tom Gaffey is an expert writer who currently resides in Washington D.C. Tom has a passion for real estate and home improvement writing, as well as travel and lifestyle writing. He lived the last twelve years in Hawaii where he worked closely with luxury resorts and event planners, mastering his knowledge of aesthetics and luxury products. This is where he found his passion for home improvement and a keen interest in DIY projects. Currently, Tom resides in Washington D.C, and also working on his debut fiction novel.

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