As a devoted home chef with a penchant for freshly prepared meals, one culinary task that used to quite literally bring me to tears was chopping onions. But, over the years, I've unearthed and honed several tricks and techniques to chop onions without crying. And today, I'm going to share these with you. If a tear-prone person like me can master this, you can too!
Before the First Slice: Prep for Success
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as the old saying goes. That's especially true when it comes to chopping onions. Start by sharpening your knife. A dull knife will crush rather than slice the cells of the onion. This crushing action is what releases a greater amount of those pesky sulfuric compounds, leading to more tears. A sharp knife, on the other hand, makes clean cuts with minimal damage to the onion cells, reducing the amount of tear-inducing chemicals released into the air. I have a handy guide to knife sharpening bookmarked, which you can find at Serious Eats (https://www.seriouseats.com/2010/04/knife-skills-how-to-sharpen-a-knife.html). Remember, the sharper the knife, the less likely you are to cry!
An Unexpected Ally: The Power of the Candle
Let's start with an old trick from my grandma's kitchen. Light a candle near your chopping board. This isn't just for setting a peaceful ambiance. The flame helps to burn off some of the tear-inducing fumes that onions release when they're cut. The heat from the flame draws the sulfuric compounds, which are the real culprits behind your tears, towards it and away from your eyes. It might sound a bit mystical, but it works, especially when you're handling larger quantities of onions. Give this method a try and you might find your chopping experience to be both tear-free and a tad more romantic.
Say Goodbye to Tears with Goggles
Next up, let's talk about goggles. Yes, you read that right. The same goggles you would wear for a swim can be your best friend when it comes to chopping onions. They might not be the most fashionable kitchen accessory, but they're practical. The tight seal around your eyes prevents any of those irritating fumes from reaching your eyes. I have a pair that I use exclusively for chopping onions and, trust me, this can be a real game changer. Who knew that swim gear could double up as kitchen gear?
Going Underwater: The Submerged Onion Technique
Now, onto a method that can seem a bit unorthodox at first - chopping onions underwater. It might take a bit of practice, but this method is incredibly effective at preventing the release of the tear-inducing fumes. Submerging the onion in water while chopping can trap the irritating chemicals, stopping them from reaching your eyes. If you're unsure about how to do this, I found this excellent video tutorial on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1B5jR9W2ydU). With a little practice, this method could be your new secret weapon against tears.
The Icebox Advantage: Cooling Down Your Onions
Here's a tip I stumbled upon a few years ago: refrigerate your onions before chopping them. The cold reduces the activity of the enzyme that triggers the release of the tear-causing compounds. After refrigerating my onions for about 30 minutes before chopping them, I noticed a significant reduction in the amount of tears I was shedding. This method has the seal of approval from The Kitchn (https://www.thekitchn.com/we-tried-it-does-refrigerating-onions-keep-you-from-crying-228316) and I can vouch for it as well.
The Breath of Relief: The Mouth-Breathing Method
The last technique I'll share involves changing how you breathe while chopping onions. It's as simple as it sounds: just breathe through your mouth. I accidentally discovered this technique while preparing for a family dinner, and it's surprisingly effective. When you breathe through your mouth, you draw the compounds that cause tears away from your eyes and towards your mouth. To understand why this works, you can check out this explanation from Scientific American (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-do-onions-make-us-cry/). Since this revelation, I've become a mouth-breather every time I chop onions, and my eyes have been tear-free ever since.
These are the techniques that I've discovered in my ongoing relationship with onions. Try them out and see which ones work best for you. Here's to tear-free onion chopping!