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How Can I Cut An Onion Without Crying?

 

We've all been there and those onion tears are some of the most frustrating. You can't rub them away; you'll only make it worse yet they're streaming down your cheeks and your vision is a blurry mess.

What if there was a way to cut onions without all that hassle? Well, we have some good news for you; there is! In fact, there are several ways that you can cut your onions without crying and in this guide, we're going to be showing you how.

Table of contents

Why Do Onions Make You Cry?

Onions are so widely used in dishes from around the world and yet this is surely surprising when you think about how easily they make you cry. Of course, they're super tasty and incredibly versatile but what is it about these bulbs that sets off those tear ducts?

Onions grow under the ground and in this environment, there are a lot of little critters that love to feast on things like roots and bulbs. That's great for them but not so great for the onion so, over time, this bulb has adapted to repel nibblers. It does this by producing acid and enzymes as soon as the skin is broken. When these products are released, they come together to form a chemical known as propanethial S-oxide, which to you and me, is a type of gas.

When you chop into that onion, this gas is released into the air and it quickly makes contact with your eyes. This gas is what is known as a lachrymatory agent (the lacrimal glands being the tear glands) so when it touches your eye, tears are produced. Your eyes react this way because the tears form a protective barrier across the eye, stopping the gas from causing further irritation. Moreover, the eyes use tears to flush out anything that shouldn't be there. In short, your eyes are trying to protect you from the onion.

There are some people who don't seem to be affected by the onion gas and who can chop through these bulbs without so much as a single tear. On the other hand, some folk are so troubled by onion tears and other symptoms like hives, that they give up cutting them altogether.

Ways to Cut An Onion Without Crying

There are a lot of old wives' tales that tell you how to cut an onion without crying, but not all of these are reliable. We've done some serious research on the subject and have come up with several ways to tackle those tears.

Chilling the Onion

 

By chilling an onion, you are immobilising the enzymes that are produced when you cut into it. This allows you to chop and dice without shedding a tear. If you're going to chill the onion in the fridge, we would suggest leaving it in there for at least 24 hours before you go anywhere near it with a knife.

Many people also swear by freezing the onion and as soon as it's frozen, you can start chopping. Just keep in mind that it will be super cold on your hands, so you may want to wear gloves.

Work With a Sharp Knife

 

We love a decent kitchen knife; it's in our blood but when it comes to cutting onions, this is more important than ever. You see, when you use a dull knife, you're doing more damage to the cells of the onion and this causes it to release more of those chemicals.

By using a sharp knife you are minimising the damage and your eyes will certainly thank you for it. You might also try brushing up on your knife skills so that you can cut the onion more quickly, lessening your exposure to the gases.

Use a Fan

 

It might seem like a really obvious and almost nonsensical idea but cutting your onions near a fan will cause some of the gases to be blown away.

Use An Open Flame

 

No, we aren't suggesting that you blast the onion to get revenge for all those tears it has caused. World-famous lifestyle guru and chef, Martha Stewart, is often credited with the idea of cutting your onion near a (small) open flame. The theory is that the flame burns much of the gas in the air before it has a chance to reach your peepers!

If All Else Fails...Wear Goggles

 

Wearing goggles in the kitchen does seem a bit far-fetched but if you are super sensitive to onions but still want to include them in your favourite meals then protecting the eyes is a must. Your goggles will stop any gas from reaching the eyes and you'll be able to happily chop away in peace.

Did you know that you can even buy onion goggles; yes, they're a thing!

What Tips Don't Work?

The internet is bursting with tips that are supposed to stop you from crying when cutting an onion but some of these are about as effective as a chocolate teapot! We wouldn't suggest trying any of the following:
* Chewing a piece of bread
* Chewing gum
* Microwaving your onion
* Running the onion under cold water (this one may stop tears to a degree, but the slippery onion and knife combo isn't the safest method!).

Final Thoughts

Cutting onions is something that most of us have to do from time to time but many of us also dread it owing to the torrent of tears that are sure to follow. The good news is that there are several ways you can cut your onions without looking as though you've just finished watching The Notebook. From chilling your onion to using an open flame to burn away irritating gases, you won't ever have to worry about onion eyes again!

 




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