Cut an Onion Without Tears

08 November 2011

Most of the time I weigh the pros, cons, and risks involved in decisions. However, when it comes to cutting onions caution was shed at the thought of uncontrollable tears. Until two months ago I cut onions with my eyes closed. You read that right. With the handle of a large butcher knife in my right hand, and my left hand on top of the blade, I would just haphazardly cut an onion until it resembled something close to my goal. My husband was aware of my foolishness, and stood like a guard dog in the kitchen if he knew the menu plans.

Luckily, we never had an ER visit, or even a cut finger, due to my absurdity. While visiting our family in Chicago, a family friend (who happens to be a chef) came over to the house to prepare a meal. I jumped on the opportunity to help him cook. After a disastrous coughing spell while cutting banana peppers, the sweet man potentially saved me from cutting off my finger tips.

Even if you cut onions with your eyes wide open, these tips will help you to do so without tears, and give you perfectly sliced and diced onions. Without tears! Yes, I said it twice, because I am that excited.

Before we get started:

1. The "hairy" end of the onion is called the basal plate. The flaky skin is called the tunic, and the "layers" are called scales.
2. When you cut off the basal plate it releases an enzyme into the onion. That enzyme releases into the rest of the onion creating a gas, and that gas combines with liquid makes an acid. Acid in your eyes makes you cry. Don't cut off the basal plate.
3. Use sharp knives. Sharp knives cut through the potential acids, while dull knives crush the acids.
4. If you are still worried spray your cutting board with vinegar. Vinegar neutralizes the acids. Another great tip is to put the onion in the freezer 10-15 minutes before cutting; however, you should be fine if you cut your onion in the following way and use sharp knives.

How to Cut an Onion

To Slice:
1. Get cutting board, butcher knife, paring knife, and an onion
2. The "hairy" end of the onion - do not cut off!
3. Tip of onion
4. Cut off tip of onion with the butcher knife
5.& 6. Cut onion in half from root to tip with the butcher knife
7. Peel back tunic and the first scale
8. Notice the ridges in the onion
9. Place paring knife on closest ridge towards cutting board. Cut into the ridge towards the center of the onion. Move to the next ridge, and again cut towards the center of the onion. Keep going until you have cut into all ridges around the onion.
10. Once all ridges have been cut (like seen in the picture) cut off the root.
11. & 12. Separate the slices of onion with hands.

To Dice (Get to Step 12 in the slicing instructions):

13. Rotate the onion 90 degrees
14. Make small cuts perpendicular to your ridge cuts until you get to the basal plate (or the end of your ridge cuts)

You are done, and your mascara should still be on your lashes!

Have you found any other tricks that help stop the water works while cutting an onion? Leave a comment or come talk about it with the Frugal Wellness community on Facebook.


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Audrey Smith said...

Small note. What you're using is a chef's knife. A butcher knife is similar to a cleaver. Not trying to be overly technical, but I figured if you're doing a cooking blog you'd not want to make an error (albeit a super common one).

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