Red onions and knife on a wooden chopping board

How to Cut a Cry-Free Onion

There are many things that make us cry in the kitchen.  Fallen soufflés, broken eggs or an overly roasted roast are just a few kitchen catastrophes which come to mind. Despite the sagest advice, even spilt milk continues to cause a tear or two in us all.

Of all cry-worthy occasions in the kitchen, cutting onions should not make “the cut.”  Whether sliced or diced, onions release a mixture of enzymes which eventually produce sulfuric acid causing our eyes to tear up in an effort to wash away the irritant. You can avoid these emotional, epicurean moments by understanding…less exposure leads to less tears.

  • Use a very sharp knife when cutting onions. Not only will this minimize the tears, but ensure you dice rather than destroy the onion upon contact.
  • Chill onions in the freezer before cutting, but no longer than 15 minutes.
  • Put onions in the refrigerator before slicing. Keep refrigerated for less than 20 minutes while keeping well away from apples, oranges and other fruits and veggies.
  • Apply vinegar on the chopping board beforehand. The acid will take away the enzymes abilities to tear you up.
  • Cut onions near hot running water to enable steam to draw out the vapors.
  • Keep your exposure to the cut surface of the onion at a minimum.
  • Cut the onion in half and then immediately turn both cut sections face down on the cutting board.
  • Slice, dice or chop one of the halves first and then move cut pieces away from you before proceeding to the second half.
  • Breathe through your mouth, but stick your tongue out when doing so.  It draws the gas over the tongue and bypasses your ole’ olfactory nerves.
  • Cut the onions near a fan, a stove exhaust or open window.
  • Whistling will help keep the onion mist away from your eyes…and may even put a little spring in your step while you slice.
  • Chew a piece of bread very slowly and allow the bread to hang out of your mouth just a little. (Note: Probably not appropriate during dinner parties.)
  • Put on a pair of snug-fitting safety goggles.
  • Never touch your eyes after touching an onion…no matter how much they tear up!