Cutting onions is often one of the first steps you take when you're making a meal. Whether you're making soup, salsa, or pot roast, onions provide a great deal of flavor. They're also versatile, and because they're high in phytochemicals and fiber, they offer health benefits when you consume as little as 1/4 cup a day. The only problem? If you're like most people, cutting an onion brings tears to your eyes. As soon as you slice into the skin, that familiar burning sensation tingles your tear ducts. According to Scientific American, that's because chopping onions releases syn-propanethial-S-oxide, a chemical that stimulates the eyes to cry. So, instead of cutting onions out of your life, what can you do to minimize this sensation? Here are six options.
1. Chill the Onion First
Because molecules move faster when they're warm, and they move slower when they're cool, one trick you can try is sticking your onions in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes before you chop them up. By chilling them quickly, you may minimize the effectiveness of their offending chemicals and save your eyes from feeling irritated.
2. Soak It in Water
This tip is similar to chilling an onion before chopping it. Peel your onion and immediately stick it in a bath of cold water for a few minutes. Pull it out, and chances are that you'll find the chopping process to be less frustrating.
3. Leave the Root Intact
While it won't completely remove the irritating effects, many people agree that cutting an onion with its root still intact can minimize your discomfort. Because there's a higher concentration of chemicals to be released at the root, avoiding it during your chopping efforts can be helpful.
4. Chop Near an Open Flame
Place your cutting board near a lit candle, an active gas burner, or another flame source, and you may be able to chop your onion with ease. Because the fire naturally sucks in air, it can pull in the offending substance and keep it from reaching your eyes. Martha Stewart herself swears by this technique.
5. Put Something in Your Mouth
Hold a slice of bread in your mouth while you chop the onion. This will give those irritating chemical molecules a place to go that's not in your eyes. Alternatively, holding an unlit match between your teeth can provide the same benefit.
6. Use a Blender
Save yourself the hassle of trying to prevent tears by letting a blender do the chopping for you. As an added bonus, you can be sure you're using the whole onion and avoiding waste when you let your blender handle the job. Simply peel the skin off your onion and quickly cut it into quarters. Put these quarters in your blender, and pulse the onion until you're satisfied with the texture. Blenders that include a smaller container are perfect for this quick task.
The best onion-chopping method for you is a matter of preference and taste, but if you're looking for a new trick to try, consider these tips. Whether you chill your onion, chop it near a fire, or drop it in your blender, you have lots of possibilities for minimizing tears as you work.