Have you ever felt there was a better way to chop up an onion while your eyes teared up as if you had just finished a season of Days of Our Lives?
If you haven’t, then you’re one of the lucky ones. For the rest of us, the tears and the pain have become synonymous to cutting an onion.
But why do onions make us cry?
In a nutshell, it’s all about the chemicals. Onions contain naturally occurring amino acids called sulfoxides, and when you cut into them, their cell walls become damaged, says the Institute of Food Science and Technology.
This causes the sulfoxides to be converted into a gas. And when that gas wafts from the onion into your eyes, that’s when you start to feel the sting building up which then produces tears in an attempt to wash the gas away.
Sick and fed up of crying like a baby every time you touch an onion? Don’t worry, we have your back.
Nifty tricks to keep those watery eyes at bay
Use a sharp knife to cut the onion.
- Every time the cell walls of the onion are damaged, they release sulfoxide which is the gas that makes your eyes tear up. By using a sharp and precise kitchen knife, you will avoid crushing the cell walls of the onion and you’re more likely to come out unscathed.
- A sharper knife will also allow you to cut up the onion quicker, giving that nasty gas less time to reach your eyes.
Cut onions in cold water.
- By cutting the onions while submerged in cold water prevents the gas from leaking out into the air. However, trying to cut onion underwater is a challenge in itself i.e. trying to keep the onion pieces together while cutting in water. It could be something you could consider trying but it is an unlikely long term solution.
- Trying to cut under a flowing tap is an alternative, but the gushing water will make it hard to see exactly what is going on and may send onion pieces flying everywhere.
Cut the onion near hot running water or a cloud of steam.
- Steam from a kettle, hot running water or pan of water will draw away the sulfoxide (gas) from the onion keeping your eyes safe and tear-free.
Soaking the onions in water
- The enzymes that release the sulfoxide get denatured by the water so by the time you cut into them, they’ll be a lot less potent. The drawback, however, is the onion will lose some flavour in the process and the surface of the onion will be slightly softer and more slippery to cut through.
Chill the onions in the freezer for 10-15 minutes before cutting them.
- This reduces the amount of the acid enzyme released into the air and has zero effect on taste. This was found to be the most effective way to reduce tears by the television program Food Detectives.
- The fridge can do it, too; just make sure not to keep them next to apples or potatoes, or leave them in there for at least 20 minutes.
So what’s the best way to cut an onion then?
This video by Tasty shows you 3 simple and easy ways to chop onions like a pro in record time.
If you want to take your cooking skills up a notch, it's a great place to start :)