Avoid the sting in your eyes every time you need to chop up an onion for dinner by changing up your cutting strategies. According to Thomas Scott at the Scientific American, “Peeling, cutting or crushing an onion’s tissue releases enzymes called allinases, which convert [an onion’s amino acid sulfoxides] to sulfenic acids. The sulfenic acids, in turn, spontaneously rearrange to form syn-propanethial-S-oxide, the chemical that triggers tears.” Here are a few methods to help minimize your exposure to the irritants and let you cook tear-free!
Chill your onions
Whether you let your onions chill in the fridge, pop them in the freezer for 15 minutes, or just dunk them in an ice water bath for a little while, getting an onion nice and cold helps reduce the release of the chemicals that cause eye irritation!
Fan away the fumes
Set up a small fan or just run your vent hood over the area where you’re cutting onions. It’ll blow those pesky irritants away from your eyes and help keep you tear-free.
Adopt a new method for cutting your onions
One of the better ways to minimize tears is keeping the fresh cut surfaces of your onion away from you. Start by cutting your onion in half leaving the root on and putting the cut-side down on your board. Check out this Chow video for more detail on how to cut an onion properly.
Sharpen that knife
Sharp knives are one of the most useful tools you can have in the kitchen, especially when you want to cut onions cleanly and as tear-free as possible. A good, sharp knife helps minimize damage to the skin of your onion as you cut, minimizing the release of the irritants.
Cut near an open flame
Lighting a candle (or whatever kind of open flame you have at your disposal) can help reduce the likelihood of tears too! The flame will draw in and burn some of the gases released by the onion, allowing you to proceed with your cooking without a tear in sight.