Onions are a rather fascinating vegetable. They bring a flavor to your food like no other vegetable can. But they can also bring you to tears.
No, not the emotional tears of parting ways from the wonderfully tasty vegetable you are cutting. They are chemical tears produced by a synthase enzyme present in onions that makes your eyes water every time you slice or dice onion.
Are you wondering how to cut onions without crying? Let’s start by learning what causes onion tears in the first place.
The process may seem simple – the moment you cut an onion, your tears start flowing. But there’s a lot going on in that very moment.
- When we cut an onion, an enzyme called lachrymatory-factor synthase is released into the air.
- This synthase enzyme converts the amino acids sulfoxides present in the onion into sulfenic acid.
- The unstable sulfenic acid arranges itself into a different compound known as syn-propanethial-S-oxide.
- Syn-propanethial-S-oxide gets into the air, and upon coming into contact with our eyes, it irritates the lachrymal glands and produces tears, making it the real culprit for making you cry.
Crying while cutting onions is like an age-old tradition that has been honored forever. But traditions can be changed.
We tested and ranked 8 methods of cutting onions without crying. Using one of the the methods below will save you from the sobbing session you go through every time you cut onions.
- Method 1: Chill the Onion
- Method 2: Microwave the Onion
- Method 3: Cut the Onion under Water
- Method 4: Soak the Onion in Water
- Method 5: Cut the Onion near Hot Water
- Method 6: Light a Candle
- Method 7: Wear Swimming Goggles
- Method 8: Chew Gum
Method 1: Chill the Onion
Chilling the onion before cutting it keeps the tear-causing enzymes intact and reduces vapor formation in the air, allowing you to win the war against the onion.
Single-Step Method: Chill the onion and chop as usual
- Put the onion in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Remove the onion from the freezer, then peel and chop it as usual without having to deal with any stinging in your eyes.
- The only caveat here is that the peel of the chilled onion may be a little bit difficult to remove.
Method 2: Microwave the Onion
Microwaving an onion reduces the amount of tears you develop significantly. The heat generated from the electromagnetic waves has an effect on the tear-causing compound in the onion, making less of the vapor spread into the air and irritate your eyes.
Step 1. Microwave the onion
- Zap a whole, peeled onion in the microwave for 25 to 30 seconds with the heat set at 50 percent.
- Microwaving the onion for more than 30 seconds may overcook it.
Step 2. Chop the microwaved onion
- Remove the onion from the microwave and chop it as usual, but with no sting or tears.
Method 3: Cut the Onion under Water
Cutting the onion under water restricts the vapor formation and does not let the enzymes that cause the tears to emit into the air.
You’ll need to hold the pieces of the onion together while cutting it to prevent them from floating around in the water, but if you can do that, it’ll ensure that you don’t have to bear through a teary session.
Step 1. Pour water in a bowl
- Pour enough water into a bowl to submerge the onion completely in it.
Step 2. Cut the onion while submerged in water
- Chop the onion while holding it under the water for a no-tears experience.
Method 4: Soak the Onion in Water
If cutting the onion under water is a challenge for you, try this option. Soaking the onion in water creates a water barrier around it, slowing down the release of the acidic enzyme.
Step 1. Soak the onion in water
- Pour water into a bowl.
- Submerge the peeled onion into the water.
- Let it soak for 5 to 10 minutes.
Step 2. Take the onion out of the water and cut it
- Take the onion out of the water, and cut it without any stinging tears.
Method 5: Cut the Onion near Hot Water
Keeping a jar full of steaming hot water next to you when cutting an onion, or cutting it near a source of running hot water, helps big time when it comes to preventing onion tears.
The steam from the hot water creates a barrier blocking the vapor produced by the onion from reaching your eyes, thus minimizing the chance of irritation that causes the tears.
Single-Step Method: Set a jar of steaming water beside you and cut the onion
- Fill up a jar of hot water and keep it near you while you’re cutting the onion.
Method 6: Light a Candle
Candle lights are romantic. And, although cutting an onion is more like a war than a romantic undertaking, we still insist that you light one up before you start cutting it.
The heat from the candle flame helps burn away the acid enzyme vapor from the onion, preventing it from reaching your lachrymal glands, which in turn results in less tears. In this breathtaking war of onions vs. candles, the candles win.
Things you’ll need:
Single-Step Method: Put a lit candle beside you while cutting the onion
- Light a candle and set it beside you, then cut the onion without any hassle.
Method 7: Wear Swimming Goggles
Wearing a pair of airtight goggles or a mask while cutting an onion may make you feel like a mysterious, dangerous chemist from some crime series, but the science behind it is pretty simple. The tight goggles stop the acid enzyme vapors from entering your eyes, thus preventing onion tears.
You can actually use any protective goggles, but swimming goggles are usually readily handy. Your sunglasses or prescription glasses, however, will prove to be entirely ineffective.
Single-Step Method: Wear swimming goggles and cut the onion
Simply don your swimming goggles and chop up any amount of onions without the fear of onion tears.
Method 8: Chew Gum
Believe it or not, chewing gum can help prevent the tears that usually flow when cutting an onion.
Chewing gum causes you to breathe through your mouth, which helps reduce the amount of vapor you inhale through your nose. This means your eyes will be less watery than usual.
Single-Step Method: Chew gum while cutting the onion
Chew a piece or two of gum while cutting the onion to keep from breathing in the tear-inducing enzyme vapors through your nose.
- Use a sharp knife while cutting onions. Dull knives maximize the tissue damage of the onion skin, resulting in more tears.
- To keep the acid enzyme vapor away, you can also sit next to a table fan forcing the vapor to move away from your eyes.
- If possible, let the onions be the last vegetable you cut when cooking something. This will ensure that you’re spending less time in the kitchen filled with the pungent-scent of the onion.