by Jillian Cristofalo
Onions add great flavor to so many recipes, but as you know, cutting onions can cause teary, irritated eyes. When you cut an onion, cell walls break and release enzymes, which generate a sulphurous gas that causes the eyes to sting. If you’ve resorted to buying pricey pre-chopped onions at the supermarket, or if you just suffer through onion prep with watery, irritated eyes, read on for ways to chop onions without tears. After all, tears from chopping onions can turn an otherwise easy recipe into a chore. Plus, chopped and sliced onions are used in so many dishes—from your best burgers to delicious soups.
1. Chill the onions in the refrigerator for about half an hour or the freezer for fifteen minutes before chopping.
2. If you happen to use contact lenses, wear them instead of glasses during onion prep—they’ll help protect your eyes.
3. Use a sharp knife. Using a blunt knife will crush the cell walls, rather than cleanly slice through them—this crushing releases more gas-producing enzymes.
4. If your recipe calls for chopped (not sliced) onions, cut a cone out of the root base, removing the root in its entirety—this central core of the onion contains the bulk of cells that release those eye-irritating sulphurous gases. The cone should be about one-third the diameter of the onion and extend roughly one-third of the way deep into the onion.
5. Try lighting a candle near your cutting board—the flame will draw some of the gas released by the onion toward it and away from your eyes.
6. Chop onions near a fan or underneath the vent fan over your stove (place your cutting board on your stove with the burners off) to help draw away the gas.
7. Chew gum while you chop—many people report this helps.
8. If all else fails, break out the food processor!
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