By in Food

Chopping Onions With Fewer Tears

Are you one of those cooks who can't chop onions without tears streaming down your face?

In our household I am the designated onion-chopper. Ever since I read somewhere that people with blue eyes are most sensitive to the power of onion juices and those with green eyes are least sensitive, I have been pressed into service whenever an onion must be sliced or diced.

While tears don't run freely when I chop onions, I still do get some.

And I don't like the lingering smell on my hands. The smell often can last for 24 hours even if I wash my hands with perfumed Soft Soap several times.

Yesterday, my Thanksgiving dressing recipe called for a chopped onion. While I was looking forward to the meal we would be enjoying later, I wasn't looking forward to chopping the newly purchased onion or having the unpleasant scent on my hands the rest of the day and into the next morning.

A week or so earlier I watched a short video in the 'Everyday Genius' series of tips sponsored by American Express and with Kari Byron as hostess. In that video the recommended way to prevent teary eyes was to pop the onion in your freezer for 15 to 20 minutes before making a single cut.

I thought I would try it and I have to say it works. I am surprised to find that not only did I not have watery eyes but I also was able to eliminate the strong onion smell after only one or two times of washing my hands.

The reason this works is because the cold temperatures halts the onion from producing the enzyme that makes the acidic gas that releases when you cut into it. The sulfenic gas combines with the natural moisture covering the surface of the eye and stimulates the tear ducts into producing tears to wash away the acidic invader. Just an additional note: if you start your cutting at the top of the onion instead of the root end, you are less likely to tear up. More sufuric compounds are found in the base than throughout the rest of the onion.

Try your freezer first the next time you chop an onion and see if it works for you. As for me, this will be my method from now on.

Photo by Dezidor via Wikimedia Commons

Image Credit » Sandra L. Petersen

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AliCanary wrote on November 28, 2014, 12:55 PM

Wow, that's really interesting about the eye color--I'd never heard that. I am not particularly sensitive, but my eyes are kind of a blue-grey-green combo. What REALLY makes me cry is when people say 'less' instead of 'fewer', so you have my deepest gratitude for doing it right! ;)

Scorpie wrote on November 28, 2014, 2:20 PM

Chopping onions with fewer tears = Honey can you do something for me?

Kasman wrote on November 28, 2014, 2:46 PM

My mother used to chop onions in a bowl of water. If the onion is completely immersed when being cut the chemicals responsible for the runny eyes aren't released

Ruby3881 wrote on November 30, 2014, 3:31 AM

I tried that once or twice, and it did seem to work. I just never remember it when I need to chop onions!

crowntower wrote on December 2, 2014, 6:20 AM

Lol this is cool. thank you for the tip, I always cut the onion base first so I can easily peeled the onion this way, and what I do is to put a salt near the onion chop board, because they say the salt will absorb the acid from the onions, it works for me a little I don't know if it is really working or it is just a Psychological effect.

bestwriter wrote on December 4, 2014, 3:42 AM

Chopping onion in front of a running tap eases one of this situation.

paigea wrote on December 19, 2014, 11:55 AM

I will have to try this. My eyes cry and cry when I chop onions.

Louemham wrote on January 3, 2015, 9:59 AM

A tip I heard for cutting onions was that if you do it next to running water, the sulphur particles (which irritate the eyes) are dispersed in the water. It definitely takes the edge off for me

FreyaYuki wrote on January 4, 2015, 2:20 AM

Thanks for the tip. Didn't know this. Will definitely try it. Always end up in tears when cutting onions so rarely do it unless really have to.

Secre wrote on January 12, 2015, 11:18 AM

Heh, I'll have to try this. I have blue green eyes and always cry like anything with onions!! I end up having to leave the room often or not!