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How to Chop Onions without Crying

July 9, 2012 Le Cordon Bleu Minneapolis/St. Paul 0 Comments

How to Chop Onions without Crying

Ask anyone what their least favorite kitchen chore is and the answer you will most often hear is chopping onions. Even the most experienced Minnesota culinary school graduate will get teary eyed preparing this poignant ingredient. It is as if the onion knowing its fate throws up its best defense to avoid ending up in your salad or sauce. You may not be able to avoid its sting entirely but there are measures you can take and tricks you can try to avoid the worst of this vegetable’s watery eyed attack.

Why Do Onions make Us Cry?
Onions, along with scallions, garlic and leaks are part of the Allium genus of plants. While growing in the soil, they absorb sulfur from the ground which is turned into amino acid sulfoxides. When we cut into an onion, enzymes are released that react with the sulfoxides and turn them into sulfenic acid. It is these acids that enter our eyes and nose causing tears and sniffles. Depending on the type of onion you choose this reaction can be greatly diminished. For fewer tears try cooking with a sweet and mild variety of onion like Vidalia or Supasweet. The higher sugar and water content makes the acids less potent. If you have to use the stronger winter varieties there are several tricks that you can employ to cut down on crying in the kitchen. 

Step 1: Make sure you are in a well ventilated room
Ventilation allows the gases that are emitted from the onion to escape. Turning on the hood fan over the oven can help, just be sure not to get in between the onion and the vent. To cut down on gases always remove the root end of the onion first it has the highest concentration of sulfoxides.

Step 2: Light a Candle
Placing a lit candle near your cutting board can really help cut down on tears. The flame from the candle will burn off some of the sulphuric acids.

Step 3: Soak the Onion in Water
Ten minutes before slicing your onions, place them in a bowl of water in the fridge or leave them under running water in the sink. The water will help dilute the onions potency. Or another similar option is to put the onions in the freezer. The gases in onions will not escape as quickly when cold. Placing onions in the freezer for 5 or ten minutes before prepping will give them time to cool down. Make sure not to actually freeze your onions as it will affect their taste and texture.

Step 4: Wear Swim Goggles or Contact Lenses
This is probably the most effective way to avoid the burn. If you can protect your eyes completely from gases you will be able to slice away tear free. Make sure to breathe through your mouth rather than your nose and use a very sharp knife for maximum effectiveness.

From old wives tales, like keeping a piece of bread in your mouth, to the proven effective swim goggles nearly everyone has their preferred method of onion slicing. Love them or hate them, onions are an essential part of many of our favorite recipes. Stocking your kitchen with a few extra items like goggles and candles can ensure that your next onion experience is pain free. If you enjoy learning new culinary techniques than perhaps a Minnesota culinary school would be a great place for you to expand upon your love of cooking.

This article is presented by Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Minneapolis/St. Paul offers culinary arts and pâtisserie and baking training programs in the Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota area. To learn more about the class offerings, please visit Chefs.edu/Minneapolis-St-Paul for more information. 

Find disclosures on graduation rates, student financial obligations and more at www.chefs.edu/disclosures.  
Le Cordon Bleu® and the Le Cordon Bleu logo are registered trademarks of Career Education Corporation. Le Cordon Bleu cannot guarantee employment or salary. Credits earned are unlikely to transfer.


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