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I love cooking with onions. Especially since we’re learning how to grow them on the farm! They’re fragrant, delicious, and crisp depending on how you use them. But, what I don’t love about onions is cutting them! The tears start flowing and before I know it, my mascara is halfway down my face. So, I decided to do an experiment – what’s the best way to avoid onion eyes? Here’s 4 different Onion Cutting Hacks that I tried and their results.
Freeze the Onion
The first hack that I found was to place the onion in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes. The science behind this is that when onions are frozen, the tear-inducing enzymes are unable to release into the air. That sounded reasonable enough to me. I also read that by slicing off the tops and leaving the root end in tact, you are avoiding the highest concentration of the sulfuric compounds that cause your eyes to tear-up.
So, I set a timer for 15 minutes and put my onion in the freezer. I made sure to leave the roots on and started to slice and chop. I have to admit, this freezer method definitely helped! But, this onion cutting hack did not fully relieve the tears for me unfortunately.
Onion Cutting Hacks: Use Matches
Another method to avoid tears is to light a match before peeling and slicing your onions. Apparently, the sulfur in the match combats the compounds in the onions, which may help you avoid tears. I also read that simply holding an un-lit match between your teeth while cutting onions can help. Both of these onion cutting hacks seemed unreliable to me, but I of course gave them a try.
To be honest, neither lighting a match or holding one in my teeth helped. The latter also made me feel silly! Lighting the match proved really difficult to do by myself since I needed my two hands to also cut the onion. I found a way to safely prop it up, but I was more nervous about that than the onion itself! And, holding one between my teeth was about as helpful as you can imagine it would be!
Try a Damp Paper Towel
This onion cutting hack seemed super logical to me. The sulfuric compounds that onions release are looking for a water source. In most cases, the nearest water source for them to find is your eyes! Therefore, a damp paper towel should help redirect the compounds to travel there instead of your eyes.
I folded a paper towel a couple of times, dampened it, and then placed it next to my cutting board. I practiced the same slicing method as the previous experiments, keeping the roots in tact. This wet paper towel onion cutting hack actually worked pretty well for me! I was surprised by the results.
Peel, Soak & Slice Under Water
This hack to avoid tears is similar to the freezer option, but with a few more steps. The theory is that by soaking the onion in cold water for 30 minutes, it also minimizes the tear-inducing vapors. If you soak it, peel it, rinse it off, and then slice the onion, the water may have washed off some of the sulfuric compounds as well. Along these same lines, if you are able to cut the onion while it’s submerged, you’ll prevent the gasses from releasing into the air altogether.
Trying to cut an onion underwater is pretty much a no-go for me. Not only was it slippery, but trying to keep the onion pieces together while submerged wasn’t really possible. You could give this a try if you’d like to and are up for the challenge, but I don’t think it’s much of a long-term solution!
Onion Cutting Hacks: The Results!
For me personally, I would say the damp paper towel was the easiest and most effective solution. There’s no waiting on an onion to freeze or chill, no juggling matches, and no worries of cutting myself underwater – ha! While it wasn’t 100% foolproof, it definitely helped and is an onion cutting hack that I’ll continue to use. Or, worse case scenario, I can always bust out the goggles!
What’s your method to avoid tears when cutting an onion? Have you tried any of these? Let me know on instagram at @ourfarmerhouse.
For recipes full of oniony-goodness, check out these below: