No tears, no mess: how to cut an onion without crying

This story is part of Try thisCNET’s collection of simple tips to improve your life, fast.

Many years ago at my brother’s birthday party, a fellow guest (and chef) gave me a great food prep tip that I’ve carried with me ever since: how to dice an onion.

I’ve used your technique for years and it definitely makes dicing onions easy and clean, but I’ve only recently learned that there’s a big plus: fewer tears when slicing onions. I hardly ever cry when I cut an onion this way, and if I do, it’s usually because I messed up.

Learn my method for cutting onions fast and why you avoid tears, along with other ways to avoid crying while cutting onions if you’re particularly sensitive.

For more cooking tips, here’s how avoid pricking yourself with an avocado pit, make a cake without mold Y cut a cake without a knife.

Why do onions make us cry?

Onions belong to the allium genus of flowering plants that includes garlic, leeks, shallots, and chives. They grow as bulbs underground and include toxic substances in their roots to ward off moles and other subterranean pests. Those toxins are strong enough to poison dogs and cats.

Not to be too technical, but onions take up sulfur from the soil to create amino acid sulfoxides. When an onion is cut, those sulfoxides combine with other enzymes in the onion to create sulfur gas. When that gas interacts with the moisture around your eyes, it creates sulfur dioxide, which burns and makes your eyes water.

How do I dice an onion without crying?

Most of the sulfoxides in onions reside in the root, the round, hairy part at the bottom of the onion. If you can leave the root intact, you will significantly reduce the amount of chemicals that make you cry when cutting.

A simple method is to cut off the root end and then discard it when it starts. Then you can chop the rest of the onion however you like.

This way works fine, and if you want to stop there, great. But I think my method is even better because it avoids dicing the root and allows you to easily work with the rest of the onion.

First, cut the onion lengthwise, from the tip to the root. (Yes, this will cut the root in half, but this is the only time it will cut it.) Then remove the outer inedible layers and cut the tip off in half.

Now you are ready to play dice. Make a series of slices across one of the halves horizontally, starting a half inch from the top. More important, stop cutting before reaching the rootso you leave the onion connected at the root end.

Next, make a series of vertical cuts with the tip of the knife pointing toward the root, starting on one side and working your way to the other. Again, do not cut at the root end — Slice the onion with the tip of your knife without reaching the root. Beware: These cuts provide the greatest chance of making a mistake and accidentally cutting the root.

To finish cutting the onion, make a third set of slices starting at the end farthest from the root, gradually moving the knife closer with each cut. These slices will separate the diced pieces from the rest of the onion.

Finish off your final vertical slice just before you hit the root, which can be thrown away, leaving you with a nice, neat pile of chopped onion. Repeat this process with the other half of the onion to finish your preparation.

What are some other ways to prevent tears from onions?

I wear contact lenses, which offer protection against the sulfur production of the onions, so I’m less susceptible to crying when cutting. If you try my dicing method and still find yourself in tears, there are a few other tricks you can use to reduce the effect of the onions.

First, try refrigerating the onions briefly before cutting them. The National Onion Association recommends chilling onions for 30 minutes before preparing them. The cooler temperature will slow down the sulfur gas, he says, causing less reaction in the eyes. (The organization also recommends keeping the root intact.)

Next, try sharpening your knife. A dull knife will break the onion more than a sharp one and may release more offending sulfoxides.

Lastly, if you’re still crying, try chopping onions under a ceiling fan or kitchen vent. Both can help dissipate sulfur gas before it attacks the eyes.

If you’re looking for more tips, here’s how get rid of spam, see what comes in the mail Y light fire with doritos.

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