It’s the moment so many cooks dread; when the onions come out and the eyes start to sting. But is there really any way to stop our eyes from watering when we chop up onions? From the classic teaspoon trick to simply making someone else do the dirty work, people have been suggesting out-of-the-box solutions for years.
Jamie Oliver recently released a quirky video, which featured the voices of everyday people dubbed over talking vegetables, which looked at the weird and wonderful ways that people have tried to overcome the pain of cutting up the infamous ingredient. What starts with the very well known but mostly debunked theory of sticking a teaspoon in your mouth ends with some rather helpful suggestions including throwing the onions in a blender and letting the machine do the work.
— Jamie Oliver (@jamieoliver) January 29, 2020
Most people said they found chopping without glasses to actually be easier – however possibly more dangerous due to potential loss of vision. While others said wearing contacts has always been their go-to as the lenses are made to protect your eyes, although this is clearly only applicable to those that have them handy.
Some suggested wearing swimming goggles (if you can bear the embarrassment) while others took the tough love route and suggested people just chop them quickly and get over it. Another hack that was briefly mentioned in the video was to wash the onions under cold water prior to slicing them up, while someone else said the particular way you cut an onion makes the most difference and suggests you always hold onto the root.
Onions are filled with enzymes that turn into volatile gasses when they escape which is why they make your eyes burn so badly when you come into close contact with them. Therefore, solutions either need to look at protecting the eyes or reducing the amount of gasses that are released when chopping.
Putting onions in a blender or a small food processor is actually one of the best ways to avoid tears as securing a lid on top and even standing slightly further away will definitely reduce the amount of gas you’re exposed to. However, if that isn’t your style there are other ways to get around it.
Using an extra sharp knife to cut into the onion will avoid pressing down with a blunt tool and releasing more enzymes into the air. You could also light a match before you peel or slice the onion as the sulphur is said to breakdown the compounds in the onions that affect your eyes.
Although rinsing an onion does help the outer layer prior to chopping, it won’t stop your eyes from reacting to the inner layers. So cutting into an onion while it is submerged in cold water could be a more viable option, otherwise storing them in the fridge or freezer could also be the answer to the common problem.
Cutting the root last definitely does help however it is not a complete solution. The root holds the most enzymes, so by leaving it until last, you’re still likely to tear up, but you will definitely avoid the more dramatic waterworks.
However, if none of these suggestions go to plan and the tears just won’t stop – simply try to take breaks in between chopping or, better yet, hand off the duty to someone else who can handle the pain of cutting onions with ease!