Cutting up onions for an evening meal can leave you in tears – quite literally.
Onions produce a chemical irritant which is released into the air when we chop them up, splitting apart their cells. It reacts with the glands in the eyes and irritates them, producing tears.
But there are some simple tricks to help ensure you’re not left with red, irritated eyes. From burning a candle to using your freezer, your kitchen holds all the tools you need to stop, or at least slow down, the evaporating fumes. Here are a few great ways to make chopping onions a pain-free process.
Putting the onion in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes before cutting it helps to stop it releasing the irritating chemicals. Hardening the cells is thought to prevent them letting off the painful fumes. But be careful not to leave it in too long, as it can become hard and difficult to peel and cut.
Refrigerating the onion for around 30 minutes before cutting it will help in much the same way.
Turning on the vent on your stove hood, or one in the kitchen near to where you’re cutting an onion, helps to redirect the chemicals up and away from your eyes. Similarly, running a fan on high nearby can help to blow away the fumes and make it easier to cut without hurting your vision.
Some people have noted success when lighting a candle (or better still, several), close to where they’re chopping the onions. The gas released by the onion is drawn in to the flame, as it creates a sort of chimney effect. If you use scented candles, you may even get the double win of masking the pungent onion smell that can develop in the kitchen.
It can be a little difficult to angle this right, but it can work a treat. Chopping up your onions under the tap means the water hits the vapours instantly, and redirects the excess moisture in the air away from your eyes. It can’t hurt to give them a wash anyway, even if you don’t always get the flow of water going in the right direction.
Microwaves work by drawing out excess moisture from food, so it’s the perfect tool to help prevent all those vapours pouring out. Just pop the onion in the microwave on low for 20-30 seconds and cut up afterwards, making sure it’s not left in for so long that it becomes excessively hot or starts to cook.
This may feel awkward, but it can prove handy. Simply put a piece of bread in your mouth, leaving half of it hanging out, while cutting up the onions. It will soak up excess vapours before they have a chance to hit your eyes.
Of course, if all else fails just stick some swimming goggles on! They may look a little silly, but there’s nothing better at stopping the vapours coming anywhere near your eyes. Michael Buble’s wife swears by them!
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