There is a lot of no-tear onion-cutting advice online. Which methods work and which are just myth? We put them to the test.
Cutting an onion under water will prevent the sulfuric compounds from reaching your eyes and causing you to tear. If you want to try this method, take some safety precautions — use a wide, flat dish (like a casserole pan) to provide maximum workspace or try putting your cutting board in the sink and cutting the onion under cold, running water.
15 minutes in the freezer will definitely reduce your level of irritation while cutting an onion, but it will be a little tougher to cut (owing to the fact that it is partially frozen) and it will be difficult to remove the papery, outermost layer.
Leaving the root intact (rather than cutting the onion clear through the stem so that you have a flat side to help stabilize the onion) significantly reduces the number of tears you shed while cutting it. Just be careful if you choose this method; cutting anything that is round can be tricky. Use a very sharp knife, pay attention, and cut slowly to avoid accidents.
This bit of advice is available online, with sources some suggesting that you trim the ends of the onion before microwaving it for 30 seconds and other suggesting you leave the onion whole pre-nuke. We tried it both ways. Don’t trim the ends; when we did, we cried so much that we had to leave the room. On the other hand, the whole onion that was microwaved for 30 seconds produced fewer tears than usual.
Sounds silly, but holding an unlit match (from a matchbook) between your two front teeth while cutting an onion will keep you from tearing up. The theory? The red end of the match absorbs the sulfuric compounds before they can reach your eyes.
Much like the last solution, holding a piece of bread in your mouth while you cut an onion will significantly reduce or eliminate the amount of eye irritation you experience. The theory here is that the bread absorbs the sulfuric compounds before they can reach your eyes.
In our experiment, refrigerating the onion for 30 minutes before cutting it produced only very mild irritation — more like a prickling sensation in the eyes. Food chemistry expert Harold McGe, suggests refrigerating the onion for a few hours in his book On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen.
An easy fix if you have the ingredient on hand, simply cut a lemon in half and then rub it on the blade of your knife before cutting your onion. The only thing to know? You’ll have to refresh the knife by rubbing the lemon on it after every few cuts of the onion.
Why not simply blow the tear-inducing sulfuric compounds away from yourself with a fan? Or, put your cutting board on a cool stovetop and let the fan in the hood suck the fumes up and away from your eyes. It worked for us!
Cutting an onion damages its cells and causes it to release irritating compounds, so use a sharp knife (which damages fewer cells); it can help you avoid unnecessary tears. We tested this using both a dull and then a freshly sharpened knife, and the difference was clear; keep your knives sharp!