Cooking & Recipes

Cutting Board University—Tear-Free Onion Chopping

August 20, 2013
Cutting Board University—Tear-Free Onion Chopping


Kitchen counter dilemma

Ever wonder how to cut an onion without crying like a baby? Well so did we! There’s little else more awkward in the kitchen than trying to slice and dice an onion on your wooden cutting board while your eyes well up with stinging tears. Blindly chopping on through the burning ordeal is difficult and dangerous...for your fingers!


Why all the drama?

Onions absorb sulfur from the earth while they are growing, which then makes what is called amino acid sulfoxide. This is the substance responsible for all our onion-related pain. The reason onions make you cry in the first place, is the reaction that takes place by cutting them. When you cut the onion it releases enzymes that react with the sulfoxides to convert them to a sulfenic acid. These are the eye burners!


What can a chef do?

So to forgo the suffering during your next onion chopping experience, grab your wooden cutting board and take a look at our tried and true methods for tear-free onion chopping:

  1. Freeze the onion. Freezing the onion eliminates the majority of the chemical reaction from happening when you cut your onions. Keep a good hand on your frozen onion though; it can be tricky to cut. You’ll need a solid wooden cutting board and a really sharp knife!
  2. Refrigerate the onion. Works the same as freezing the onion, but take note that onions kept in the fridge can cause cross contamination of flavors and also can cause other foods to spoil more quickly. You will have some vapours, but far less than a room temperature onion.
  3. Soak your onions. Remove the outer skins from the onion, slice off both ends and place in a bowl of cold water for about 15 minutes prior to chopping on your wooden cutting board. This draws out some of the compounds that cause your tears into the water. It also makes your onions milder, so use with caution if you really want that signature onion taste.
  4. Chop underwater. Aside from being a little difficult to do, and hard on your wooden cutting boards, chopping onions underwater really works quite well. Again, the water absorbs all your onion-pain before it gets to your nose and eyes. You will lose some flavor though.
  5. Onion goggles? Really. You can buy specialty onion-chopping goggles. Or you could try your daughter’s scuba mask. Don’t get caught wearing these, cause you’ll never live it down!
  6. Chop onions under a vent. This by far is the best method in our books. Flip on your range fan, place your wooden cutting board underneath it, and use a very sharp knife. As you cut, the sharp knife will minimize the release of those enzymes, and the vent will suck out most of the pain-causing vapours that do form.

So there you have it. Pain free onion chopping, from Cutting Board USA. If you need a new wooden cutting board for your next onion chopping event, take a look at our beautiful maple and walnut cutting boards!

Wood Cutting Boards, your homegrown source for cutting boards and natural wood products.

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