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Whenever I'm making something that has onions in it, I always have to cut the onion and go through tearing up and stinging eyes. I've seen on the internet that chewing gum makes you not tear up, but when tried that it didn't work at all.

I was wondering if there is a way to not tear up when cutting onions.

I would prefer not to use goggles because I don't have any that fit me and I don't want to buy them.

  • 2
    This may be helpful – Zach Saucier Dec 10 '14 at 5:17
  • 1
    It is a little weird, but sometimes I use diving glasses to cut the onions. It works. – Billy Rubina Jan 4 '15 at 4:46
  • @Vÿska That sounds like an answer; why not post as such? ....you might want to expand it with a little explanation (e.g., blocks the juices from hitting your eyes) just to increase answer quality, but it's not necessary, really. ....never mind, I see that Michael has excluded that from the set of answers. Oh well. – Shokhet Jan 4 '15 at 6:16
  • 2
    This may be helpful: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/567/… – Elias Zamaria Jan 4 '15 at 7:44
  • 1
    I haven't got the rep to add an answer since the question's protected, but wearing contact lenses always works for me. – Danny Beckett Jan 5 '15 at 15:12

22 Answers 22

12

Here are some methods I use:

  • Cutting the Onion under water that is laced with vinegar or other acids or even just plain water helps sometimes to. I find it stops the onion smell from reaching me completely and saves my eyes. Some articles say use running water, but nobody has money or water for that.

Tested: The Best Tear-Free Tricks for Cutting Onions

  • Apparently putting your onion on a cutting board on a microwave or stove helps.

Putting your cutting board on the stove and turning on the overhead vent or microwave ventilation fan is supposed to redirect the treacherous eye-irritating gases onions produce away from your eyes.

This above article has how the article worked, as well. So that should help with research.


Additional Info

WikiHow

  • This article uses a steam method. I have found that this does work, but putting water on to boil before cutting onions is really extreme.

Cut the onion near hot running water or a cloud of steam. Steam from a kettle or pan of water will do the trick. The science here is that the steam will draw out the vapors from the onion, dissipating them.

How to Peel an Onion Quickly


Other possibly non-helpful advice

  • Use a really sharp knife. This way you can cut faster. This is not really a hack.
  • Keep your eyes closed. Not advised when cutting with a knife, but when using a peeler is helpful.
  • I heard rubbing the onion down with acid works and soaking the onion before helps, but as I said I heard it. Acids like Vinegar, Vitamin C or etc are suppose to "kill" the odour.
  • Working near the place you have to put the onions, also works. This wasy you can get them away from you faster.
  • Freezing is suppose to work. I usually freeze for about 3-5 minutes. But you can freeze longer, just make sure to check the onion for freezing solid.
  • Vinegar should help with odors. My mom puts vinegar on very strong onions (for taste purposes only) and it does help more than you'd expect. – Anonymous Penguin Jan 5 '15 at 2:55
  • I agree with most of it but the argument "but nobody has money or water for that." sounds a bit strange. Of course it depends on the country but most developed countries have very cheap water. Some people take half an hour showers and when they can do that they could easily also cut an onion while having running water – Ivo Beckers Jan 5 '15 at 9:46
  • 1
    Using a sharp knife is not so you can cut faster. I mean, you will, but that's hardly the real reason. You use a sharp knife because it removes less of the onion, meaning less "juice" flying through the air that make you go all Nicholas Sparks on your dinner. – corsiKa Jan 5 '15 at 13:31
  • 1
    I can vouch for the extremely sharp non-serrated knife on a cold onion method. That's all I ever use and I don't have this problem. – Jasmine Jan 5 '15 at 17:11
  • "but nobody has money or water for that" - how much is water where you live? I use hundreds of litres a week on my fish tank! 1000 litres is around £1.50 in the UK, for example, which should be enough to chop 200 or more onions under cold tap on a low pressure setting. – Jon Story Feb 11 '15 at 23:58
12

Keep all the slices together while cutting, then put the slices away on the another cutting board; put your hands on the onion like this or in some other way (that can keep the slices together), like:

source

If it won't stop your tears at all, it will at least decrease their amount :)

Another tricky approach: put a blower near your cutting board, it could blow away anything that make your tears appear (even the onion itself, so be careful :D).

Also it'll cool you if you are too active onion cutter.

9

Why does it happen?

Preventing onions from making you cry requires understanding why they do so.

Onions contain amino acid sulfoxides that form sulfenic acids in the onion cells. Both the enzymes and the sulfenic acids are kept separately in the cells. When you cut the onion, the otherwise separate enzymes start mixing and produce propanethiol S-oxide, which is a volatile sulphur compound that starts wafting towards your eyes. The gas that is emitted reacts with the water of your eyes and forms sulphuric acid. The sulphuric acid thus produced causes burning sensation in your eyes and this in turn leads to the tear glands secreting tears. Thus you end up with watery eyes every time you cut onions at home.

Source: Why do onions make us cry?

Stopping it

Option 1: reduce the gas being emitted

Stopping (or reducing) the gas being emitted means less of it will get to your eyes. You can stop the gas being emitted by:

  • Refrigerate the onion. When the onion is cold, the enzymes get released much more slowly, and therefore much less gas is released.
  • Make the knife, chopping board and onion wet. This means that the gas reacts with the water already on the onion or equipment, and does not escape to react with the water in your eyes.

Option 2: stop the gas reaching your eye

Another option is to stop the gas from getting as far as your eyes. For example:

  • Wear safety goggles. This creates an actual barrier around your eyes, preventing the gas from reaching them.
  • Keep windows closed and fans off, to reduce air circulation and stop the gas from reaching your eyes.
  • Alternatively, if you have a ventilation fan that can draw the gases away without drawing them to your face, switch it on. Whether this helps or hinders will depend on the exact arrangement of the onion, the fan and your face!

Option 3: Get the gas to go elsewhere

Finally, you can draw the gas away from your eyes by giving it better things to react with:

  • Stick your tongue out or chew gum with your mouth open. The onion gas will mix with the saliva on your tongue instead of the water in your eyes (because your mouth is closer to the onion than your eyes are).
  • Light a candle near the chopping board. The gas is drawn to the flame and does not reach your eyes.

Other tips

  • Make sure your knife is sharp. You'll cut the onion more "cleanly" (reducing less fumes) and you'll also get the job done faster.
  • Don't rub your eyes. The onion juices on your fingers will make the problem worse.
  • Breathe through your mouth. As well as giving the gas a chance to mix with your saliva (like the "stick your tongue out" method), breathing through your mouth can also reduce teary eyes since the olfactory nerves in your nose are located very close to the tear ducts so can contribute to teary eyes if you breathe through your nose.
6

Put the onion in the freezer for 3 minutes. It works wonderfully.

  • 4
    Don't forget it in the freezer! A hard onion is not fun to cut. This is also a good solution because it helps others in the room – Zach Saucier Dec 10 '14 at 5:19
6

I use ski glasses, the kind that completely wrap your eyes. You can get away with the cheapest ones if you don't practice ski.

Also the kind of protection glasses that you use to cover your eyes when sawing stuff may work.

  • Ski glasses usually have small ventilation holes. I use swimming glasses. – user31389 Feb 17 '15 at 1:05
4

As it does not reduce tears to 100% rinsing the onions in water before cutting them, and cutting on a wet board helps to reduce the effect of aliinase in converting alliin to allicin. Then the resulting production of syn-Propanethial S-oxide (the substance that makes our eyes tear) will be reduced, and it will go in solution with the surrounding water rather than with our tears.

  • 1
    also make the knife wet. – Angelo Fuchs Dec 10 '14 at 11:42
4

There are many ways to do it:

  1. The most handy solution is: Breathe slowly and deeply with your mouth.
  2. Light a candy near the process.
  3. Chop under water.
  4. Freeze it before you cut it.
  • You just need to get it good and cold to prevent the volatile chemicals from vaporizing. Don't freeze it solid or you will change the texture of the final product. – Chris Nava Jan 4 '15 at 5:04
  • Hi! I use some of these myself, so I can testify that they work somewhat :) However, method 1 has always been useless to me and this article seems to agree. I quote them "Verdict: Fail. Might as well keep your mouth closed and breathe as normal." :( Does this method work for you or is there a special way to do it, also for how long does the onions have to stay in the Freezer? Once again these are just some suggestions, your off to a good start here! :) – Pobrecita Jan 4 '15 at 18:17
4

I read this years ago in a Martha Stewart how-to book (hey, I was killing time in the book store), and it's always worked for me. I'll let Martha explain it... I copied this from:

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1997-08-17/news/9708170152_1_onion-root-end-lilac

Here is the best method: Cut it in half from stem end to root end. Set one half aside, cut side down, on your work surface. Cut off the stem end of the other half and peel it. Place it cut side down on the cutting board and make vertical cuts along the veins of the onion, without cutting through the root end, which holds the onion together as you work. Make a few horizontal cuts from the cut stem end toward the root end. Then chop across the onion from the cut stem end to the root end, resulting in beautiful, perfectly even dice.

This works because it holds the onion together longer, so the gases released by the first several cuts have no place to go. The key is to avoid cutting all the way through to the root end of the onion. After your dicing cuts you'll end up with a small chunk of the root end of the onion, which you can either discard or chop the old-fashioned way.

3

Here's my preferred solution — goggles:

                    Goggles for chopping onions

You said you don't have any, but you should be able to find a cheap pair of swimming goggles at any sports store or supermarket for less than $10. (I bought mine at a local swimming pool for €5.) Besides, if you like to go swimming, they'll also have a secondary use.

Really, any eyewear that's more or less airtight, like the ski glasses suggested by Alexandre C., should work just as well. Obviously, try to pick ones that are clear, rather than tinted like the pair in the picture (which were the only ones I happened to have at hand for the photo; I seem to have misplaced my usual pair of goggles). Still, in a pinch, almost anything short of a welding mask will do.

As far as fit goes, remember that most goggles are adjustable, and that for just chopping onions, you don't really need to have them fit very tightly. Just loosen the strap a little bit if it feels too tight, and it'll be a lot more comfortable to wear.


An alternative solution, if you happen to be cutting onions near a ventilated oven hood, is to turn the fan on. It will suck in the fine mist of onion juice generated by chopping the onions, and keep it away from your eyes.

Similarly, if you're cutting onions outdoors (say, while camping), simply try standing upwind, or a bit to the side. (Standing directly upwind may not be optimal, since the wind will form eddies around your body.) The wind will carry the onion juice harmlessly away. You can also try this indoors in front of a window, but that's a bit more situational — the wind might not always happen to be blowing conveniently out of your kitchen window.

  • Swimming goggles aren't an option if you wear glasses and can't see without them. – David Richerby Jan 5 '15 at 19:29
  • It almost looks like you've declared war on those onions...! – Werner Apr 21 '15 at 0:16
3

There are volatile sulfur compound inside the cells of the onion. When those sulfur compounds hits your eyes, it causes them to tear. Note that neither plugging your nose or breathing through your mouth will help. As soon as that sulfur compound hits, your eyes, you'll tear. It has nothing to do with breathing.

This means that any solution will have to keep that sulfur compound fumes away from your eyes will help.

  • Blower to blow the fumes away from you.
  • Cut the onion underwater, so that the sulfur compounds are dissolved in the water, and don't get into the air.
  • Wear onion goggles.
  • Refrigerate the onion. The sulfur compounds are less volatile when cold, so they're less likely to get into the air and into your eyes.
  • Finally: Use a very sharp non-serated blade knife to cut the onion.

Peel the onion by making a cut through the outer layers (not too deep) and try to remove the peel without tearing it. If you are a bit messy, that's okay, wash the onion off under cold running water as soon as the peel is removed to get rid of the liquid that contains the sulfur compounds.

Now, chop the onion. Make sure the knife is very sharp. Sharpen the knife before you cut it. Again, do not use a serrated knife. If you can't sharpen a non-serated knife sharp enough to cleanly cut through a soft tomato, it's not sharp enough. If you can't seem to get the knife sharp enough with a sharpening stone, get something like the Chef's Choice Knife Sharpener. It's not a character flaw if you can't sharpen a knife on a sharpening stone, so don't feel ashamed. I in fact, have that very model of knife sharpener.

Cut the onion with the knife. Slice through it. You want to make sure you don't tear the cells of the onion. Don't hack the onion to death. You're not a serial killer. You want clean cuts. Thin slices, and then cut through the slices perpendicularly.

You should now have fairly small onion slices, and this may be enough for most cooking tasks. If you need a finer consistency, you can chop the onion.

If you watch this video, you'll see how this chef slices through the onion and never hacks at it -- even when he is making cross hatches in the onion. Notice he sharpens the knifes before cutting the onion. Notice the knife he's using -- a big sharp and very fine bladed chef knife.

Okay, he doesn't rinse the onion after peeling, but he probably chops it fast enough that it's not a problem. Besides, he's a professional, so don't try that at home - rinse the onion after peeling.

  • +1 for using a sharp knife and the right technique. The underwater part kind of contradicts that, though: using your sink as a chopping board is going to blunt your knife and make things hard to handle. – David Richerby Jan 5 '15 at 19:37
3

Here is a method I have used for many years. While chopping, hold a piece of bread in your mouth so it sticks out horizontally. It will absorb those "little daggers" of acid which would otherwise end up in your eyes causing them to tear up. A slightly stale piece of bread works best because it is less likely to droop down letting the droplets pass by and irritate your eyes. I hope this method is not already listed since I didn't read all the answers. I apologize if it has already been mentioned.

  • This works for me too. – Flounderer Mar 21 '15 at 9:26
2

Fully open all windows and find a place where the air goes from the cutting board away from your face and cut the onion there. It's a bit risky because wind tends to change direction, but if you're quick enough, you can cut the whole onion before the gust of onion juice reaches your eyes. The key here is to live in a windy area or have a powerful AC unit.

Just using a fan to blow the onion vapor out the window might not work very well. If you watch any video of a regular unmodified fan, you'll see that the air current it produces does not actually do a very good job of going in a single direction. This could result in onion vapor spreading all over the room you're in. Unless you modify the fan (place an array of cocktail tubes in front of it to straighten the air flow), it's not a guaranteed solution to avoid tears.

You can also find a large enough plastic bag that will fit the onion, the knife and your cutting hand inside, put a rubber band over the bag's open end on your wrist and cut the onion inside the bag. This keeps the tiny droplets of onion juice from going anywhere, but you need to cut carefully so as not to cut through the plastic bag.

  • When I have to cut a large quantity of onions, I cut them outside, works perfectly, even without wind. – Nicolas Raoul Jan 5 '15 at 1:08
  • Opening windows is hardly practical in places that are significantly hotter or colder than a comfortable room temperature. – David Richerby Jan 5 '15 at 19:28
  • Just go outside with the cutting board with onions on it. Go to a balcony or plain out of your house. – user1306322 Jan 5 '15 at 19:30
2

Simple: always cut onions near or, if possible, under, the running exaust hood, no tears whatsoever!

Exaust hood

  • Hi! Welcome to Life Hacks Stack Exchange and Thanks You for your contribution :) Your method is a little undeveloped, maybe if you explained a bit more and explain what a "cooker hood ventilator" is, people may realize this as a valid method :) If there is no way to improve this answer, then you can go to the Life Hacks Main Page and answer some questions there. You can use the Help Center to avoid some problems associated with writing questions and answers! Good Luck and I hope to see you around :) – Pobrecita Jan 4 '15 at 18:09
  • Like @darthnesscoveredthesky already mentioned, explaining how this answer works, while not required, would greatly improve this answer. I don't either know what a cooker hood ventilator is (though I'm no professional chef), so you might want to explain and/or link to WP on that one. See you around! – Shokhet Jan 4 '15 at 22:23
  • Not being a native speaker, I look up the term "Dampfabzugshaube" and found the term cooker hood ventilater. I hope the term exaust hood is more understandable, together with the image. – Floyd Jan 7 '15 at 7:15
2

Wetting the blade before starting to cut (and during) seems to help.

Another trick I've read, but which I've never tried before, is putting the onion in the freezer for a few minutes before cutting.

  • Hi, Welcome to Life Hack Stack Exchange and Thank You for your contribution :) Your post seems like more of a comment though :( But if you added some details or maybe some other methods it would be 1000x better :) Another suggestion is to add why the method works, this is necessary for defining it as a Life Hack. If you can't find a way to better this post never mind that by going to the Life Hacks Main Page you can find other questions to answer :) Welcome and I hope you stick around! – Pobrecita Jan 4 '15 at 1:00
  • 2
    I'm with @darthnesscoveredthesky on this one. Your answer is okay, but a little more explanation would increase the quality of the answer a lot. Answer explanations aren't required around here, but they certainly to make answers more valuable; see the discussion here for more on that. I hope to see you around LH! – Shokhet Jan 4 '15 at 6:11
  • 1
    Hi, this is more or less common knowledge in Italy, I'll try to find a more reliable source to expand my answer. Thanks for the suggestions – Brethil Jan 5 '15 at 17:21
1

The problem with cutting onions is that a gas, partially made up of certain enzymes, is emitted by the cut onion.

See, for instance, this article by FoodRepublic:

The compound to blame? syn-propanethial S-oxide. Sulfides are converted to syn-propanethial S-oxide enzymes called allinases, which are released when the cells of the onion are damaged by the blade of your knife. This potent lachrymatory agent is then released as a gas and causes the stinging sensation many of you know all too well.

In my experience, wearing glasses (or goggles, I'd assume) helps to mitigate this problem, as they block that gas that comes out of the cut onion.

  • Is this DV because it's a low-quality answer (which I don't believe is the case), or because the question-asker answered his own question (which is totally not a problem)? – Shokhet Dec 10 '14 at 18:32
1

Its a slightly strange one, but chewing gum whilst chopping an onion actually seems to work to stop you from crying. I have tried it and it does work, for me at least. No idea why though.

  • I said in my question that I've tries this. – michaelpri Jan 4 '15 at 16:04
1

You can use something like gass mask or mask and snorkel set. This is similar to the swimming goggles and ski mask and additionally they will not only protect your eyes but also prevent breathing it in. Some friends has tested this and they told me it works.

1

What I have heard and also successfully tried is to make your mouth full with water and cut the onions while keeping it there.

It seems to work somehow and is similar to other solutions (wetting the board and knife, cutting next to steam or running water, chewing gum, ...) but not said in this form yet, I think.

0

I've found that using a high-quality, sharp knife is the best way for me not to get tears from onions. I chop them every night at home and have no problems but when away from home (using someone else's knives) I often get tears with knives that should probably be called bludgeons for accuracy. Use a razor blade like in Goodfellas!

-1

Put them in the microwave for 10 seconds on high prior to the cutting.

-2

Chew gum while you cut onions and you won't tear up. Works like a charm for me.

-2

If you are in a restaurant, cutting the onions inside the walk-in freezer works. But it's cold.

  • As an answer, it is too short. Moreover, it is mentioned in other answers already. – nicael Jan 4 '15 at 17:30
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    Hi Welcome to Life Hacks Stack Exchange :) Your answer states a good method, however, the method is seen in other answers and the length of your post makes it not exactly quality :( Nevermind that, by adding some details and some more unique methods you can turn this post from ordinary into extraordinary :) If you can't find a way to better this post then go to the Life Hacks Main page and surf some of the questions there. Good Luck and I hope to see you around Stack Exchange! – Pobrecita Jan 4 '15 at 18:23

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