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Help! Cutting onions makes me cry!!

Cecilia Feb 1, 2005 07:02 PM

Does anyone have tips on how to minimize the effect of the vapour from cutting onions? My eyes burn when I cut onions. I can only get through about a quarter of an onion and I have to stop and wash my eyes. I have tried freezing the onion. Sometimes I used my Mini Prep to chop the onion. I have even tried wearing googles, but that keeps me from seeing the onion very well.

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    2chez mike RE: Cecilia Feb 1, 2005 07:43 PM

    Try placing you onions, as you slice them, in a collander, under running water in the sink. This should help.

    1 Reply
    1. re: 2chez mike
      MikeG RE: 2chez mike Feb 1, 2005 08:27 PM

      How do you chop them? With a little practice, the technique described on the pages below goes *very* quickly. If you already use this method and it's still too much, all I can think of is opening a window or getting a small fan...


    2. c
      contact lens RE: Cecilia Feb 1, 2005 07:44 PM

      The only way to completely eliminate any effect from cut onions is to wear contact lenses although I haven't heard of anyone who has gotten cosmetic lenses just to dice onions! As you mentioned, airtight goggles can be a problem.

      Improve your knife skills, make sure that your knife is sharp (crushing the onion makes it worse), and get it over quickly.

      2 Replies
      1. re: contact lens
        ValL RE: contact lens Feb 1, 2005 08:38 PM

        I didnt know that about contacts. I guess thats why I dont cry anymore, it works!

        1. re: contact lens
          dt RE: contact lens Feb 1, 2005 08:58 PM

          I agree. I've been wearing contacts for over 30 years, and I NEVER have a problem.

          I wore soft lenses for about 20, but now wear toric. No tears at all! Ever.

          I try a day or two without contacts just to give the eyes a rest. However, if I know I'll be doing onions, I make sure I put in the contacts!

        2. j
          Jeremy Newel RE: Cecilia Feb 1, 2005 08:02 PM

          If you have time enough to plan in advance, peel the onion, then double bag it and refrigerate it for several hours. Chopping a cold onion eliminates the tears for me.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Jeremy Newel
            Juniper RE: Jeremy Newel Feb 1, 2005 09:43 PM

            Yes, refrigerating them actually works for me as well.

            Sometimes, I go as far as dicing a relatively large amount of onions in a food processor then storing it in the fridge in an air tight container. And when I need to use onions, I'll take the amount needed from this stash. This way, my eyes hardly come into contact with the vapours from the onions at all.

            1. re: Jeremy Newel
              DanaB RE: Jeremy Newel Feb 2, 2005 02:56 AM

              The refrigeration tip, which I got from chowhound some time ago, works for me, too. Little to no problems chopping masses of onions anymore, and I was the classic onion crybaby. A room temp onion will make me bawl, and no technique, other than refrigerating the onions, had worked before. As others have noted, a sharp knife is key, too, so you can get through it as quicklessly and cleanly as possible.

              1. re: DanaB
                DanaB RE: DanaB Feb 2, 2005 03:00 AM

                Um, that should have been "quickly and painlessly" not, "quicklessly," which is the reverse of what you'd like to occur. But to reiterate, refrigerating onions works.

            2. l
              Leah RE: Cecilia Feb 1, 2005 08:15 PM

              I have the same problem. It looks like I am having a breakdown in the middle of cooking. Someone once told me that if you hold an icecube between your teeth as you cut onions it will make you tear less, but I've tried that and don't think it works, though maybe it would for you! Other than that, the other posting here saying to put them in a colander under running water sounds good, I think I will try that. Also, I'm sure you already know this, but old onions that have been sitting around for a while generally make you cry more than fresher onions.

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                Funwithfood RE: Cecilia Feb 1, 2005 08:19 PM

                Years ago Cook's Illustrated tested all methods and found ski goggles the most effective.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Funwithfood
                  nja RE: Funwithfood Feb 2, 2005 12:21 AM

                  I'll second that. A very sharp knife, a cold onion, and an open flame will usually do the trick. But when all those fail, it's time to pull out the ski goggles.

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                  Andy P. RE: Cecilia Feb 1, 2005 08:32 PM

                  As food scientist Shirley Corriher explained on the Good Eats episode "A Bowl of Onion", "...When you damage an onion or attack it by biting it or cutting it, sulfuric compounds in one part of the cell get to enzymes in another and make this gas that comes up and when it hits liquid in your eye, sulfuric acid."

                  So, to avoid tearing up while tearing up an onion, you just need to make sure that the gasses doesn't meet the eyes.

                  Personally, whenever I'm cutting onions, I turn on a fan, and disperse the fumes away from me.


                  Link: http://www.goodeatsfanpage.com/GEFP/i...

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Andy P.
                    jo RE: Andy P. Feb 1, 2005 08:38 PM

                    An alternative solution is to limit the release of the offending vapors in the first place.

                    A really sharp knife solves the problem because it cuts with minimum damage to the cell walls. It works. This is not the reason I started sharpening my chef's knife every week, but it's one of the benefits. Slicing onions is actually a good test of knife sharpness.

                    1. re: Andy P.
                      drdawn RE: Andy P. Feb 2, 2005 03:53 AM

                      I turn on the fan too... it seems to pull the nasties away, but doesn't completely.

                      1. re: Andy P.
                        Tamar G RE: Andy P. Feb 2, 2005 03:11 PM

                        to this end I always cut onions it in front of an open window or on a porch in the summer. It doesn't stop if completely, but it disperses the onion fumes before hitting your nose and eyes. If you could place a fan that pushed the fumes out of the open window, that would probably work the best.

                      2. n
                        nikki RE: Cecilia Feb 1, 2005 08:50 PM

                        no mesage

                        1. b
                          boogiebaby RE: Cecilia Feb 1, 2005 08:52 PM

                          When you cut onions, they release a gas that irritates our eyes, hence the crying. Try burning a candle on the counter where you are cutting the onions -- the gas gets burned by the flame.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: boogiebaby
                            Tongo Rad RE: boogiebaby Feb 2, 2005 08:55 AM

                            I wear contacts, and as a rule I try to use a very sharp knife and fresh onions so I rarely have a problem. But there have been occasions where I cut into an onion and knew immediately that it would be a tough job so I lit a candle and was quite surprised at how well it worked. If you're more sensitive, then using a candle near the cutting board regularly should be helpful.

                          2. t
                            The Rogue RE: Cecilia Feb 1, 2005 10:06 PM

                            I agree with the comments that say use refrigerated onions and also a very sharp knife and work fast. I always keep my onions in the fridge and keep my knives supersharp. I never get the nasty fumes anymore and even forgot about that onions can make you tear up. Then the other day I used some onions straight from the store that sat for an hour in my warm kitchen... whoeee. I disagree with the contact lens comments. They didn't help me out any.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: The Rogue
                              Frank RE: The Rogue Feb 2, 2005 06:58 AM


                              I’ve been wearing single use Contact lenses, (Toric), and have absolutely no problem with onions. Without lenses I’m a basket case. I wonder how prep-cooks do it. Are they desensitized?

                              Folk Lore. One poster suggested clenching an ice cube in one’s mouth.
                              My sister swears by an unlit match in her mouth, (what a sight)!. G-d please forgive her.


                            2. f
                              Fida RE: Cecilia Feb 1, 2005 10:17 PM

                              I knew three anti-crying methods, but can only call two to mind at the moment:

                              1)stuff a piece of bread in your mouth and breath through it
                              2)light a match, blow it out, and hold the wooden end between your teeth and breathe through your mouth

                              Damn. What's the third one?

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Fida
                                Frank RE: Fida Feb 2, 2005 06:59 AM

                                An Ice cube?

                                1. re: Fida
                                  Candy RE: Fida Feb 2, 2005 10:46 AM

                                  Wear contact lenses

                                  1. re: Fida
                                    sara RE: Fida Feb 2, 2005 11:37 AM

                                    i use the lit-and-blown-out-in-the-mouth match method too, and it always seems to work for me! (i don't wear contacts)

                                  2. n
                                    Nyleve RE: Cecilia Feb 2, 2005 01:31 PM

                                    I swear this works every single time. Put your cutting board on the front burner of your stove (DO NOT LIGHT IT) and turn on the burner directly behind it. The flame or heat or whatever it is will somehow either dissipate the onion gases or burn them off or I don't know what. It just works.

                                    I used to wear contact lenses which protected me completely. I no longer wear them and I have to use the above technique.

                                    1. b
                                      BluPlateSpec RE: Cecilia Feb 2, 2005 02:54 PM

                                      100% guaranteed to work!
                                      Get a spouse or significant other who isn't bothered by onions and enjoys cooking.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: BluPlateSpec
                                        curiousbaker RE: BluPlateSpec Feb 2, 2005 03:10 PM

                                        I'm with you! My boyfriend is my prep-cook. I do the shopping and meal-planning and the fun part of the cooking. He chops, minces, peels and washes. It works out well, though I'm worried that, after five years of dating, I've forgotten how to chop an onion.

                                      2. s
                                        SJ RE: Cecilia Feb 4, 2005 02:42 AM

                                        Plus, use FRESH onions!

                                        Nothing worse then old onions... they'll outgas so much nothing can stop them.

                                        Squeeze the onions at the store.. if they're not firm... pass!

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