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Do onion goggles work?

Put them on and no more tears when chopping onions ... or so they say. Are they worth it?

One of many places that sell them ... about $20

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  1. I haven't tried those, but I do use swimming goggles when cutting onions, and they work great. They do leave red lines around my eyes for a few minutes, so aren't great if you have company over, but they do keep the tears away. Cheaper, too, though these sound like they wouldn't leave the lines, and are quicker to put on.

    1 Reply
    1. re: juster

      My daughter was making a "vat" of onion soup and had pounds of onions to slice. I gave her the goggle tip, and she dug out her little boy's swimming goggles. "I shed nary a tear", she said! Great tip!

    2. The tearing reaction when cutting onions is due to the sulfur compounds in the onion juice being suspended in air, where they react with water vapor and oxygen to form sulfuric acid. So, to the extent the $20 designer onion goggles, or the swim goggles, isolate your cornea from the sulfuric acid, they'll stop the tearing.

      Other home remedies may or may not work - the oft-mentioned lighted candle trick likely burns up some of the acid as it's formed, so in theory may help (in practice, I doubt it). The placement of various foreign objects between one's teeth (wine corks seem to be a particular favorite) is of questionable value, except when used as an excuse - if indeed one were needed - to open another bottle of wine. Although I've never tried it, I'll bet that chopping onions close to a side-draft ventilation system would work great.

      Better than all of that, because it involves no special equipment and is easier as well, is learning to mince onions correctly. Peel the onion and cut off the tip end, leaving the root end intact. Cut it into two halves through the root. Take each half, place the cut side down, and make a series of cuts parallel to your board, then a series of parallel cuts down to the board - all of these are made parallel to a line from root to tip (this is easier to do than describe). Then, finally, make a third series of cuts at right angles to the first two, working toward the root, and the onion falls into dice. Repeat with the other half. The distance between cuts determines the size of the dice.

      The reason this method, which is described in many cook books, works is that it doesn't spray a lot of onion oils and juice into the air. If you use a properly made and maintained (i.e. sharp) knife, and no other kind is worth owning or using, there's not as much liquid exposed to the air in the first place, so there's less sulfuric acid to make your eyes tear. I've been using this method (as has virtually every competent cook I know) for years and can't remember the last time I had a tearing problem.

      2 Replies
      1. re: FlyFish

        Cool. Appreciate the science behind the reason for tears.

        1. re: FlyFish

          And use a sharp knife. Great info above for those unaware.

        2. I'm not trying to be a smart-a$$ with this comment, but you may be able to avoid tears if you a)learn how to chop an onion quickly and expediently, and b) don't cut right by the root, which is more intense.

          but if you are really sensitive to onions, I'd try those goggles, swim goggles, or check out the eyewear available at the hardware store.

          1. Or use a really sharp knife very fast.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Scrapironchef

              True but my knives are razor sharp and If I'm cutting a couple of pounds of onions there's going to be some fumes. The goggles are just too much to deal with.

              Now with horseradish, that's another story all together. I have to grind 5lbs of fresh horseradish root once a year. Before we had a prosumer hood I doned a scubamask and snorkle to finish this task.

            2. Reminds me of the time, some four decades past, that I walked into the kitchen and saw my mom in a mask and snorkel. I nearly wet my pants. It turned out, of course, that the snorkel was optional. But it worked!

              1 Reply
              1. I'm guessing that the goggles might work. This is a somewhat "educated guess" based on the fact that when I'm wearing my contact lenses, I can chop onions all day without shedding a tear.

                1. It's easy to avoid the tears. I learned this trick from a prep cook in a restaurant where I cooked, and it works great. Just put an electric fan next to your cutting board and blow the fumes away, off to one side, and they'll never reach your eyes. I have a small, clip-on fan that I bought at Walgreen's for this purpose. Try it; it works!

                  1. Ski goggles work as well. One of my staple meals in college was stir-fry and rice. I'd bring several onions, bell peppers, carrots, etc. back from the store and chop it all up at once and keep it all in a tub in the fridge so I could throw dinner together quickly throughout the week. My roommate thought I was crazy. I'm sure that swim goggles would be even more effective since they are airtight, whereas my ski goggles had vents. But they slowed the fumes down enough that I could get through 3-4 large onions without tears.

                    I do agree with the other posts here though regarding technique. I can cut several onions nowadays without any trouble. The quality of your knife also matters a lot. Those crappy serrated "never needs sharpening" knives are going to tear up lots of cells and create a lot of fumes. High quality sharp knives cause less damage to the onion and hence produce less acid.


                    1. I picked up a tip on Chowhound several years ago, which has never failed me and since that day I have not shed a tear while chopping onions. Simply refrigerate the onions before chopping and no more tears.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: DanaB

                        That's exactly right. I learned the trick by accident a long time ago, and it always works for me.

                        1. re: DanaB

                          ditto on refrigerating the onions first.

                        2. ALWAYS keep the cut side down, dice quickly, no tears.

                          1. cut an onion in half-place cut side down and chop--you won't cry-placing the cut side down is the key--

                            1. A Fan.

                              I have one of those 6" diameter fans with a clip-on base, mounted on a shelf, that can blow gently onto my main work zone. Bought it for the summer heat, but it also does the job for onion-eye.

                              Re-capping other posters: Chill them first (not long term storage, but rotate into fridge for short term). Avoid root end; save for stock. Sharp knife for not "bruising" onion cells and producing aerosol sulfuric acid precursors.

                              1. YES, they DO work! I bought some and tried them for the first time today. Although I looked like a goof wearing them, they definitely saved me from the usual misery of chopping onions!

                                7 Replies
                                  1. re: olympiacathy

                                    Just thinking today that I NEED a pair of these and don't feel like cheaping out with the swimming goggles - as if wearing any of these isn't silly enough; HOWEVER, thank you olympiacathy for being the one to FINALLY answer the original posters question. I'm sold!

                                    p.s. old posting I know, but it's still helpful. Now the chore of finding where to buy in TO.

                                    1. re: Moimoi

                                      Onion goggles are great! They DO work. $20 is a bargain if you're not a pro at slicing or you don't kep your knives razor sharp. You can get them at Sur La Table. Or just call around to any kitchen store in your area. I also have a pair for riding my bike in cold weather. They protect my eyes and keep them from watering in the cold wind.

                                      1. re: bojonich

                                        Why thank you for the additional endorsement. While I do keep my knives sharp and I have adequate slicing, dicing, chopping, etc., skills (I think it's my chopping board's fault), I am by no means a pro, so it looks like I'm going to be heading out this week for my new goggles. :)

                                        1. re: Moimoi

                                          Just an FYI, the lenses will scratch so make sure you keep them in their case when not in use. I actually slip them into the foot of an old sock and then put them in their plastic case. Keeps them pristine.

                                          1. re: bojonich

                                            Good to know about the lenses - used mine for the first time tonight! I do know the proper way to cut an onion, good knives, etc. but I would still have mile eye issues (possibly because I am only 5 feet tall and closer to the onion than most!) I received them as a gift and they are amazing!

                                            1. re: catscat

                                              That's funny... 5' tall and closer to the onion... good visual.
                                              I'm embarrassed to admit that I can't decide on a colour and that I'm thinking about them more than I should. Time for me to maybe get a life, perhaps... :)

                                  2. Any googles work well. Ski, swimming, chemistry lab, anything you can think of that covers the eyes fully. And many of which are cheaper than $20, put those onion googles do look cool.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: david t.

                                      DanaB's no-cost tip is worth reiterating: Refrigerate your onions! I cut up quite a few over Thanksgiving and shed nary a tear.

                                    2. Yes, they work perfectly, I just wish I had invented them myself. You smell the onion and just about the time your eyes should start burning, they don't. It's a miracle.

                                      1. I just took a knife skills class the other night, and the chef was talking about uni-task kitchen gear. When we were working with onions, he emphatically suggested that we not buy goggles labeled "onion goggles", since they tend to be overpriced and no more effective than regular swim goggles. He suggested that, if you are very sensitive to onion fumes or need to chop a lot of onions, you try some inexpensive swim goggles first. He also said that sticking the onion in the fridge for a while or the freezer for a few minutes can help make the oils less volatile (but dont' store them in there!)

                                        I can't speak from personal experience, but thought I'd pass it along.

                                        1. I wear contacts and they prevent the tears. If I chop with glasses, it's like a painful waterfall. One reason I won't do lasik.

                                          1. Yes, they work wonderfully for chopping onions. Beyond that, they're great cycling glasses. I'm a bike commuter and when the weather gets cold my eyes water terribly. Onion goggles solved that issue. Well worth the 20 bucks.

                                            1. As others have said, yes the goggles would work, but the most important thing of all, regardless of technique, is a SHARP KNIFE.

                                              Even using proper technique with a dull knife, will just crush some of the onion layers and leave one tearing.

                                              After one learns to keep the knife sharp (not just using a steel), then the proper technique applies.

                                              1. According to Ted Allen's show on FN last night, no. Chill the onions first instead.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: adrienne156

                                                  My wife and the several posters who wear swim goggles would beg to differ. She uses a cheap pair of dollar store goggles and swears by 'em.

                                                  1. re: ferret

                                                    Take it up with Ted Allen?

                                                    Edited to sound less snarky: I chill them before cutting and it works quite well if you don't want to make the extra effort.

                                                2. Okay. Maybe I'm just sensitive, but I have tried chopping onions with a spoon in my mouth, as I was told this worked. I have also tried refrigerating my onions. But I got these onion goggles, thinking that I would try just one more thing and, as Emeril says, BAM! They worked! I am SO happy with these that I intend to give them as wedding gifts to every bride I know. I love them.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: acwdaisy

                                                    I'm with you. I have expert knife skills, but am very sensitive to the fumes from cutting onions. No amount of trickery (fans, chilling, cutting quickly, etc.) ever spared me from pain. My ski goggles are tinted, so not ideal. I use the onion goggles and am now completely pain free. I love them.

                                                  2. I really have to ask -- Just how many onions are you cutting that would make you consider goggles?

                                                    I wear glasses and perhaps that is why I don't have this problem too often, but even for a an onion or two, I can't imagine needing special gear.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: RGC1982

                                                      I just found out today this product exists. I am very excited to buy a pair. I have tried safety glasses, wrap around sunglasses and swim goggles, each had their issues. Safety glasses and the sunglasses let enough fumes in the side to be not completely helpful, swim goggles needed to be wet before putting them on to prevent fogging. I find refrigerating the onions doesn't help me a bit, and leaving the root intact is minimally helpful. Haven't tried the fan thing, but often I am doing my big cooking (dinner for 80+ people in my medieval re-creation group, or while camping with 30 or so of those folks) somewhere other than my own kitchen, so a fan might not be practical (no outlet near the chopping area, something extra to bring, no electricity while camping). The special goggles seem like a great idea to me, easy to store at home, easy to bring with me when cooking elsewhere, quick to put on and not nearly as silly looking (or expensive) as a full-face safety shield with respirator to keep the fumes away.

                                                      It is not just the number of onions being cut in my case; it is the severity of the sensitivity. I used to be able to get through one small onion okay, then it was just scallions that I was okay with, now even a few scallions make me tear up. If I have to do several onions, I end up having to take a break from cooking to get my hands completely clear of onion scent (baking soda, lemon juice and soap) and then spend several minutes rinsing my eyes. Having to take that long break is a pain, especially if I have to take the break before I am even done cutting the onions. Luckily, last time I cooked for a large group (128 people), I didn't have to chop any of the 15 lbs of onion used in the menu, because my kitchen helpers did all of that.

                                                      As far as them being a uni-tasker as someone mentioned, I can see using them for other stuff, like protecting your eyes while frying (spattered grease on the cheek is painful, spattered grease in the eye could be a life altering injury). I can actually see using them for some other household tasks that don't require actual safety glasses (I doubt most of these are impact rated) - cleaning the shower (grout cleaner in the eye, anyone?, dusting high places...)

                                                    2. I have not used this particular set of goggles, but goggles work. Chopping onions make us cry because the released sulfenic acids irritate our eyes. If you can block them from your eyes, then you won't cry. There are other methods which also help.

                                                      Chilled (cold) onions do not release as much sulfenic acid and therefore jerk less tears.

                                                      A sharper knife also help minimizing sulfenic acids.

                                                      1. In the past i couldn't even walk through the kitchen when my wife was chopping or cooking onions. The onion made me shed tears and it really bothered me. Then i got two pair of swimming goggles http://www.sourcingmap.com/swimming-g... to act as onion goggles. And they works. So I don't care what kind of goggle look like so long as it helps cook dinner!

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Ruby03

                                                          When I was younger, chopping onions did make my eyes tear up. But over the years I started storing onions in the fridge and the problem went away. I have not noticed any taste issues from storing them in the fridge.

                                                          I don't like yellow onions anymore and I think they might be stronger and more likely to produce fumes that make you tear up. I use white onions, sweet onions and green onions and no problems. No goggles needed.

                                                        2. I am very sensitive to onion fumes, and I was kind of disappointed when I didn't get onion goggles in my stocking last Christmas. However, I have found that peeling the onion and dropping it in a bowl of water works fantastically well. I've tried it several times now, and have been pleasantly surprised that my mascara survived the experiment. I am sold on this technique!

                                                          1. A really sharp knife, causes less crush damage to the cells of the onion, less damage less gas, less gas fewer tears. And… you won’t look like a dork standing in the kitchen wearing goggles.

                                                            1. I've been using my new Borner mandoline to cut all my onions and no more tears. I don't know if it's because it's so sharp, or because it makes such short work of the cutting. I'm done with an entire large onion in under 10 seconds.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: CookingForReal

                                                                I get it, but a mandoline only slices...

                                                                1. re: Moimoi

                                                                  Umm no they don't. They also dice if that's what's needed - you just make vertical cuts then drag it across the mandoline as usual. Some have special inserts that will dice without having to do that, it has something to do with turning the thing you're slicing at a 90 degree angle each time you make a stroke.

                                                                  I've always been a little afraid of a mandoline myself. Most of the "holders" or whatever you call them are so poorly designed.

                                                              2. anything that slows or stops the contact between the vapors and the surface of your eyes will work -- whether thats hardware-store glasses, swim goggles, contact lenses, or an expensive pair of specialty eyewear...whatever works.

                                                                (the disparity in opinions I'd write off to the difference in budgets and facial coutours)

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                  Agreed. I bought a pair of onion goggles and LOVE them. I also have swim goggles, but I wouldn't want to wear those without a swim cap. :)