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Nov 15, 2006 05:51 PM

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