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Mar 21, 2007 05:16 PM

Onions - Fact or Fiction?

I have two things about onions that I was hoping to get some feedback on.

1. I've heard that onions tend to slightly iritate your taste buds, but this is a good thing, as it will heighten your ability to taste the other ingredients in a dish. Is this true? If so, should I be adding onions to every dish I make?

2. I'd love to hear if anyone else agrees with this one. I tend to tear up quite a bit when I chop onions. I find that if I cut them over the stove top and turn on the fan, it helps. I've also seen these goofy tight fitting goggles you can buy to protect your eyes, but that seems silly. Today I read that if you chew gum while chopping onions, you won't tear up. Has anyone else heard that? Any other tips or myths related to chopping onions?

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  1. I think I heard Martha Stewart say once that if you cut onions near an open flame (like a candle), it will prevent you from tearing up.

    Personally, I find that nothing helps. I have an allergic sensitivity to onion, and even things like shallots and sweet onions have me crying like a baby.

    1 Reply
    1. re: QueenB

      Here's info about the onion goggles with lots of info on how to keep from tearing up

      Chow has an article on onions in general

      "The bite of raw onions is due to sulfur compounds. When an onion is cut, the crushing of the cells and contact with air releases allicin—which in turn causes one’s eyes to water."

      So maybe it is the sulfur that irritates the taste buds. Don't know that heightes taste. I wouldn't add onions to ice cream.

    2. Don't cut through the root end of the onion, that should make a big difference.

      I don't know about this option, but cutting them under water will stop the tears - like I say not one I would use but it does work.

      2 Replies
      1. re: rob133

        This does not work for me. I am so sensitive to onions that I have to stop half way through the chopping process and wash my hands, my face and leave the room for a minute or two to recover. Running them underwater just made the process more dangerous but did not help the tearing.

        1. re: rob133

          I heard that if you just turn on the tap and let the water run nearby, you won't tear. However, my kitchen is very small and this hasn't worked yet. Now I just don't eat onions.

        2. The best tip I know is to slice, (not chop), with a very, very, very, very sharp knife. The idea is that you want to limit the onion “spraying”......

          Uncle Ira

          1 Reply
          1. re: Uncle Ira

            I agree that a sharp knife does help because in addition to limiting the spraying or crushing of the onion it makes the job faster.

          2. The only thing that I know for sure works is the goggles. Some cheap swimming goggles work fine. I've heard that people who wear contacts are somewhat protected, but I don't know that first hand.

            12 Replies
            1. re: Pat Hammond

              i do it's true, i never tear up when i chop
              but when i remove my contacts, wow

              1. re: monkeyinthemiddle

                Same here. With contacts, no problem. If I'm wearing my glasses, I tear like crazy.

                1. re: Megiac

                  I never teared up much while chopping onions until I had laser eye surgery (PRK) about 8 years ago. Now I have tears gushing down my face any time I chop an onion. I use the same method desctibed by JMF below, use a super sharp knife, and sometimes run the water while cutting, but mainly I just chop as fast as I can and get the onion into a covered container ASAP.

              2. re: Pat Hammond

                I never thought that the reason I don't tear up is because of my contacts (duh!). I wear them 24/7, so never gave it a thought. Will have to take them out and see what happens>
                I will say, however, that I really have a hard time getting the smell of onions off of my hands. Not sure why, but is is an issue.

                1. re: macca

                  Martha Stewart shows a cool tip - rub your fingers with a metal spoon under water - there's some sort of chemical reaction, but it removes the smell of onions an garlic from your fingers

                    1. re: Biggie

                      I used to do this all the time while working in restaurant kitchens. it works best with stainless steel.

                      Uncle Ira

                      1. re: Uncle Ira

                        Yep. It's true. I don't even bother with the spoon. I just clean up my faucet with my soapy hands.

                        1. re: bryan

                          There is actually a product marketed as "Nonion", which is just a nicely molded block of stainless steel, they tell you to hold it under running water and Wow! magic! no more onion smell!!! I hope no one was stupid enough to buy it.


                          I guess they don't teach you this trick in chef school. I showed this to a friend who graduate from one and he was surprised.

                  1. re: Pat Hammond

                    contacts protect me, but for everyone else, you really should keep your knife sharp and up your knife skills. after some practice, one, even two onions can be quickly chopped in no time. i mean, in seconds. but for god's sake, never chop anything underwater. you'll be crying harder over lost fingers.

                    1. re: Pat Hammond

                      I too wear contacts and never tear up while chopping onions. and for that I am very happy.

                      1. re: frankiii

                        Yes, it really works. In a similar thread a while back someone posted that a snorkeling mask works too!

                    2. This has been discussed before here on CH, but after much experimentation I find that:

                      Large sweet onions make you tear less (and taste good too.) I rarely use the smaller onions any more.

                      Very sharp knife so you slice, not chop, tear, crush the onion.

                      The technique you use is very important. The more the cut onion is exposed to the air and thew longer you take to cut the onion, the more of the juices (and so fumes) get into the air. This isn't how I was taught in culinary school. I cut of both end and remove the outer layer. I cut the onion in half top to bottom. I then lay the onion cut face down and slice the onion to the proper thickness, again top to bottom, and make sure it all stays together. I then slice the onion perpendicular to the other slices. If this is done carefully the onion stays together until done and by regulating the thickness of the slices you get exactly the size pieces you want, all relatively uniform squares. Without having to chop like crazy and expose the onion to the air.

                      But the most important is to chill the onions well. I keep mine in the loosely sealed plastic produce bag and store in the veggie bin in my fridge. Slicing chilled sweet onions produces no tears. Since I started doing this I haven't had my eyes water once.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: JMF

                        Sweet onions are the best for me also but I do tear up and the chilled thing does not seem to help much for me anyway.

                        1. re: bonmann

                          Same here bonmann. I just think that we're more sensitive.

                        2. re: JMF

                          chlled onions? Like in the fridge? am I wrong in thinking that onions shouldn't be kept in the fridge?

                          I know I've always been told that it affects there flavour to keep them in the fridge. and just a point on you only using large sweet onions, I find the type of onion that I use depends very much on what I'm making, dishes calling for sweet yellow onions are not that prevalent on our table, but white onions, green onions, shallots and red onions play a much greater role in the cooking.

                          1. re: rob133

                            Well of course it depends upon the dish what onions you use. But in many it doesn't always matter.

                            I never found chilling changes the flavor in any way.

                          2. re: JMF

                            >>But the most important is to chill the onions well. I keep mine in the loosely sealed plastic produce bag and store in the veggie bin in my fridge. Slicing chilled sweet onions produces no tears. Since I started doing this I haven't had my eyes water once.<<

                            I concur 100%. Chilling the onions really does work.