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Onions and Tears

When you cut up onions, what is your method to keep from tearing up. I have heard of people using goggles, cutting next to running water, using a fan. Just curious.

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  1. The most consistent, reliable, foolproof method of doing so that i've found is to have someone else cut them for you.

    But seriously, it's fumes that get to you from the onion, so the goggles thing has some credience with me. I wear glasses and contacts and i started to notice that i didn't have as much trouble prepping onions the times i had contacts in vs the days i had my glasses on.

    4 Replies
      1. re: Irregular

        No question that contact lenses will block virtually all the fumes. Before I wore them I often teared up cutting onions; never since.

        1. re: Irregular

          LOVE it! The someone else bit.

          1. re: Irregular

            I light a candle and place it near my cutting board. The flame neutralizes the fumes from the onions. I always chill my onions, but they still give off fumes. The candle flame really works best for me!
            I bought some worker's goggles at Lowe's a while back and they help, too. Never have seen "onion goggles"... yet!

          2. I've never teared up when cutting onions.

            1. Onions contain chemicals that generate gases (it's a defensive mechanism of the onion) when they are cut. The gases are quite volatile and as they float in free space they enter your eyes and nose. Your body doesn't like that and it produces fluids (tears and perhaps runny nose) to wash away the irritant. The volatile gases are water soluble so if you can maintain a fine water spray over the onion while cutting or chopping it you will find some relief. But that's often impractical and I would suggest you try using an electric fan to blow air across the area you're working in. That should help keep the gases moving away from your immediate area and, hopefully, provide some level of comfort.

              1. A sharper knife, faster technique, colder onions, a fan blowing across your cutting board, or (so I've heard) goggles all work pretty well. Personally, I use a very sharp knife and cut quickly, so I seldom have problems. On the rare occasions when I have many onions to cut, then I might break out the fan.

                1. I peel them under running water if they are VERY strong - actually, peeling them in a bowl of cold water (holding them under) is less wasteful. And if I need to cut up a LOT of onions (say when I'm caramelizing 3 to 5 lbs at a time) my Borner V-slicer makes short work of them - I can slice them in less time than it takes to peel them, and no tears.

                  Otherwise it's not normally a problem, if you're quick about it.