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Onions and Tears

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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

      I wear my scuba mask.

      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.

                  1. There are some great advices. In my experience, reiterating some of the good advices, a cold onion, a sharp knife and distance help. By distance, I mean try to stand up straight and cut the onion, and not put your face right above it.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      My version of the cold onion is to leave a whole one in the freezer for 5 mins before slicing it. No tears, and my eyes always water up when I cut onions of any type. The freezer method, when possible, works great too.

                    2. I cry even when I cut onions in a Cuisinart. Onion goggles are awesome.

                      1. It's not a practical solution, but wearing contacts certainly did it for me. I cooked last week while wearing my glasses (a rarity), and I had tears streaming!! The other thing I've found that helps tremendously is keeping the onions in the fridge.

                        1. Really, people, no protective gadgetry is needed. This has been discussed on CH umpteen times but in these parts is common knowledge: refrigerate first, or soak in ice water. NEVER any tears from an onion that is chilled to the core. It has to BE cold when you butcher it.

                          1. chemical lab goggles are cheap and in my experience pretty foolproof. I just keep them hanging on the pot rack.

                            1. Sharp knife,cold onions,good ventilation...

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: petek

                                Agreed, Knife sharpness is THE MOST important factor. I never tear up, but then I have some pretty fantastically sharp Japanese knives (my German Chef knife is not even close) -- and it stays sharp for a very long time (Global "pro" knives that are only sold in Japan). I of course have to wipe them down immediately otherwise they rust quickly....

                              2. I am very sensitive to onion fumes, which is unfortunate because I LOVE onions. I did find that Onion Goggles really help. They are a gimmicky piece of kitchen equipment modeled after the type of swimmers goggles that have a foam gasket, and they work. At least they work for me; 5 lbs of onions sliced, with nary a tear. I found mine on Amazon. They are available in a range of funky colors, and run about $20. Mine are hot pink, my sister's are lime green, and my daughter has a conservative white pair. I love them so much that now I am giving them as an add-on bridal shower gift -- they create a lot of conversation at the shower, and then a lot of thanks when they are finally used. One caveat, however: the "con" that many mention in their reviews is that they run a little small and do not fit well on people with broader faces. If you want to check them out, just do a search for 'onion goggles".

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: PattiCakes

                                  The onion goggles didn't work at all for me. It must be that my face just isn't the right shape to get a perfect fit. I find cheap swimming goggles do the trick.

                                  Anyone find shallots to be even worse for tears?

                                2. Onions and Tears? Nah. I prefer Guns and Roses.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                    PK -- Ever hear of Buns and Hoses?

                                  2. I used to tear up like mad (and that includes when I was storing my onions in the fridge, so they were plenty chilled) and then I read somewhere to cut next to an open flame and the updraft (or something) would draw the fumes/volatile oils away. So I set up my cutting board next to the gas stove, turned the closest burner and chopped away. Works like a charm!!!

                                    1. I have two fool proof ways of keeping from tearing up. One is to wear my contacts when I chop onions and the other is when you slice off the top of the onion, place that on top of your head before continuing. No joke, it works.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: starkoch

                                        <the other is when you slice off the top of the onion, place that on top of your head before continuing. No joke, it works.>

                                        But then your head/hair smells like onion!!! Surely you jest... :D

                                        1. re: petek

                                          <place that on top of your head before continuing.>

                                          Yes, your head may smell, but you won't cry. You will be so focus and so tense to shred tear. I just don't have the skill to do it.