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What's wrong with raw onions?

Why do some people (like Scot Conant) have an aversion to raw onions in a prepared dish?

Is it just the taste of raw onions, or is it some (unwritten?) culinary rule that's being violated?

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  1. They're so overpowering and strong!! And they last in your mouth for hours; sometimes even into the next day! Sometimes I can even smell them on my skin 24 hours later!!! They are simply TOO STRONG! - both when I eat them and later.....

    I can get away with eating bits of them if there's plenty of parsley or cilantro with them, but even then they stick with me for too long...

    EDIT: I forgot to mention the smell of them even in someone else's dish at the table...UGH.

    7 Replies
    1. re: sandylc

      I've been know to eat Vidalia's just like I would an apple.

      1. re: ipsedixit

        Oh, my! Do you get any kisses afterwards? :-P

      2. re: sandylc

        I'm your polar opposite....I crave raw onions! Eating an onion a day is pretty standard for me (unless I have to socialize, in which case I refrain).

        I mix chopped raw onions into salads, stir them into soups, beans and stews, or pile them onto toast with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. I never tire of raw onions, but then I love strong flavors in general. (I buy Tabasco sauce in gallon jugs, if that tells you anything.)

        1. re: BrooksNYC

          I once saw a chocolate covered onion on "Bizarre Foods" with Andrew Zimmern. Hmmmm, you might like that ;-)

          1. re: Tudor_rose

            a lady I used to work with brought in a plate of homemade chocolates on April 1 -- nobody checked the date, and bit into a plate full of chocolate-covered onions and pickles. One time I was not too upset that I was tied up on a phone call and didn't get any! :)

            1. re: sunshine842

              Whoa, that goes WAY beyond funny into sadistic!

              1. re: sandylc

                it was April Fool's Day. It was frigging hilarious. (it was also jarred onions - not fresh)

                Nobody got hurt; nobody got sick; nobody died; everyone laughed (particularly at the expressions as the realization his that this was not what you thought it was).

                Only problem is, it's a prank you can only pull once, because everyone remembers it for a long, long time.

      3. I have no idea who this Scot Conant is so perhaps he knows something I do not. I like onions in all forms...raw, sauteed, pickled, braised, etc. While I tend to prefer a raw mild onion such as a Maui onion or purple onion, I also enjoy the assertive taste of a raw white onion in chili or on a brat for example.

        Did this person state why they have an aversion to raw onion?

        1. The other day I made a parsley and shallot salad/relish that went very well with roast marrow bones. But all the ingredients in this salad had a strong taste - the parsley, capers (or cornichons in my case, lime juice), and it complemented this richness of the marrow.

          Conant most of often objected to cooks adding some red onion at the end, more as a garnish and visual accent, than an integral, well thought out ingredient.

          Rick Bayless usually rinses the minced onion that he includes in salsas. Through out Latin America they like a quick pickled red onion garnish, one where the sharpness of the onion is tempered with salt and lime juice.

          1. It varies from person to person -- and from one onion to the next.

            But they *can* be overpowering -- and some folks don't care for the stomach upset, bad breath, or the smell that does seem to come through some people's skin.

            To each their own.

            2 Replies
            1. re: sunshine842

              Agreed - it is definitely a personal taste thing.

              I really enjoy onions - DH loves them - you literally cannot put too much onion, cooked or raw on something that you are preparing for him.

              I can recall one, maybe two times when I have thought that raw onion was too much for a dish, but I think those were likely particularly strong onions.

              1. re: sunshine842

                When I was younger, raw or even slightly cooked onions really upset my stomach. I'm better with it now, but the taste of course reminds me of the old days so still a big turn off. I was always annoyed that places thought nothing of throwing into almost everything tons of finely diced raw onions and raw peppers (another bugaboo with me and my stomach) but of course I was in the minority. At least if they left them big I could pick it out.

              2. Raw onion regularly makes an appearance on my sandwiches and in salads.

                1. Oooh.. Saturday and Sunday, with a cup of joe, my lightly toasted bagel, smoked salmon, cream cheese, capers, would not have been complete without feathered red onion a la Sam Fujisaka.

                  1 Reply
                  1. Bad odors...

                    I like raw onions, when using them I always rince them in cold water before.

                    1. When a recipe calls for sliced or chopped onion I soak the onion slices, etc. in vinegar, usually cider vinegar but any other will do. The onions soaks for at least 15 minutes. Drain before using. This cuts the sharpness and 'bite' of the onion.

                      Oh, and Scott Conant is a well known NYC chef, James Beard award winner several times over, and host of several Food Network programs...

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Gio

                        The onions soaks for at least 15 minutes. Drain before using. This cuts the sharpness and 'bite' of the onion
                        Then what's the point of using onions?

                        Oh, and Scott Conant is a well known NYC chef, James Beard award winner several times over, and host of several Food Network programs...
                        And that makes him not wrong, how?

                        1. re: al b. darned

                          because onion flavor is a goo thing. Sharpness and bite maybe not.

                          1. re: al b. darned

                            <"And that makes him not wrong, how?">

                            It doesn't make him anything. It simply explains who he is since Fowler upthread didn't know...

                            As for the onions: Love onions, hate "the sharpness and bite."

                        2. There's onions and there's onions. 'Sweet' onions are very different from some other varieties. Try some other than 'cooking onions'.

                          1. Are you by any chance referring to the Chopped episode where a contestant used raw onion I the appetizer. Scott explained to him how he hated raw onion because it Is so overpowering/strong etc. so what did the guy do? Turned rIght around and used it again In the entree round. Not too smart on his part and Scott pretty much told him so. Don't remember if he moved on to the dessert round or not...

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: miss_belle

                              Scott complains about that and the cheese with seafood faux pas pretty much every episode he is in. I want to take him to eat Persian or Bosnian food where you get big hunks of onion to eat on the side. Drives me crazy!

                              1. re: melpy

                                I want to take him to eat Persian or Bosnian food where you get big hunks of onion to eat on the side. Drives me crazy!

                                Or Korean.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  Only had Korean once or twice. Must find more for this onion experience mmmmmmmm!

                            2. Absolutely everything! Vile, smelly white bits.......

                              1. Raw storage onions (as opposed sweet non-storage onions like Vidalias) should be rinsed after slicing if they are going to be served uncooked. This is a professional step that most home cooks are unaware of (and even some restaurant kitchens).

                                1. Certain dishes (IMHO) REQUIRE raw onion, but the type of onion depends on the dish. I prefer the spicier yellow onion on hamburgers, chilli, and Bruschetta. I prefer the sweeter onion on full dress bagels,pizza, and salads.

                                  1. I am curious about the raw onion lovers - did you find yourselves described or not described on the supertasters thread?

                                    1. I love raw onions or should say loved....Sat night was hot dogs n beans night in my house, and my and my dad's franks would have almost as much onion as dog on the bun.

                                      Fast forward to 2012, and the sweet onions of my youth **aren't**. They are more bitter, "bite-y", if you will...even the milder varieties like Vidalia or (in the family) shallots.

                                      If I could find mild onions in my area (Greater Boston), I would scarf them raw in raw kibbee, on dogs, in tuna, etc or as quick pickled slices.

                                      1. It is just raw and uninteresting. Overpowering, but also boring in its raw state.

                                        1. LOVE raw onions...any kind in any form! No...I don't eat them solo, they definitely go in/on something, but I put them on everything. Also love grilled onions - marinate them in a little Italian dressing and then throw them on the grill. Heck...I basically love any and all onions.

                                          Garlic...yep, that too!

                                          Radishes, spicy peppers, etc. - no way!

                                          1. I love all cooked and prepared forms of onion (sauteed, pickled, fried, whatever) but I really, really, really hate raw, and especially raw red onions which every single downtown salad/sandwich shop seems to put on every salad, sandwich and sub. Not only don't I like the taste, but the smell and resultant pore-smell is really undesirable. I don't want my breath to smell like that all afternoon for business meetings, and they almost burn my mouth or something when eating them. Hate raw onions.

                                            2 Replies
                                              1. re: rockandroller1

                                                That pore-smell thing...why do some people suffer from it more than others?

                                              2. They are hard to digest. Easier to eat if softened.

                                                1. if they are diced correctly, only raw onions will "work" in an authentic ceviche recipe.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                                    'authentic' where? In Ecuadorian ceviche, sliced red onion (it may be a pungent local variety) is pickled either with the seafood, or separately. Salting and a brief soak in hot water is common. In one way or other it is tempered, while still retaining crispness and color.

                                                  2. Raw onions just seen to take over most any dish, but halve them and douse with good olive oil, balsamic and salt, roast to caramelize and ooh heavenly!

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: dijohn

                                                      I agree. Well-cooked onions in most forms are absolutely FANTASTIC. It's just the raw ones that need to be edited carefully.

                                                      1. re: dijohn

                                                        Raw onions on their own are just plain boring, and uninteresting. It is like salt. Salt is extremely useful (1000 fold more so than raw onion), but salt alone is not very interesting.

                                                        So it is important to use raw onion very carefully in any dishes.

                                                      2. I guess some people are more tolerant of onions than others, but, gosh, there is a wide range of onions out there. I love them raw or cooked, depending on the dish. I think some chopped raw white onion really completes a cheeesy dish of enchiladas or creamy black beans; I want some minced red in tuna or egg salad. I love raw onion in salads--red with blue cheese, red or sweet yellow with avocado. Chopped scallions top red beans and rice or gumbo. A thick slice of red or sweet yellow on a hamburger, right next to the cheese, please. I also like the crunch of chopped onion on anything spread with pate. Cheese and onions are a match made in heaven ; cheese or pate + something slightly sweet + a little raw onion = heaven. And, yes, to me, red onion just belongs on a bagel with cream cheese and/or lox. I also like to grate raw onion (and its juice) into dips and dressings.

                                                        Of course, I grew up eating raw onion. My husband loves them, too, now but his family is a different story. Onions and garlic were never in their home. (He grew up almost never eating anything Italian or Italian-Americam, having his first pizza at age 21 or 22.) His father and stepmother eschewed raw onions and any garlic; his stepmother wouldn't eat onions, even cooked. My BIL claims he can smell onion and/or garlic on his wife for days if she consumes any, so she never uses garlic and only uses onion in cooking. I always wondered if that was more a regional/cultural thing than anything. I asked him once if we smell like onions and garlic to him. He said no, but I wonder . . . .

                                                        12 Replies
                                                        1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                          I've known people who can consume (pick one or more: onions, garlic, curry, liquor) and reek of it for a day or two -- and other people who can practically live on the stuff and never emit an odor.

                                                          I've never noticed any kind of correlation between regionality or ethnicity.

                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                            I just meant that people who don't consume these on a regular basis may be more sensitive to these odors--or prone to emissions. I hear a lot about onion/garlic breath, but I don't know that I've ever detected it. Bad breath, sure, but no idea about its source.

                                                            1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                              I have had onion/garlic breath so bad that I couldn't stand myself -- now *that* is bad. I brushed my teeth several times, used mouthwash -- all I had was wintergreen garlic. Not because I didn't consume them -- but because I got a hold of a batch of baba ghanoush that could have knocked over a horse. Fortunately it was a Friday, because I could smell it coming out of my skin the next day -- and it most assuredly was not because I didn't consume garlic on a daily basis.

                                                              I believe it's more a case of individual body chemistry, combined with the chemistry of the particular batch that you're consuming -- because with my own chemistry, it usually never lingers..but when it does, it's pretty awful.

                                                              I used to work with a guy who didn't touch alcohol from Sunday to Thursday, because his body metabolized alcohol in such a way that he reeked like a brewery the next day -- even if he only had a tame glass of wine with dinner...salespeople have to be really careful with things like this!

                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                You know, it's funny you say that. Several years ago, I supervised a guy who, according to someone who reported him, reeked of alcohol every morning (and so she assumed he was coming to work drunk). Since there was never an iota of a problem with him or his performance, I always thought she was just being a busybody or had it out for this guy. But maybe the poor guy was like your colleague and wore his evening beer or wine like cologne the next day.

                                                          2. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                            >>>My BIL claims he can smell onion and/or garlic on his wife for days if she consumes any...<<<

                                                            How often does she take a bath/shower and brush her teeth?

                                                            1. re: Fowler

                                                              That doesn't help a person who cleanses through their pores dramatically. I have lived with one and all the scrubbing in the world doesn't help. The skin, along with the liver and kidneys, is a cleansing organ - some people just use their skin for this a little (or a lot) more than others.

                                                              Hope no one one was eating breakfast while reading this!

                                                              1. re: sandylc

                                                                On the plus side, it gives one a wider berth on public transportation.

                                                              2. re: Fowler

                                                                doesn't help much when it's coming from inside the body. Baths/showers and toothpaste only work on what is physically on the surface of the skin...doesn't stop what's coming from inside the body.

                                                                (see my remark above about wintergreen garlic)

                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                  If it is coming from inside the body it also ends up on the outside skin of the body so proper washing certainly would not hurt. Unlike asparagus pee. Nothing will help eliminate that stench.

                                                                  1. re: Fowler

                                                                    but just like asparagus pee, it's not going to go away until the body has processed it out (and an aroma coming out of the skin isn't necessarily something you can wash off, anyway)....you could scrub a few layers of skin completely off, and it isn't going to change anything...you're still going to stink of (whatever) until your body eliminates the cause.

                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                      Right. It keeps coming out until it is gone. I suppose they could wash every 5 minutes, but that hardly seems practical.

                                                            2. Absolutely nothing, except onion farts from raw red onions.

                                                              I detest cooked onions - ugh, they really creep me out. If I see them in a dish, I have to pick out every piece of onion before I eat it. I cook with onions but I pulverize them first - the tiniest chopped pieces guaranteed to disintegrate in the dish.

                                                              6 Replies
                                                              1. re: nikkib99

                                                                Perhaps you can't stand the texture of cooked onions, like my daughter. She hates the texture of onions so much, that puree them when I make dishes for her. You can even puree sauteed onions to get that rich flavor without the texture. If she doesn't know they're there (but they really are), then she'll eat the dish. I know some people can't stand onions, but they're in just about every savory dish there is, and they add so much flavor.

                                                                1. re: Tudor_rose

                                                                  The texture is just the beginning. I also hate the look of cooked onions - the sauteed red onions look like a pile of dead worms. Scallions and green onions just smell bad. When I order anything, I INSIST on no onions - that means scallions, green onions, red onions, shallots, leeks, etc.

                                                                  When my mom cooks for me, she knows she has to puree all onions or I would not eat it. I know onions add flavor so my deal is to chop them as fine as possible or add them to the food processor and puree.

                                                                  As much as I love to cook, eat, and try different things, onions is that weird mushy, cooked texture are a no no. If you chop onions very thinly - incredibly thinly - and fry the hell out of them until they're super crispy and crunchy, I might eat a couple.

                                                                  Then again, I have a thing for slightly scorched foods.

                                                                  1. re: nikkib99

                                                                    Maybe you would prefer other kinds of vegetables from the onion family like leeks, or scallions instead. I love carmelized onions, but I get what you mean with the 'wormy' looking aspect to them. Typically, some of the dishes I make are braised in a high pressure cooker, and anything that was once an onion dissolves into the fluid. I cook the hell out of onions for braising purposes, and they tend to 'disappear' so to speak.

                                                                    1. re: Tudor_rose

                                                                      I can't deal with green onions/scallions - the smell really disgusts me. I have a bunch of scallions at home and dice them rather finely before cooking with them. I'm not big on leeks though and for no decent reason. I've never cooked with them or even eaten them, but I see them as a dinosaur version of green onions and assume the smell would be not to my liking.

                                                                      Rather silly, but I've not found a reason to cook with leeks so I stay away from them. I have a preference for spicy foods - think red sauces as opposed to cream-based - and leeks are not really prominent.

                                                                      1. re: nikkib99

                                                                        Leeks can be used just like onions in most recipes. They have a more mild flavor though. You can even make "leek rings" instead of "onion rings."

                                                                    2. re: nikkib99

                                                                      Your mum is a very patient lady.

                                                                2. No such aversion in this darned household. I like onions any way I can get them. Raw, pan fried, caramelized, or batter dipped and fried...it's all good. Same goes for leeks, garlic, shallots, etc.

                                                                  A cheese burger is so much better with a slice of raw onion on it. A green salad with rings of red onion rocks. Potato salad without raw onions just isn't as good. DW likes them also, but MIL (her mother) always asks for her dishes sans onions.

                                                                  My problem is the average yellow and white onions sold in the grocery stores out here are too mild. No tears when slicing and hardly any "onion taste." The red onions are a bit better but to much. They are nothing like the ones I remember as a kid.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: al b. darned

                                                                    The ones I chop certainly make me cry! I go through onions on a weekly basis like some people go through coffee. I buy a ton at time. I recently made jambalaya with two huge spanish onions. The more onions, the better, and even if they're raw.

                                                                  2. My mom reciprocated a meal served to us by my sister's neighbors in southern Italy by making fried chicken and potato salad. Our family recipe calls for a fair amount of chopped raw onion. The Italians loved the chicken, but after a taste politely declined the potato salad; it turned out that Italians in general find the taste of plain raw onion disgusting. This appears to be common among Mediterraneans, as a book by Tessa Kyros, in its section on Greek and Cypriot dishes, tells us to salt sliced onion and then soak it in cold water for at least half an hour before using it in a salad. That's a nice trick, because it gets rid of the harsh bite without diminishing the best part of the flavor.

                                                                    I do remember as a kid liking the taste of onion on a hamburger, but waking up three days later with the taste still in my mouth. Taking up smoking seemed to cure that, not necessarily in a good way! But now I neither smoke nor suffer long-term onion breath.

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Will Owen

                                                                      I must be strange because I never ever smell onion or garlic breath on people, and if I did, it probably wouldn't bother me that much. There are other foods that people eat that smell vile to me.

                                                                      1. re: Tudor_rose

                                                                        Do you typically have a good sense of smell?

                                                                        1. re: sandylc

                                                                          Unfortunately, that's probably my best sense, since I am the first person to spot B.O. on someone, and I can smell things that other people say they can't.

                                                                    2. I have to laugh when I watch Chopped and somebody tries to serve a dish with raw onions. You'd think they would have figured it out by now LOL!

                                                                      1. Personally, I love all onions, raw and cooked, but for some folks, it gives them really bad gas and violent toxic flatulence. Seriously, it's like the Second Battle of the Somme in their pants complete with artillery barrage, mustard gas attack, and cries of "Gott im Himmel!"

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                                          That's half the enjoyment of eating onions! I look forward to the powerful & mighty farts that follow.