I’ve sometimes heard people say “I have never cried” or “I hardly ever cry”. I bet they have never had to cut an onion before. Onions is a good addition to cooking. It adds aroma and sweetness to mouth-watery dishes, but at the same time, it can make you cry even when you didn’t plan to. When cutting onions, whether it is slicing or dicing, you suddenly realize your eyes become very teary. You are literally crying like someone who just received some strokes of beating. Everyone around is asking: “Hey, what is wrong, are you okay?”. Oh for goodness sake! Why do I now have to explain to people around that everything is actually okay just because I innocently chopped up some onions to make my favourite spicy Jollof rice? Even those around are feeling the burning sensation in their eyes.
But why is this so? Why does cutting onions make people cry?
Onions are rich in sulphur. They contain enzymes that are mixed with the sulphurous compounds which are released into the air when you cut an onion. This mixture then forms a chemical gas that irritates the eyes causing it to produce tears.
Thankfully, there are simple and effective tricks you can use to slow down the release of these gases. There are many suggestions out there that supposedly help you stop crying while cutting onions. But it is safe to say not all tricks suggested really worked out as expected. I’ve tried out some of these tricks and i would say, whilst not all the suggested hacks advertised work, I was able to identify some that actually work. You can experiment on any of these hacks to find what works best for you.
1. Cut Onion inside a bowl of Water
Place an onion in a bowl filled with ice-chilled water and slice the onion below the surface of the water. The water will help to prevent the enzymes from going into the air and irritating the eyes. Make sure the bowl is comfortable enough that it does not disturb the movement of your hands. Hold the onion tightly and point the knife in a safe angle.
2. Chop Onion Under a vent or beside a fan
Finding a way to reduce the amount of gas that comes out from an onion can help prevent those tears. So you can place your chopping board under the vent fan from your cooking burners. Most cooking burners have vents or extractors place directly above them. If you don’t have a vent in your kitchen, you can make use of a fan. This will help blow away the gases that come from the onion when you slice or dice it.
3. Cut onions beside an Open Flame
Place your chopping board close to an open flame of your gas burner. Flames are known to feed on oxygen. So while the gas burner is on, the flames will pull the fumes from the onions away from your eyes towards the burning flames. You could also try using a lighted candle. But be careful not to start a fire around the house.
4. Freeze the onion
When you want to chop or slice onions, to protect your eyes, you can chill it inside the fridge or freezer for 15 to 20 minutes before slicing. Chilling an onion allows the chemical process of turning the enzymes into gases to slow down. However, onions are one of the foods you should never refrigerate. They are best stored in a well ventilated basket outside the refrigerator.
5. Lemon Juice
Cut a lemon into two half size and rub a half slice on the blade of the knife you want to use to chop the onions. You may reapply the lemon juice on the knife’s blade as you go on. Lemon, which has many uses can also be used to suppress the onion fumes that come out.
6. Use a Goggle
Yes, there are goggles you can use to protect your eyes when cutting onions. They look just like the swimming goggles as they cover every passage entry to the eyes. For some, the goggles work quite well. These goggles are different from the normal eye wears or sun glasses that will allow the gases released still find its way into your eyes.
Always use a sharp knife to cut an onion. Cutting onions with a super sharp knife will cut the onion easily without causing much damage to the skin and allowing less fumes that make the eyes teary to be released.