Anyone who chops onions knows crying is almost guaranteed. Some eyes are less prone to tears and some onions are less likely to cause tears. Think, less juice equals less tears. But why do we react like we just watched the ending to the Titanic every time we chop an onion? The answer lies within. Literally, within the onion.
Chopping Onions Releases Chemicals
Onions contain an amino acid sulfoxide which releases from the onion when the cell walls of the onion break down. This breakdown occurs upon slicing, chopping or dicing an onion. When mixed with the atmosphere in your kitchen, the acid creates a compound called propanethiol S-oxide. The S-oxide is known as a tear-inducing factor, hence the stingy tears produced when onion air reaches the eyes. The tears start a sort of waterfall effect, no pun intended. As the S-oxide reaches the eyes, it converts into sulfuric acid, causing irritation. The irritation produces itching which then produces more tears, producing more sulfuric acid and so on. The waterfall effect. To keep this effect at a minimum, get that onion chopped fast.
Techniques to Stop the Tears
Through the years many techniques have developed to control the tears when chopping onions. The effectiveness of each technique varies, although some techniques work better for certain individuals than others. These methods have been tested by multiple food scientists and columnists and each article rates them a little different. Here lists a few techniques that might just keep the tears away.
1- Use a sharper knife. This technique will create sharp edges on the onion; therefore less cell wall breakage. Reviews agree that this method does not prove much effective. 2- Freezing the onion, or soaking the onion in cold water works slightly better. The chill slows down the creation of the chemicals; think how blood flow slows when cold; consequently giving you more time before the tears start flowing. 3- Possibly the most effective of these tried methods is the onion goggle. The goggles act as a barrier for your eyes, blocking the chemicals to ever reach you. Companies actually make goggles designed specifically for onions, which you can purchase on online.
Chopping Onions at the Core
Maybe these methods work, maybe they don’t, maybe you do not want to purchase onion goggles. There is yet another way to keep you from crying when chopping an onion. The S-Oxide houses itself in the core of the onion. To keep from releasing any chemicals, do not cut the core. This method, while proven effective by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey, takes a little more effort in the cutting process. To core an onion, one must carve out the core in a teepee shape, keeping the onion intact. This takes precision to make sure the core goes untouched and you do not cut yourself in the process. Cutting out the core may take more time, but the extra minute is worth no tears.
In the end, many methods have been tested to keep eyes from watering while chopping onions. Some swear by certain methods while some believe tear production is inevitable. The only way to know what works for you is to test it out. One thing we can all agree on is that onions add flavor to many meals, and cutting them out is probably not an option.