How to cut onions without crying


If you enjoying cooking savory dishes, you’ve no doubt experienced the unpleasant stinging sensation that happens to your eyes whenever you chop up or dice onions. Basically, whenever you cut an onion, the vegetable releases a chemical irritant into the air that causes your eyes to water when it comes into contact with it.

Fortunately, it is possible to slice onions without crying, and the internet has no shortage of advice on how to accomplish this. So, to find out which ideas work and which are merely wives’ tales, I decided to test out a few popular tips for cutting onions without crying.

cutting onions
Courtesy of the author

Onion Cutting Test No. 1: Put A Wet Paper Towel By Your Cutting Board

The first tip I tried is from Passionate Penny Pincher. In a post on their Facebook page, they state that onions are attracted to the nearest source of water, so if you place a wet paper towel next to your cutting board, it will absorb the chemical that causes the stinging sensation, rather than your eyes. From a scientific perspective, this tip seemed a little out there — but I decided to give it a shot anyway.

The result: It did not work at all. My eyes still stung as I cut the onion, and the presence of the paper towel did not seem to stop the onions from releasing a chemical into the air or prevent it from making contact with my eyes. As one Facebook commenter noted, this paper towel hack makes as much sense as trying to stop a cough by rubbing a potato on your feet, which is to say, it helps not at all.

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Onion Cutting Test No. 2: Wear A Pair Of Goggles When You Cut An Onion

In the era of COVID-19, many of us have goggles or face shields laying around, so I decided to test out a tip that recommends donning protective eyewear while you cut onions. This hack is so popular and widespread that you can buy a pair of “Onion Goggles” that are designed for this exact purpose. Plus, it made more sense to me than the previous one. The idea is that the goggles should help physically prevent the chemical irritant in the air from making contact with your eyes, leaving them less likely to water. For the test, I used a pair of safety goggles I already had.

Result: Wearing goggles helped somewhat, but it did not completely stop my eyes from stinging. I suspect that because my goggles were not airtight, some of the chemical irritant was still able to make contact with my eyes, causing the tears. Also, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and I looked a bit silly, chopping onions with goggles on.

cutting onions
Courtesy of the author

Onion Cutting Test No. 3: Soaking Your Onion In Cold Water First

The next trick I read was from VeryWell Health, to soak an onion in a bowl of cold water for 30 minutes before cutting it to reduce tears. Supposedly, this trick works because chilling the onion helps prevent the production of the chemical irritant in the first place.

Result: Ding, ding, ding! This tip really works; my eyes did not water at all while cutting the soaked onions. Granted, this tip requires you to plan ahead of time, so it wouldn’t be an option if you need to chop onions on a whim. But this was the clear winner of the three hacks I tried to cut onions without crying.

onion soaking in bowl

Do you have your own hack for cutting into an onion? How well does it work?

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About the Author
Margeaux Baulch Klein
Margeaux Baulch Klein is a freelance writer and digital strategist based in Los Angeles. She has written for publications like the Huffington Post, New York Daily News, Bustle, and HelloGiggles, among others.

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