Food For Thought

Onions: A Love-Cry Relationship

Onions: A Love-Cry Relationship

Kate Glover, 11/04/2015

Whether you’re a kitchen connoisseur or have just dabbled with a few recipes, at some point in your culinary life you’ve probably felt the burning, tear-jerking sensation of cutting into a nice, juicy onion. And if you’ve watched any of our videos where we chop onions for one of our recipes (like this or this), you’ve seen Kayla and I burst into tears.

According to science, the enzymes and sulfenic acids found in onions are housed separately in cells when the onion is whole. When you cut an onion, the enzymes mix together and produce propanethiol S-oxide, a gas that reacts with the water in your eyes and causes a burning sensation, making you tear up.

While I think it’s funny to throw together a delicious recipe with tears streaming down my face, it can be a bit of an obstacle (like when I need to see). But since I love onions, and because they’re so good for you, I’d never want to just remove them from recipes in favor of substitute ingredients.

So, I don’t want to cut onions from my life, but I also don’t want to sob while I slice and dice. Is there a way for me to get through chopping an onion without crying?

You betcha.

Here are two strategies Kayla and I have tried:

Refrigerate the onion before cutting. By refrigerating an onion, you freeze the enzymes to stop them from mixing with the sulfenic acids. The gas doesn’t form, and you’re free to chop to your heart’s content without fear of sobbing! Kayla and I have noticed a big difference when we refrigerate our onions before cutting--the tears are kept mostly at bay.

Soak the onion in water before cutting. The gas emitted from cutting an onion is attracted to the water in your eyes. If you soak the onion in water beforehand (and coat your cutting board and knife with water as well, which is what we did) it absorbs the gas before it wafts up to your eyes. Because my eyes are apparently very sensitive to onions, they did still water. But I did not shed a tear!


Have you tried any of these strategies? What do you do to avoid crying over your onions?

comments powered by Disqus