If you've got a love-hate relationship with onions, you're not alone. The veggie is equal parts versatile and delicious — but actually cutting it can be super uncomfortable. Basically, when you slice an onion, it releases enzymes and sulfenic acid. These substances react to create propanethial S-oxide, a gas that irritates the eyes. Needless to say, it's not fun.
Fortunately, with the right techniques, it's totally possible to cut an onion without crying. Check out a few of our favorite methods.
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1. Line your cutting board with a damp paper towel.
This onion hack is especially popular on TikTok. It involves placing a damp paper towel on your cutting board, then slicing the onion as usual on top. The moisture in the paper towel will attract the irritating acid in the onions, ultimately leaving your eyes unscathed.
For a low-waste option, you can also use a damp (but clean!) cloth towel.
2. Leave the root intact.
According to chef and culinary expert Gordon Ramsay, slicing the root will cause the onion to "bleed" and release irritating gases. So, by leaving the root on the onion, you can easily avoid tearing up.
Learn more about the hack right here.
3. Freeze the onion first.
Another trick is to freeze the onion for about 30 minutes, as demonstrated by user @lorafied on TikTok. They suggest cutting the onion in half and placing it in a paper bag before storing it in the freezer, but you can also use a silicone pouch. Another option is to leave the onion whole and skip the bag completely. (Writer's note: We regularly use this hack and can confirm it works great.)
4. Spend less time slicing.
The quicker you cut an onion, the less you'll be exposed to the irritating gases. But instead of haphazardly chopping it up, use a specific technique for dicing an onion in seconds. When done safely and properly, the method will reduce how long you spend actually cutting onions.
5. Use a sharp knife.
If there's only one thing you do, make it this. Not only will a sharp knife cut the onion in clean and even slices, but it will also expedite the process. On the other hand, a dull knife will smash the onion and release more juice, potentially exposing you to more irritating gases.