Ask Auntie

How do I cut onions without crying?

Q. Some people don’t really seem to be affected very much by chopping onions, but they make me weep like a little baby every time. A few times I have almost lost a finger because I literally couldn’t see what I was doing with my hands. How do I cut onions without crying, any suggestions?

Asks Martine in Gibraltar.

A. Blimey, bits of digit in the onion doesn’t sound great for you or your dinner guests, but don’t worry there are plenty of ways to stop that weeping!

First, lets very briefly do all of the science bit: Cutting an onion breaks cell walls which releases an enzyme which breaks down amino acids, one of these reacts with something called LFS and creates a gas that attacks the sensory neurons in your nasal passage and eye sockets.

Ok, now that is out of the way, here are a few things you could do about it:

You can try sticking your tongue out, or chopping the onions under water. You could also try singing while you chop them, or turning an extractor fan up high to suck away the gas before it reaches your eyes.

The most surefire effective way to prevent crying though is also one of the simplest, even if it might make you look a bit daft when cooking in company (although maybe less than the tongue or singing options). All that you have to do is wear something that prevents the gas from reaching your eyes.

You can buy ‘onion goggles’ specifically designed for the purpose, but any kind of goggles that fit tightly to the face with a complete seal, like swimming or diving goggles will work absolutely brilliantly.

5 thoughts on “How do I cut onions without crying?

  • January 7, 2016 at 10:06 am

    I heard that it helps to use a sharp knife, is that true?

    • January 8, 2016 at 6:22 pm

      That is true. The sharper the knife the less cell walls it tears as it cuts, hence less chemical reaction.

    • February 18, 2016 at 3:34 pm

      Are onion goggles and swimming googles the same?

      • March 9, 2016 at 7:04 pm

        Pretty much exactly the same, except for the fact that the price of onion goggles is double because they are gimicky.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *