No More Tears: How to Chop Onions Without Turning on the Waterworks

Hello Kitchen Warriors! Today we dive into a topic that has been known to bring even the toughest chefs to tears: “How do I chop onions without crying?” Yes, it’s a culinary challenge as old as time. So let’s say goodbye to those pesky onion tears and hello to a more pleasant cooking experience.

Why Do Onions Make Us Cry?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of tearless chopping, let’s take a quick detour into the science behind this culinary phenomenon. When you cut into an onion, you rupture cells, releasing their contents, which react to form propanethial S-oxide. This gas interacts with the water in your eyes to form a mild form of sulfuric acid – and that’s what causes the dreaded onion tears.

Tips to Choping Onions Without Crying

  1. Use a sharp knife: A sharp knife causes less damage to the cell structure of the onion, reducing the amount of tear-inducing compounds released. So keep your knives sharp!
  2. Chill the onions: Place onions in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes before chopping. The cold temperature slows the conversion of sulfenic acids into the gas that makes you cry.
  3. Use a fan: Place a small fan near your cutting board to blow the gas away from your eyes. This may help keep the tears at bay.
  4. Cut under running water or near a steam source: Cutting an onion under running water or near a steaming pot can help because the water vapor attracts and absorbs the gas before it reaches your eyes. Just be careful when handling a knife in these conditions to avoid slipping.
  5. Wear goggles: It may seem funny, but wearing a pair of goggles can create a barrier that prevents the gas from reaching your eyes. They even make special kitchen goggles for this purpose!
  6. Breathe through your mouth: Some experts suggest that breathing through your mouth and sticking out your tongue can help absorb the gas before it reaches your eyes. This may make you feel a little silly, but desperate times call for desperate measures, right?

The Bottom Line

The truth is, everyone is a little different, and what works for one person may not work for another. You may have to experiment with a few methods to find what works best for you. But with a little patience and a few tricks up your sleeve, you can reduce or even eliminate those pesky onion tears.

Wrapping Up

And there you have it, folks! Now you’re armed with the knowledge to face the onions in your kitchen without fear. Remember, cooking is supposed to be a joy, not a tearful ordeal. So go forth, chop those onions, and let the only tears you shed be ones of joy for your culinary creations!

Until next time, be fearless in your kitchen adventures! And remember, as Julia Child once said, “The only real stumbling block is the fear of failure. In cooking, you have to have a “what the hell” attitude.


How can I cut onions without crying?

Chopping onions without crying can be achieved by using a combination of techniques. First, chilling the onion in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes or in the freezer for a shorter period of time can help reduce the release of tear-inducing compounds. A sharp knife is also critical, as it causes less cell damage and minimizes the amount of irritants released. Creating proper ventilation in the kitchen by using a fan or working near an open window will help disperse onion fumes and reduce their concentration. In addition, the use of water can be effective. Wetting the cutting board or knife before chopping, or periodically dipping your hands in water, creates a barrier that prevents the irritants from reaching your eyes. Finally, mastering the chopping technique of cutting off the stem end, leaving the root intact, and making clean, precise cuts will further reduce tear production.

Why do onions make us cry when we chop them?

Onions contain a volatile compound called syn-propanethial S-oxide, which is released when onion cells are damaged. When this compound comes into contact with our eyes, it triggers the production of tears as a protective mechanism.

How does chilling the onion help reduce tears during chopping?

Chilling the onion before chopping slows the release of the tear-inducing compound. The cold temperature temporarily inhibits the enzyme responsible for converting the sulfur-containing compounds in the onion into the irritants that make our eyes water.

Does using a sharp knife really make a difference in reducing tears?

Yes, a sharp knife is essential for minimizing lacrimation. A dull knife causes more cell damage, releasing a higher concentration of the irritant compounds. A sharp knife allows for cleaner cuts, reducing the amount of irritants released into the air.

Can proper ventilation in the kitchen help prevent tearing when chopping onions?

Yes, improving ventilation can be beneficial. Placing a fan near the chopping area or working next to an open window will help disperse onion fumes and reduce their concentration, resulting in fewer tears.

How does water help prevent tears when chopping onions?

Water acts as a barrier between the onion fumes and your eyes. Wetting the cutting board or knife before chopping, or periodically dipping your hands in a bowl of water, creates a protective layer that prevents the irritating compounds from reaching your eyes.

Is there a specific chopping technique that can help reduce tears?

Yes, the right chopping technique can minimize tear production. Cutting off the stem end of the onion and leaving the root intact, followed by cutting lengthwise and horizontally, helps minimize cell damage and subsequent release of irritants.

Are there alternative methods to avoid tearing when cutting onions?

Some alternative methods you can try include wearing goggles or putting a small piece of bread in your mouth while chopping. The goggles create a physical barrier, while the bread absorbs the irritants before they reach your eyes. These methods can provide additional protection against tears.