No More Tears – How To Cut An Onion Without Crying

People crying while chopping onions has been a staple for jokes on television shows and movies for generations. You may have even teared up, or know someone who has, when chopping onions. Ever wonder why this happens? And does it happen to everyone? We asked Anne Cundiff, RD, LD, FAND and Hy-Vee dietitian, to help explain this phenomenon and how it can be prevented.

Anne Cundiff: “Most individuals will be affected by the sulphuric compounds released by an onion when cut. This reaction could be extreme or minimal, but there is no scientific reason why it affects individuals differently. It could depend on how the individual actually cuts the onion, and whether they wear glasses or contact lenses that could prevent the sulphuric gas from getting too close to the eyes.”

As for ways to keep from crying over sliced onions, Anne provides the following tips:

  • Choose less pungent onions. Yellow onions tend to be the most irritating, while red onions tend to be less irritating.
  • Try chilling the onions in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before cutting. Chilling onions delays the release of the sulphuric compounds, which will be less irritating to the eyes.
  • Cut the bottom or the root of the onion last. The root of the onion contains more of the sulphuric acid.
  • Cut the onion directly under the stove vent. The gases will be sucked up through the vent intake, making them less likely to travel to your eyes.
  • Use onion-cutting eyewear. These “goggles” seal around your eyes and prevent the gases from getting into your eyes.

The image “Chopped Onion” by Michael Derr is licensed under CC BY 2.0.