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Chopping onions is a necessary job in the kitchen—it's the key to so many recipes, like Ree Drummond's Best-Ever Baked Beans and all kinds of casseroles, salads, and party dips. But the task can often leave your eyes so irritated that by the end of prep you're basically sobbing. Have no fear and have no tears: Read on to find out how to cut onions without crying.
Why do onions make you cry?
First things first—why do onions make you cry? There's a bit of science behind it: Long story short, onions emit a compound when sliced that gets into the air and can irritate the nerves around the eyes, making you start to tear up. It's unavoidable to a certain extent—but there are some things you can do to lessen the burn and prevent a total cry-fest.
How do I stop my eyes from watering when cutting onions?
For starters, make sure you're using a sharp knife. The sharper your knife, the less likely you are to cry when you chop an onion. A dull knife will actually smash the onion rather than slice it cleanly, so the onion lets out more of the compound that irritates the eyes. Use a good chef's knife and break out your knife sharpener regularly to sharpen it up.
Another simple and pretty effective trick: Freeze the onion for about 10 or 15 minutes before you cut it. The blast of cold prevents the tear-causing enzyme from releasing into the air. If you go this route, just be sure to slice quickly once you remove the onion from the freezer—as it warms up, the enzyme will become more active and begin to irritate your eyes again. Another trick is to store your chopped onions in a bowl of very cold water as you chop—this will halt the compound from getting into the air.
The last and most effective strategy for not bursting into tears when you cut an onion is to protect your eyes! If you have contact lenses then you're already ahead of the game—they are a good barrier that will lessen the irritation. Regular glasses will help too, but not much. Try purchasing a pair of kitchen goggles: They may not be a fashion statement, but they seal around your eyes so none of the tear-inducing compound can get by. (Ski, swim, or safety goggles would work here too!) Whatever you choose to do, just don't give up on onions! There are so many types of onions that add so much flavor to so many recipes that they're worth a few tears!