Cutting onions can be a real pain in the… eyes. It can be made a lot easier, though, when you know the proper techniques.
For many cooking procedures, there are about a half dozen ways to go about it and get the job done, and often times there is no “right” way. When it comes to cutting onions, though, knowing how to do it can save you a lot of time and hassle. Not to mention watery eyes.
Dinner shouldn’t have to be a tear-jerker.
After my video last week on how to chiffonade basil, you guys gave me a lot of great feedback. Mostly that you loved it, and that I should do more of them… so thank you! This week I decided to try something a little different, and really play around with the filming and editing.
This post might be about “how to cut an onion,” but the real learning curve for me was “how to edit a video.” Turns out, it’s not something I’m very good at (yet), but I’m still happy to be trying new things!
One thing I found very difficult was to show the proper technique without my hands getting in the way of you seeing what I was doing. I tried a bunch of different angles, and went through every onion in the house before I got something usable. I tried to be as detailed as I could in explaining how to do it, but if you notice me not taking my own advice in terms of how to hold the onion, it’s because I’m trying to let the camera see what’s going on.
So, just to clarify, you should always curl the tips of your fingers under your knuckles when cutting! This keeps the blade a safe distance away from your fingertips, and is good practice to have no matter what you’re cutting. Got it? Okay, then.
As with last week, I’ve included both a video and photo tutorial, in case anyone has trouble viewing the video. And, as with last week, I’d love to hear your feedback! Was this helpful for you? Let me know in the comments below.
Also, anyone have any ideas for using up about eight pounds of diced onion?
In this tutorial, I’ve included some of my favorite tips for reducing the watery eyes we’re all familiar with when cutting onions. The most effective one is to wear goggles. This is especially useful if you’re cutting a large number of onions, but not always the most practical.
The other two tips are just plain good onion-cutting advice. Always keep a sharp knife, and leave the root end of the onion intact. A sharp knife will make your job easy, and minimize the amount of onion teargas that gets released. Leaving the root on helps to keep the onion together while you’re chopping, and because it has the highest concentration of enzymes, leaving it un-cut will help you keep your eyes dry.
Other tricks I’ve heard about, but never tried, include popping your onion in the freezer for a bit before cutting (freezing supposedly helps slow the release of onion teargas), cutting the onion near an open flame, such as a gas burner (presumably the flames burn off some of the eye-irritating gases before they reach you), or cutting your onion under water. As in, in your sink, not in your bathtub with a snorkel. I get the impression that using a knife under water might be a bit hazardous, though, so I don’t recommend that one.
If you know of any other tips or tricks to help make cutting onions less of a sob story, let me know!
It may be tempting to cut the onion in half across its width, but there’s just no good way to go from there… trust me, we’ve all been there.
Working with one half at a time…
This move is really popular among the pros, and some will even tell you to make 2-3 horizontal cuts. I don’t usually find this to be necessary, though, and typically get by without making any at all.
Remember not to cut through the root-end of the onion, or else the whole thing might fall apart on you!
Remember to always keep your fingers curled under, this way the blade butts up against your knuckles, and is kept well away from your fingertips. I found this very hard to show in the video, because when I held the onion properly (with my hand curled over it), it became very hard to see what I was doing.
When you start to run out of room to put your fingers, flip the root end flat onto the cutting board and cut off the excess right up to the root itself. This way you get the most out of your onion without risking finger loss.
Tada! Repeat with the second half.
And of course, the most important rule with any knife technique is to practice, practice, practice! Remember to use a sharp knife, keep the tips of your fingers curled under your knuckles, and don’t go trying to choppity-chop-chop like the pros do right off the bat… start slow, and you’ll get there!
Patience, young grasshopper.
P.S. — Did I mention I used every onion I had making this tutorial? The photo below doesn’t even do justice to the mess I made. The whole house smells like an onion, too. Any advice for how to use up some of my choppings?