When you see that a recipe calls for onion, you do a few things: grab the knife. Select your cutting board. And prepare to cry! According to NPR, that ability to make us tear up is part of an onion’s natural defense system: little vacuoles full of an enzyme called “syn-propanethial-S-oxide” that irritates the eye and stimulates the tear duct. Those vacuoles – which are basically little globs within each onion cell – release this enzyme whenever the onion is bitten, sliced, or otherwise “attacked.” The idea, of course, is that the tear-inducing enzyme would deter any critters digging in the ground looking for a snack, including us humans. Unfortunately for the onion, though, when it comes to our dinner, we humans are pretty determined, and those tears haven’t stopped us yet! Instead, we’ve all been on a search to figure out how to beat the onion at its defensive game, and today, the host of the Cooking With Jack Show says he’s figured it out.
His trick? To change the way we slice those onions entirely. So you don’t need other foods, special anti-enzyme chemicals, or some magic cutting board or knife. Instead, you just need to know the right way to slice that onion. When you do, no more tears— and the onion will actually be easier to cook with, too! Here’s his step-by-step method.
- Identify the part of the onion that, according to Jack, makes us cry: the center bulb. (Yes, most onions are biennial or perennial bulbs. We’re talking about the very center, truly bulb part, beneath all the layers.) Where is it? Where the roots come out of the bottom of the onion! That’s where all of those gaseous-enzyme-containing vacuoles hang out.
- Once you’ve identified where the bulb is, it’s time to remove it. With a paring knife, cut out the bulb by beginning to slice at a point about ⅓ of the diameter of the whole onion. Go in about ⅓ of the onion deep, and go at an angle; you’ll be carving out a cone shape. Go slowly in a circle around the roots.
- Lift the onion bulb out. If you’ve done it correctly, it should lift out really easily and be close to a cone shape. Throw the bulb into the trash.
- Peel the onion, removing all of the outer brown, purple, red, etc. skin.
- Begin to slice the onion. Lay the onion right-side-up and slice going from the top down toward where the roots and bulb used to be, cutting the onion in half.
- Turn each onion half down on your work surface and slice into three pieces. If your recipe calls for diced onion, rotate those pieces again and continue to slice and dice until your onion is completely cut.
And there you go! Not only have you sliced your onion without crying, you’ve sliced and diced it easily and correctly, too! Now that we’ve outlined the main steps of the method, be sure to watch the Cooking With Jack Show for even more info and tips and tricks.
Do you have any of your own tricks to share for slicing an onion without crying? What are some of your favorite dishes to make with onions?