Through time I have heard of a good deal of remedies for preventing tears when cutting onions. A number of these are quite amusing; chew on a matchstick whilst cutting (must be timber ), others seem as if they may function; run the onion for a few minutes before chopping and others seem just to weird to attempt at all;’with your swimming goggles firmly in place light the incense, put it alongside your chopping board and chop away’.
For me the solution was found not by accepting old wives stories as fact but only by trial and error. With my young ambition I’d dive in and do exactly as he’d asked, standing at one chopping board for hours and hours cutting nothing but onions. I quite enjoyed these kinds of menial tasks that many of my coworkers despised. They saw them as dull and un-educational. I on the other hand saw them as a challenge and a chance to increase my knife skills. I’d weigh the onions into equivalent weighted groups on each event and time myself to see if I was getting quicker.
This piece is 3 times the size of the one. I want them to look like this one”, as he pointed to one of my few perfect pieces.
I would agree,”Yes Chef” and begrudgingly pick up my knife and cut the rest of the onions much slower.
I digress, but what I am getting at here is that I’d spend this time working aggressively slicing, cutting and chopping onions and never give another thought to tears.
I had peeled the onions the same, I had exactly the identical plastic chopping board I was using the same knife as at work, (I always took my gear home with me on my days off). I could not think why I’d cry at home but not at work. Are there a sub-conscious part of me maintaining my tears at bay for fear of ripping up facing Chef and the other men at work? I could not figure it out, but I was glad I never had much greater than 1-2 onions to cut home.
You see at work there were 6 enormous extractor fans across from me, there was also a huge corridor running down to a huge entry door behind me which has been open to the fresh air. At home I had the windows in my apartment closed and the very small overhead fan turned away. So the answer I found is essentially ventilation. Next time you’re cutting onions, simply be sure that you have good flow; air being drawn in and out of the kitchen. Try to face or be as close as possible to your exhaust fan and open some doors and windows to permit the air to flow.
If you don’t have any windows close to your kitchen or your stove doesn’t have an overhead fan, consider taking the chopping plank, the fresh air should have the exact same effect of flow and dilute the fumes before they reach you. I’ve been working in commercial kitchens for several years and this simple method has kept me from shedding one onion tear. So next time you will need to chop some onions, then leave the swimming goggles in the swimming pool, the matchsticks from the drawer and just turn the fan on and open a window. Happy chopping.