Cutting an onion. Seems simple enough, but according to the Internet, people have quite a few questions about the subject. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions and their answers when it comes to how to cut an onion.
Why do onions make you cry?
It doesn’t matter whether you’re preparing white onions, yellow onions, or red onions they can all make you cry. Onions contain a particular sulfur compound, called propyl sulfoxide. When cutting into an onion, it breaks open the cell walls, which release fumes that mix with the water on the surface of your eyes to create sulfuric acid. Ouch!
How to cut an onion without the tears?
Weeping over the sink is no way to spend your day. Keeping your exposure to the sliced sides of the onion to a minimum is the key to avoiding tears. So, after cutting an onion in half, keep the cut sides down on the cutting board. Then, when making additional cuts into the onion, keep the onion together so you don’t expose all that surface area.
When you make the final cuts to the onion, work fast and move the chopped onions into a sealed container and away from your eyes, ASAP.
Another thing that can help is cutting the onion either by an open window or under your stove’s exhaust fan (if you have one). This will help direct the fumes away from your eyes.
If you’re planning a marathon session of onion chopping, or your eyes are very sensitive, you can always try a pair of onion goggles.
How to peel an onion?
Before cutting an onion, you’ll need to peel it. To peel an onion, start by slicing off the top and bottom of the onion. Just a ½ inch will do. Then remove any papery skin. There will typically be a layer or two of this to peel off.
I like to remove another layer after the paper outer layer is gone. To do this, just lightly slice through the top layer of the onion with a sharp knife, then remove another layer and get to the best part of the onion.
How to cut onions?
The first decision you have to make is whether to cut the onion lengthwise or crosswise. If you want them to hold their shape during cooking, go lengthwise. Go crosswise if you’d prefer them to fall apart more.
Cut off the stem but leave the root end intact for now. This will keep things intact while cutting.
Next, cut the onion in half lengthwise.
Place the onion cut-side down. Make angled cuts lengthwise into the onion, making sure not to cut completely through the root (about 80%). This will make it easier to keep the onion from falling apart. Space the cuts according to how thick you want the slices to be. Finally, cut off the root and separate onion slices.
Once again, place the onion cut-side down. With your fingers curled slightly inward, firmly grasp the onion and slice crosswise through the onion. For onion rings, don’t slice the onion in half first.
Follow the same instructions as for lengthwise slicing. Before removing the root, start dicing the onion by making horizontal cuts perpendicular to the ones you just made.
Finally, cut off the root and discard it.
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What about shallots?
Shallots are in the same family as onions. Even though they are smaller than onions, you can use this same technique to slice them. Feel free to use a paring knife for shallots if it’s more comfortable for you.
How to pick a good onion?
Before you start slicing an onion, let’s make sure it’s a good one. Pick one that is firm, blemish-free, and unbruised. Look for onions that have dry, tissuey skins. Any with soft or wet areas, sprouting, decaying, or discolored patches should be avoided.
Is there a difference between diced, minced, and chopped onions?
The difference basically comes down to size. Mincing is cutting the onion into very small pieces (approx ¼”), great when you need the onion flavor but want the onions to “disappear” into the dish. Perfect to add to salsa, tuna salad, or meatloaf.
Diced onions are the same as minced only slightly larger (approx ½”). Diced onions are perfect for all kinds of recipes. You’ll taste them, you’ll see them but without any large chunks.
Chopped is a more generic term and refers to cutting an onion any which way. Although, many people consider a chopped onion as being in large pieces, which is great for soups and stews because they can hold up during cooking. This is also a good way to cut onions if you really want them to be “front and center”.
How to store onions?
When you first bring them home, onions should be kept in your pantry or a cool place with low humidity. Moisture will cause them to spoil faster.
Never store them in a plastic bag. Plastic is more likely to suffocate them and these babies need to breathe! They should also be stored in the dark so they don’t begin to sprout. Properly stored they should last 3-4 weeks.Once the onions are sliced, diced, minced, or chopped, place them in an airtight container, in the refrigerator.