How To Series Tip 2: How to Chop an Onion, neatly, efficiently, and with few tears.
As mentioned last week, this year I will be posting a How To Series 3-4 times a month, that covers basic instructions and kitchen tips for many common cooking dilemmas.
In the last couple years, I’ve received more emails about chopping onions than anything else.
Everyone wants to know how to cut even diced onions without mascara stripes running down their face.
Well, let me tackle the tears first and then we’ll talk about chopping.
Onions release gases when you cut into them. Those gases rise into the air and that is what causes your eyes to water. I’ve tried many methods for tear-free onion chopping from putting a fan in the kitchen or turning on the down draft to suck up the vapors, to wearing special goggles for onion chopping.
Some people forgo chopping altogether and put their onions in the food processor, although you lose control over what the onion pieces look like.
What I’ve discovered is that if you know how to chop an onion properly, and only have one to chop, you can usually get the one onion chopped and in the pot without all the waterworks.
However, if you have several onions to chop, my favorite no-tear trick is to put the onion in the freezer for several minutes before chopping.
I simply place the onions in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes, while I pull out all my other ingredients and set up my work area. Then I pull them out of the freezer one at a time, to chop them. The bit of chill causes the gases to release from the onion slowly and my eyes stay smudge free.
Now on to chopping. This is the easiest method I’ve found for how to chop an onion quickly and evenly.
How to Chop an Onion:
Cut off the onion top, then cut the onion in half through the root end.
Peel off the outer layers until no remaining peel is left. Lay the onion halves, flat-side-down on the cutting board. *It’s better to take off an extra layer than to try to salvage more of the onion and end up with papery peel in your dish–the peel does not soften while cooking.
Make a horizontal cut through the middle of the onion, up to the root. This ensures all the lower pieces are small and even.
Then make several even cuts downwards, towards the root. I usually space them 1/4 inch apart.
Finally, cut across the onion in 1/4 inch slices, perpendicular to the last cuts. The diced onion will drop to the cutting board.
Repeat the process with the other onion half.
Once you get the hang of it, chopping onions will be a breeze!