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How to Properly Chop an Onion

Updated on March 31, 2013

Avoid Tears When Cutting an Onion

When you know how to properly chop an onion, there is a much better chance that you can do it with no tears. This method leaves the open part of the onion face-down for as long as possible, which will give your eyes a sporting chance.

An onion makes you cry due to a chain reaction that begins when an onion is cut and ends with an irritating gas that drifts up to your eyes. By chopping an onion the right way, you turn the cut side down first and avoid cutting the root end until the very end. The concentration of sulphur that is a key component if this eye irritant is higher in the root end, which is why we want to leave it alone.

There are some more involved ways to chop onions without crying, but for most people it would be too much effort. One is to chop the onion under water where the gas cannot rise to the eye. Another is to avoid contact with the gas, either by blowing it away or putting something between your eyes and the onion. Refrigerating the onion for an hour before cutting also slows down the reaction that results in the gas, so that might give you time to wrap up and get out of there.

This onion was chopped properly and has uniform pieces. Read on to see how to do it.
This onion was chopped properly and has uniform pieces. Read on to see how to do it. | Source

Tools to Chop an Onion

Before you get chopping, consider using the right tool. Any sharp knife will do, but a larger flat knife works best for onions. I personally prefer a medium-sized santoku knife - my favorite kitchen knife for most things - but other knives with a generous surface area like a good chef's knife also make onion chopping simple.

Besides that, you really just need a cutting board, and any cutting board will do just fine for onions. Wood is the most popular choice, but for onions some prefer a hard surface so that it can be thrown in the dishwasher, and they don't like to chop the next ingredient on the same cutting board as the onion. That really depends on what's getting chopped next and if it is going in with the same dish or not, so you decide.

Removing the Onion Skin

To remove the onion skin, first cut a slice off of the top of the onion, or the opposite side as the roots. Remember, we want the roots to stay attached to hold the onion together.

Next, peel away the skin that you don't want in your final product. It's all right if just a tad is left near the roots as we will discard the very bottom of the onion at the end.

Now you have your onion ready for slicing.

With the top end cut and roots still intact, peel away the unwanted outer skin.
With the top end cut and roots still intact, peel away the unwanted outer skin. | Source
Cut the onion in half through the roots, leaving half of the roots on each side.
Cut the onion in half through the roots, leaving half of the roots on each side. | Source

Making Vertical Cuts on the Onion

The next step is to cut the onion in half through the roots so that you leave half of the roots on each half of the onion that you cut. Turn the cut side down to your cutting board and get ready for some vertical cuts.

Cut lengthwise from the top of the onion to the roots in long strips, leaving them intact with the roots. Leave the area about one-half inch or so from the roots alone so it will continue to hold the onion together. You will find that using a slight angle inwards near either outer edge works best to avoid slicing the sides right off.

When you are done with this step, you will have an onion half with long cuts from just above the roots to the other end spanning across the entire width of the onion.

Cut long vertical strips, leaving the roots intact.
Cut long vertical strips, leaving the roots intact. | Source

Cutting an Onion Horizontally

Now, slice two or three times horizontally through the onion to create three or four layers. This is what will really help to make your final chopped onion bits separate well.

Be careful with this step, since you are slicing towards your hand that is holding the onion bulb. As with the vertical cuts, stop short of the bulb's roots.

Make 2 or 3 horizontal cuts, stopping short of the roots.
Make 2 or 3 horizontal cuts, stopping short of the roots. | Source

Finely Chopping an Onion

Now it's time for the finishing touch. To finish, simply chop downward starting at the top of the onion, opposite the roots, vertically to cross-cut the lengthwise vertical cuts that you made earlier. As you proceed through this process you will see perfectly chopped onion pieces fall to the cutting board surface.

Start with the side opposite the roots and chop downward to finish the job.
Start with the side opposite the roots and chop downward to finish the job. | Source

The Perfectly Chopped Onion

Now you know how to chop an onion easily. Just follow these simple steps and you will see how simple it is. You might even spend less time wiping your onion tears at the same time. Hopefully your future onion chopping will be much easier from now on. Enjoy!

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    • wqaindia profile image

      Ashok Goyal 

      5 years ago from 448 Dalima Vihar Rajpura 140401 Punjab India

      Ignore "will" from the first sentence. I wonder how It crept in.

    • wqaindia profile image

      Ashok Goyal 

      5 years ago from 448 Dalima Vihar Rajpura 140401 Punjab India

      Oh, I will never used to help my wife in getting the onions chopped as tears would come out just be thinking about chopping the onions. In India we use the following technique to get rid of tears :

      1. Just take the onion without peeling.

      2. Place it in between palms of both hands and press with full force at your command.

      3. The onion will shed its tears as you will see drops coming out of pressed onion.

      4. Now, no more tears left for you and you can chop as you like.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 

      5 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Great tips! I have long utilized the trick of keeping all the cut sides down, but never tried leaving the root end attached. I store onions in the refrigerator all the time, (never-mind just for an hour or so, as I'm a spur-of-the-moment gal, and I may not know an hour ahead that I'll want an onion). That chilling also helps immensely.

      Voted up, interesting and useful.

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