We’re kicking off a new series for home cooks: Kitchen Basics!
When you cook regularly, you will inevitably dice countless onions. They are the base of so many savory recipes! However, did you know it doesn’t need to be a struggle? Read below on how to dice onions as quickly and easily as possible. Read all the way to the end for tips on how to do it without tears, as well!
How to Slice and Dice an Onion
First, cut off the stem end of the onion (not the root end that looks like dry hair) and discard it. Turn the onion to stand upright on the flat side you just cut off.
Next, slice the onion in half down the center, peel off the outer layer of skin, and place the onion face down on the newly cut side.
For longer onion slices, simply slice parallel to the flat bottom end you just cut. Discard the top and use the slices.
To dice the onion, cut inward toward the center of the onion across in a fan shape from one side to the other. Do not cut all the way up to through the root end. Use that end to keep the onion slices connected to each other.
Turn the sliced onion at 90 degrees and begin cutting perpendicular to the slices you just cut. The natural layers of the onion combined with your slices will result in perfectly diced onion pieces. It is not necessary to slice the middle of the onion horizontally first.
How to Stop the Tears while Cutting Onions
Onions have a pretty cool built-in protective defense meant to discourage pests. When onion skin is damaged, it releases enzymes and acid, which combine to create an irritant gas called Propanethial S-Oxide. When this gas combines with the water in our eyes, it forms sulphenic acid, which in turn, activates our tear ducts to flush the acid out our eyes. The potency of each individual onion depends on several factors, including how much sulfur was in the soil the onion was grown in.
To cut down on this natural effect, we need to minimize the release of the enzymes and acid and keep them from reaching our eyes. There are many folktales as to how to minimize this effect, but only two have worked for us:
- Get it cold. Put the onion in the freezer for 30 minutes prior to cutting. The temperature makes it more difficult for the onion to release the irritant.
- Light a match or candle and place it nearby. The flame will burn off the chemicals in the air.