Onions are a staple in so many dishes, but why must they make us cry? And, more importantly, can you prevent it?
Given the way onions can go from spicy to sweet, it's no wonder they are so crucial to so many dishes. However, cutting an onion is often a dreaded kitchen task. All of us have experienced the whiny redness that comes from breaking an onion skin, and none of us likes them.
Worse are the many myths that claim to prevent onion tears. The stories of women are about how to keep this stratified allium from making us cry, but very few of them work. So let's look at what onion tears really do and what they can stop compared to what they do not stop.
What causes onion tears?
Let's start with what makes onions such teardrops. If we hold them or even peel them, everything seems to be fine. But take a knife and release the locks! So what is there?
When you cut the cell walls of an onion, syn-propanethial S oxide (or S oxide for short) is released into the air. S-oxide is a tear gas that makes you cry. In fact, it's similar to tear gas, which is scary.
Of course we can not be mad at it. Onions do not really want to be eaten and it's not like they learn Jujitsu for self-defense. We should not be surprised that evolution has given them such a sneaky weapon. That does not mean we have to sit there and take it. Let's see what we can do (and what we should not do) to prevent the future of the waterworks.
Myths to Prevent Onion Tears
There are many rumors about how to prevent onion tears. In a second, we'll achieve what really works, but let me keep you from looking like a total fool in the kitchen, and think about what does not work first.
: Put your tongue on the roof of your mouth
Then, without moving it, repeat to me: "That does not work."
The practice will keep a naive cook quiet while he chops. Use it however you like. Just know that pressing your tongue to the mouth of your mouth will not stop the S-oxide from reaching your tear ducts.
Myth 2: Light a candle near a cutting board
This method makes things smell less like onions. y, which is a plus for many, but does not burn tear gas, as you might predict. The flame is simply too small for the amount of gas that the onion gives off. Now, if you cut off the onion next to a campfire on the beach and the wind blows from you, you may be able to prevent onion gas from getting into your eyes. But even then I doubt it.
Myth 3: Chewing bread while slicing it
The idea seems to be that bread, when mixed with saliva, somehow acts as a filter for the gas. Of course, the S-oxide is not in your mouth, it goes from the onion to your eyes (maybe a bit through your nose) – so you should not be surprised that this does not work. However, it is an excuse to eat bread, so do what you want.
How to prevent onion tears (really)
Okay, let's see what really works. These three proven methods actually prevent onion cracks.
Cool onions before chopping
We want to prevent a gas from getting into our eyes. Science tells us that gases move slower at lower temperatures. So if you cool your onions, you will have less tears left. It is not a perfect method. The S-oxide is still there; it only moves a little slower. However, it is better to pull a warm onion out of the pantry. So, before slicing and dicing, give your onions a ten to twenty minute cooldown.
However, never store your onions in the refrigerator or freezer. Onions become soggy and develop an unpleasant odor when stored in the fridge for too long.
Wear protective clothing
This is recommended when a large quantity of onion cubes is needed. This is the only surefire way to avoid tears. That's because we literally place a barrier between the S-oxide and our precious eyes. Normal glasses are fine and contact lenses also seem to help. However, if you want to make sure you do not shed a single tear, you should opt for a full blown snorkel mask. The disadvantage is, of course, that you now wear a snorkel mask in your kitchen. That's fine when you're alone. In a house full of guests, it is at least a conversation starter.
Soak the onions
This last option definitely works, but comes at a price. It's easy.
Cut the roots off the onion, peel and then toss for about 10 minutes in an ice bath. The ice bath is guaranteed to remove the S-oxide, but this method also reduces the onion bite. See, the water also washes away some of the aroma molecules, which really softens things. Well, in some applications, like a salad or sandwich, that could work perfectly. In other cases, such as a salsa, you do yourself no favor.
Regardless of the method you choose to stop tears, we ask that you do not give up these magical allies. Onions are a staple food in many regions and cultures. Giving it up would be a shame. Yes, they can force us to let go of the waterworks every now and then, but we have to point that out, and we think you'll agree that the best things in life are worth shedding a tear. Onions are no exception.