Slicing onions without howling

So the eyes stay dry

When we cut an onion, the same tragedy always follows. First itches, then it burns, and finally the tears flow. Because with every cut the cells of the vegetables are destroyed. This causes the enzyme alliinase inside the cell to come into contact with the amino acid isoalliin from the cell wall. The enzyme cleaves the amino acid and, among other things, the gas propanthial oxide is formed. This irritates the eyes and lets the tears flow. In this way, the body dilutes the irritant and rinses it out of the eyes.

But what helps against the unpleasant howling in the kitchen? The most important utensil is a sharp knife, because in this way fewer cells are injured. If you cut while sitting, you do not hold your head directly over the work surface and therefore come into contact with less irritant gas. The extractor hood or hood on the open window can also remove the acrid fumes from the air.

Water forms a film on the surface and in this way retains the irritant. It is therefore advisable to briefly immerse the cutting board, knife and onion in cold water. It has also proven useful to put the onion in the refrigerator for half an hour before cutting. The low temperatures lower the enzyme activity so that less irritant gas is generated. If everything does not help, some use unusual methods and pragmatically wear diving goggles when cutting onions.

But none of these “tricks” from everyday kitchen is really convincing. That is why scientists keep tinkering with “tear-free” onions and bringing new varieties onto the market. Recently, American breeders have developed an onion through decades of crossings, the peculiarity of which becomes clear when it is stored. As normal varieties increase in sharpness over time, the new onion becomes milder and sweeter. When cutting, the eyes should stay dry. So far, the tear-free onion is only available in a few US supermarkets. It is questionable whether it will also come onto the German market. This is why inventiveness is still in demand when cutting onions. Heike Kreutz, respectively

Author and source information

Video: Onion Dice without Parallel Cut (January 2022).