If you have never shed a tear in the kitchen, you probably don’t cook. Any true chef, foodista, stay at home mom or dad, or one that has not conformed to eating everything out of a frozen box… knows that most recipes call for onions.Whether it’s just for sautéing, a topping, or something to stuff in a chicken cutting onions becomes a regular routine. Peel, chop, tear. Yes the tears. I remember when I was younger I was helping my mother peel onions and could not figure out why I was crying. Back then, being told it was because of the onions was enough for me. Now I want to know why.
There are three different types of tears. Psychic tears, ones you shed when you are an emotional mess. Basal tears, tears that involuntarily develop for lubrication. Then there are reflex tears, the ones that you experience when cutting an onion. As the name implies, these occur as a reflex to some external stimulus acting on the eye. Onions have naturally occurring sulfur compounds known as sulfides that are responsible for causing your eyes to tear. The culprit to blame? syn-propanethial S-oxide. When you slice, chop, dice or do anything to damage the cells of the onions, you are in turn releasing the sulfides, or now that have been turned to syn-propanethial S-oxide enzymes called allinases. This potent lachrymatory agent is then released as a gas and causes the stinging sensation many of you (not me) too well. The reason your body releases tears is not because the stinging is too much to handle, but because your body is trying to rid the onion irritant.
To my luck, I wear contacts. So I am the one always doing the cutting with no tear shedding. I’d prefer 20/20 vision though.
Tips on how to cut onions with out crying.