Gordon Ramsay's Hack For Cutting Onions Will Keep You Tear-Free

If you ever feel like onions are called for in basically every savory recipe you across, you're not imagining it. In fact, more than 100 million metric tons of onions were produced around the world in 2021, according to Statista; that's more than any other vegetable except for tomatoes. Considering how much flavor onions can bring to everything from French onion soup to vegetable stir-fry, it's easy to see why they're in so many dishes and why we grow so many of them. However, it's not so easy to see when your eyes are filled with tears, and nothing makes those tear ducts go into overtime like dicing up a bunch of onions for dinner. Thankfully, it turns out that there are several ways to cut onions without crying your eyes out, and Gordon Ramsay's trick, which he shared on TikTok, just might be the easiest.

To start, Ramsay cuts the onion in half lengthwise through the root. This leaves the onion root intact on both halves of the onion while he slices them. "That's absolutely crucial," Ramsay shares in the instructional video. "If you cut that off, the onion will start to bleed, and you'll start crying rapidly," he warns. Perhaps this sounds a little far-fetched, but the "bleeding" Ramsay is talking about is actually the release of eye-irritating compounds in the root of your onion. To avoid tears, you have to cut your allium so you don't disrupt those compounds.

How you slice onions matters

If you want to limit how many tears you shed when cutting onions, how you slice them matters. Cutting onions causes you to cry because, as you cut into the onion, your knife blade ruptures the onion's cells. This releases the enzyme alliinase, which transforms into various volatile chemical compounds (like sulfur gas) that travel through the air to the sensitive membranes of our eyes, interacting with our naturally present tears and causing the eyes to sting and burn. Then the tears start, and the rest of your meal prep is a watery nightmare.

The sulfuric compounds in onions that bring on the tears are concentrated in the root end. When you slice into the root end, sulfur gas is released and travels through the air and to your eyes, causing you to cry. Ramsay's technique is supposed to rupture fewer of those cells, by not cutting into the root, but that's not the only technique you can try to cut onions without crying.

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However, you can reduce the amount of irritating compounds the onions you're slicing release by cutting them from pole to pole — that is, stem end to root end, which ruptures fewer cells. Another way you can reduce the tears is by freezing your onion or chilling it in the refrigerator before chopping it. The National Onion Association recommends pairing Gordon Ramsay's technique of leaving the root intact with a 30-minute chill for best results. Others recommend chopping the entire root end off along with some of the onion flesh and throwing it away before you start cutting, so the most irritating compounds aren't present when you begin to chop. 

Choose the right type of onion

If your eyes seem particularly sensitive to the irritating compounds released when chopping onions, then you might want to look at the onions themselves. That's because some varieties of onions are more pungent than others, and more likely to make you cry. Sweet Vidalia onions and white onions tend to be milder than shallots and yellow onions, for instance, and many consider yellow onions to be the ones that have the strongest effect. In fact, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends using this method for choosing onions if you have sensitive eyes: use spring onions (or the even milder green onions and scallions) in the spring and summer, when available, and use sweet onions like Vidalia in the fall and winter. 

Another option? Put a physical barrier between your eyes and those pesky, irritating onion vapors by wearing safety glasses, goggles, or specialty onion goggles. Contact lenses can be effective at this, too. You should also try adding in some airflow in your workspace; turn on your oven hood vent and cut the onions nearby, open a window, or position a fan so it blows the onion air away from you.

Using Gordon Ramsay's roots-on onion slicing method paired with one or all of these techniques, you'll be able to keep your eyes feeling great while still cooking your favorite onion-filled foods. Now that's something worth shedding a tear or two over...out of happiness, this time.

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