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03-18-1999, 08:00 AM
Okay, could someone please explain to me why onions make people cry? Not only do I tear up when I chop onions, my sinuses ache, and the smell becomes pretty much unbearable. What sort of chemical or whatever is in there that can cause such a reaction?

~Kyla

03-18-1999, 01:11 PM
You know, you can put something betwixt your lips when you cut them and itll make it easier, or so I read.

Not unless it's a lit match.

Cooks Illustrated magazine tested about two dozen common "folk" techniques used to reduce tears when chopping onions. Most failed miserably. I'll have to dig up the issue and report back. As I recall, the only nearly foolproof methods were: 1) Wear contact lenses; or 2) Wear goggles. Keeping a lit candle nearby worked fairly well, as did keeping a lit match in your mouth (but the candle is easier). Beyond that, nothing really worked at all.


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- Mark

03-18-1999, 01:21 PM
Try pealing onions under water (the onion, not you).

03-18-1999, 03:02 PM
Keeping a lit candle nearby worked fairly well, as did keeping a lit match in your mouth (but the candle is easier).

Yes, it seems to me it would be difficult to keep the lit match in your mouth once you start screaming when the flame reaches the tip of your nose. Besides, the smell of singed nostril hair always makes me tear up as badly as chopping onions. . .

Rich

03-18-1999, 04:05 PM
Or you can have what I'm going to when I'm rich and famous and get to design my own kitchen.

I worked in a restaurant for about a year that had a high powered, lab style hood in the food prep area. I would stand there, lower the partition so that my hands were underneath, but me eyes were looking through, the glass, and my standard chore of 50 pounds of diced, 25 pounds of sliced and 10 pounds of whole peeled onions each night was just not a problem.

The "onion hood" is an idea whose time has come! Any venture capitalists out there ready to market it with me? You'll be rich as Croesus, I tell you.

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- Through the modem, past the router, over the firewall... nothing but 'Net -

03-18-1999, 05:14 PM
My mother swore by the "bread crusts under the eyes" technique. I don't know if it helped her sinuses, but she claimed she didn't cry at all.

I avoid the problem, on the extremely infrequent occasions I'm called upon to chop an onion, by chopping it as quickly as possible and getting the heck out of the room.

03-18-1999, 09:53 PM
Try pealing onions under water (the onion, not you).

I did. They float. It wasn't pretty.

03-19-1999, 12:03 AM
Kyla -
Go to this page for a brief-but-all-you-ever-cared-to-know answer to your questions.

http://www.sciam.com/askexpert/chemistry/chemistry1.html

I never knew onions were so much fun! Did you know that "onion tears" and tears of grief/stress/etc. are chemically different?

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Good for what ails ya...

03-19-1999, 12:06 AM
Interesting, onions no longer have that effect on me....

You know, you can put something betwixt your lips when you cut them and itll make it easier, or so I read.

--onion tolerant

03-19-1999, 12:15 AM
I believe that some people cry in lament over the death of an onion: Evil man exploiting the noble onion for self-gratification.

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The Trustworthy Troglodyte

03-19-1999, 10:03 PM
Try pealing onions under water -- PapaBear

I tried that, but they didn't make a sound.



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The Dave-Guy
"since my daughter's only half-Jewish, can she go in up to her knees?" J.H. Marx

03-19-1999, 10:46 PM
Papa Bear must have been thinking about bell peppers.

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Good for what ails ya...

03-19-1999, 11:13 PM
I'm hopeless (hopless? hopeles? hoppless?) without my spell-check.

03-20-1999, 01:59 PM
Kyla, if you hold your breath when you cut them onions, youll do just fine.

03-20-1999, 05:45 PM
I'm hopeless (hopless? hopeles? hoppless?) without my spell-check. --PapaBear

Alas, PapaBear, unless you also have a context-check, you still wouldn't have picked it up. Pealing is a perfectly legitimate word. The wrong word, in this case, but a fine and dandy word in its own right.



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The Dave-Guy
"since my daughter's only half-Jewish, can she go in up to her knees?" J.H. Marx

03-22-1999, 12:38 AM
Here it is. The definitive guide to chopping onions without tears (from Cook's Illustrated, no. 36, p. 10)

Wear contact lenses: Almost no tears, effectiveness (on a scale of 1 to 10): 10

Wear ski or swim goggles: very effective, but you look like a kitchen terrorist, 9

Burn a candle near the cutting board: Easy to do, worked pretty well, 6.5

Place cutting board near a lit gas burner: worked as well as a candle, 6.5

Refrigerate whole onion for 8 hours: chilled onions, some tears, 5

Refrigerate quartered onion for 8 hours: even colder onions, some tears, 5

Freeze onions for 30 minutes: Coldest onions, some tears, 5

Hold a slice of bread in your mouth: looked silly, didn't work consistantly, 5

Balance a slice of onion on your head: looked silly, slowed down tears a little, 5

Hold a lit-and-put-out match in your teeth: looked silly, but worked bettter than unlit match, 4

Slice onions under a running faucet: so frustrating the tears didn't matter, 3

Trim ends off onions and microwave for 1 minute: onions began to cook, minor tear reduction, 3

Hold a toothpick in your teeth: looked silly, cried a lot, 2

Work under an exhaust fan: Not at all effective under a home exhaust, very good under the test kitchen's professional-caliber exhaust, 2

Tie a scarf around nose and mouth: looked silly, minor tear reduction, 1

Soak onion in ice water for 30 minutes: wet onions, lots of tears, 1

Blanch onions for 1 minute: slimy onions, lots of tears, 1

Wipe cutting board with vinegar: Vinegary onions, lots of tears, 1

Slice onions next to a running faucet: didn't work, lots of tears, 1

Slice onions in a large plastic bag opened at both ends: awkward and dangerous, plus didn't stop the tears, 1

Hold an unlit match between your teeth: looked silly, cried a lot, 1

Leave root end on onion intact: didn't work, 1


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- Mark

03-22-1999, 02:49 PM
I did. They float. It wasn't pretty.

They must have been fiber-rich. . .

Rich

04-01-1999, 04:23 AM
I used to cry terribly in the kitchen when I sliced onions. So now I slice them in the dining room.
But seriously, the single most important thing to remember when handling onions is:
DO NOT TOUCH YOUR FACE!
It does not mater how much your nose itches, or if your eyes are starting to mist. If you have handled onions, letting your hands get anywhere near your face will only make the experience worse.

04-12-1999, 10:16 AM
The single most important thing to reduce onion tears is: make sure your knife is sharp!

The fumes that cause the tears are released in greater quantities by the crushing effect of a dull knife, whereas a sharp knife slices with a minimum of crushing. Also, make sure you are imparting a slight forward motion to the knife when cutting, instead of just shoving the knife straight down.

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Live a Lush Life
Da Chef

04-14-1999, 05:41 PM
I realize I'm rather late in finding this thread...but I wanted to say that I wore contacts for years and they never seemed to have much effect on reducing the amount of tears I shed. On the other hand, since I got a set of really good, really sharp knives...I have noticed a definite reduction in both how much I cry and how much blood I spill in the kitchen these days.

Yes, I'm just kidding on the last part. Ha ha.

As to not touching your face and eyes while and after cutting onions, I think this is (big surprise) far more true of various hot peppers. I once, in the midst of a macho chilli cook off, used just about every hot pepper know to personkind. And YES... I did wash my hands...um, kinda. I then took out my contacts, washed them, went wee wee and realized that both my eyes and um...well, things hurt. The really stupid part came the next morning when i tried to put my contacts back into my overly sensitive eyes and the essential oils that coated the contacts nearly made me claw my own eyes out. (This is only the beginning of a much longer story which I'll spare you here..grin...for a complete copy of how I spent the day skiing on a mentally handicapped discount at Winter Park and ended up looking the part just write me...lol.. )

Just once, I swear, I'll post a response in 20 words or less.

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Kevin

Pain shared is lessened,
Joy shared increased.
-Spider Robinson

04-14-1999, 06:11 PM
Since we've reopened this, I have a question. I've also found the candle/gas flame to be the most effective remedy, aside from the swim goggles. (Who cares how they look? I AM a kitchen terrorist.) But how does it work? Does it burn the offending chemicals before they get to your eyes or does the movement of air caused by the heat from the flame just blow them away from your eyes? If it's the latter, then a fan might work, too, if it were angled just right.

04-14-1999, 07:41 PM
quote:
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Try pealing onions under water -- PapaBear
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I tried that, but they didn't make a sound.

So that's how they make an onion ring.

12-31-1999, 09:29 PM
Place cutting board on cooking surface directly under range hood with an OUTSIDE exhaust. Leave window in furthest part of kitchen slightly open to allow air flow away from you. Cut away.


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FixedBack

"Moderate strength is shown in violence, supreme strength is shown in levity."~~G.K.Chesterton 1908

elelle
01-01-2000, 08:37 PM
Food processor.

Lord Jim
01-01-2000, 08:42 PM
I hate onions. My way is, they don't come in the house, no tears, no crying, nothing.
Works for me.