Eating a slice of bread while cutting an onion

My grandmother always said that, if you eat a slice of bread while cutting an onion, you won’t cry. I’ve tried it and it works. Why?

I’ve tried it too and I don’t think it does work.

And there’s no reason why it would work. The onion fumes are still getting in your eyes exactly the same. Maybe chewing on bread distracts you from your distress, that’d be about it.

My friend wears a snorkelling mask and snorkel while doing onions, now that works.

Old wives tale.

Outside any of my areas of expertise here (your Honor, the witness is being called on to speculate, she hasn’t been qualified as an expert in onion cutting) but I think one tears up while onion cutting from the release of irritating gaseous organic compounds. Is one of them cysteine sulfoxide?

If a person were using a sufficiently absorbent piece of bread, it might take up enough of the gas to let the rest dissipate, and keep her eyes from watering. And that might be the start of the idea. Another person using a piece of bread that was thinner or older or less absorbent right out of the package (or oven) might not get significant absorption, and that might be why it didn’t work.

I had always heard that you should chew gum while chopping onions, not eat bread.

I had always heard that if you hold a piece of raw potato in your mouth, it stops the crying. I’ve never tried it. And of course, some onions make me cry more than others.

Well, I’ve tried it several times (back when I was eating stronger onions than I do now) and it seemed to work. So could this be psychosomatic?

The idea is not to EAT the piece of bread. You need to bite into it and let it hang down from your mouth and catch the fumes.

So you’d be better off using a frisbee?

Yup, until you chop you’re fingers off.

I heard somewhere keeping them in the fridge will help, and Alton mentions not cutting too close to the butt (the part where the roots are) becuase the majority of the chemical reaction happens there. I’ve found it’s best to just cut/chop/slice/dice/whatever it quick and get it mixed into what you’re doing as soon as you can.

As for the OP, I hafta believe it’s a placebo effect. As for how to avoid tears, yes, chilling helps, as it reduces the amount of juice sprayed into the air. More effective is to use a truly sharp knife and to slice (moving the blade) rather than just press down. Again, less spray.

Bread? I doubt it.

Most of the working possibilities I’ve heard involve somehow ventilating the area.

  1. Run water into an unplugged sink, creating a downdraft into the pipes
  2. Operate your oven fan
  3. Open a window

Or, as a last resort, wear goggles

Yep, that works for me. But because I’m cheap, I cut it there first, and rinse the open cuts immediately, then proceed with my slicing.

If you hold the bread in your mouth and let it hang down as suggested above, it does work for a while and the bread gets very cold, which I assume has something to do with the chemical it is absorbing. However, the bread does get “full” and then it stops working.

Wetting your forearms and wrists helps with the problem. The enzyme that makes you tear up is attacking the moist mucous membranes. While wetting your forearms won’t eliminate the problem, I find that it greatly reduces it.

Wow, lots of different spins on this. I was always taught to have a slice of cucumber hanging out of your mouth for onions.

Well, to be on the safe side, from now on, I’m going to have a cucumber sandwich hanging out of my mouth.

But remember, if you use a piece of raw potato, be sure to turn the power off first.


Make that a wet cucumber sandwich and you’ll be fine.