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January 5, 2004 5:16 PM   Subscribe

How do you make chopping onions more bearable on the eyes and sinuses? [more]

I've tried several methods, from keeping a sip of beer in my mouth while chopping to placing my cutting board next to a running faucet. Any other suggestions?
posted by scarabic to Food & Drink (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Close your eyes and don't breath.


But seriously, what you want to do is minimize your time and keep your face as far away as possible.

Check this thread for some idears.
posted by tomierna at 5:20 PM on January 5, 2004

Gah, I meant breathe, of course.
posted by tomierna at 5:20 PM on January 5, 2004

wrap your head in saran wrap.

Really. Wrap a sheet over your eyes and nose, but leave your mouth for breathing.
posted by rocketman at 5:26 PM on January 5, 2004

The only thing that seems to work, completely, every time is doing the chopping under water (running or standing). The next best thing would be to use a sharp knife so that the cuts are cleaner and there are fewer onion cells squirting fluid into the air.
posted by majick at 5:29 PM on January 5, 2004

There's more of the enzymes that end up burning your eyes as sulfuric acid towards the middle of the stem-end of the bulb. So start at the other end, and go quick. Thats all I do. Goggles should obviously work.
posted by duckstab at 5:38 PM on January 5, 2004

Swim mask. You look like a dork but it works.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:06 PM on January 5, 2004

I love the smell of freshly cut onion. Breathing that in is part of the ritual of cooking. Why give it up?
posted by monju_bosatsu at 6:12 PM on January 5, 2004

Whistling as you chop sometimes works. Otherwise, swimming goggles do work a treat, as said above.
posted by malpractice at 6:14 PM on January 5, 2004

Sounds weird, but folding a piece of bread and holding between your lips will work too- if, of course, you don't mind a piece of bread going all soggy in your mouth, and looking silly.
posted by headspace at 6:28 PM on January 5, 2004

Response by poster: gah - sorry for the double post. I googled "onions" but not the singular. And I was half-blind from chopping:)

I also enjoy the olfactory *flavor* of the onion, just can't enjoy it very long before my face is clogged with fluid. Experience tells me that different people have different sensitivities to this, and some are actually immune (monju?).

I think I will try the swim mask, especially if I ever have to chop 100 of them in a row, as I once did in the kitchen of the fresh salsa maker I worked for. There was a woman there who could do that deed without a drop of sweat or a single tear - proof enough for me of the immunity's existence (which many don't believe in).
posted by scarabic at 6:40 PM on January 5, 2004

Two things that work for me (but I didn't post in the other thread): holding a wooden spoon between your teeth, and keeping a glass of water close to the onion you're chopping. I'll leave it for you to decide which is easier ;)
posted by notsnot at 7:05 PM on January 5, 2004

Light a candle around where you are chopping. The more the better. I put one or two on the cutting board if I'm doing many onions.
posted by rudyfink at 7:56 PM on January 5, 2004

Buy a food processer (the dark side!). I bought a small $40 Cuisinart and never looked back... one of the best purchases I've made in recent memory, and it works for more than just onions.
posted by The Michael The at 7:59 PM on January 5, 2004

I stand as far from the chopping board as possible, chopping at arm's length. I do have long arms for someone 5'5", though, may not work for the very short.
posted by orange swan at 8:35 PM on January 5, 2004

In my experience, just being forced by girlfriends to do the chopping a lot helped. Each time, it got a little easier.
posted by interrobang at 8:38 PM on January 5, 2004

I have a bevy of slaves do all my chopping for me.

I swear by it!

- Especially good when they are scantily clad.
posted by troutfishing at 10:03 PM on January 5, 2004

When slaves are scarce, contact lenses block the onion gasses very efficiently.
posted by troutfishing at 10:06 PM on January 5, 2004

Stick out your tongue whilst chopping. Seriously. You'll look like an idiot, but it works. The aromatic (?) molecules rising from the onion will lock on to the moisture of your tongue - something about hydrophilia, maybe? - and collect there instead of traveling up to irritate your eyes.

Well, whatever the actual scientific reason, it works.
posted by adamgreenfield at 10:27 PM on January 5, 2004

Chop in half. Place cut-side down on cutting board, dice. Repeat other half. This keeps the freshly cut portion covered and thus the smell down (pun intended).
posted by stbalbach at 10:32 PM on January 5, 2004

Chew on a slice of bread whilst chopping; or peel and chop the onion in a bowl of water (i.e. keep the onion under the water all the time).
posted by John Shaft at 10:52 PM on January 5, 2004

Contact lenses work like a charm.
posted by sebas at 12:51 AM on January 6, 2004

I stick my head in the freezer. Clears the eyes right up.
posted by sadie01221975 at 1:33 AM on January 6, 2004

Clench an unlit match between your teeth (red-end out).
posted by Jimbob at 4:07 AM on January 6, 2004

get one of these.
posted by totee at 8:27 AM on January 6, 2004

Why this works I have no idea, but if you happen to have a gas range, turn on a burner or two and cut the onion next to it.
posted by Doktor at 8:35 AM on January 6, 2004

I'm with sadie. The tearing is caused by a compound which oxidizes when exposed to air (when you cut it). Since kinetics are slowed by temperature, cold onions don't oxidize as quickly and you won't tear.

Cutting the outside skins off and putting in a bowl of ice water in the freezer will render them powerless in about 3 minutes.
posted by whatzit at 11:23 AM on January 6, 2004

Chew gum.

I worked in a restaurant for 8 years and I had to chop a 50pound bag of onions about once a week. Get some gum and chew away while you chop. Works for me everytime.
posted by christian at 11:47 AM on January 6, 2004

I think I must be one of those immune folks, scarabic. My diet is pretty spicy--lots of peppers, onions and garlic. I chop onions three to five times a week and they rarely bother me. I've heard that cops complain of pepper spray being ineffective on some people, and some speculate that it's diet.
posted by squirrel at 3:25 PM on January 6, 2004

I remember being horribly bothered by onions when I was younger and trying all sorts of silly things, but now I seem to be immune too.

Maybe having perpetually clogged sinuses helps.
posted by mmoncur at 2:05 AM on January 7, 2004

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