With tears streaming down your face like that, anyone would think there was something seriously wrong with you. However, it’s a thing of nothing -you are just chopping a few onions! This is linked to an alliinase enzyme which produces an irritant called syn-propanethial-S-oxide or propanethial. This pesky sulphurous molecule irritates the inside of the nose and burns the eyes, to the point that it makes you cry.
Rather than banishing onions from your kitchen or fighting with your other half over who has to take on the task, try out a few of these tips.
- Switch on the cooker fan or the ventilation and cut an onion beside it to dispel the acids. This also works if you cut the onion in a place where there is a draught.
- Rub some lemon on your chopping board before you start so that the odour doesn’t permeate it.
- Put your knife in the freezer for at least 15 minutes before using it.
- Freeze the onion for an hour before cutting it.
- Just before chopping it, soak the knife in cold water or vinegar for a few moments.
- Use a smooth knife that is not toothed (as a toothed knife will release more enzymes).
- Put some water in a container beside you while you are chopping the onions to dispel the gasses that are released.
- Wear snorkeling goggles while you are chopping the onions. It looks ridiculous but it annihilates the risk of tears (however, you may end up with goggles marks on your face if they are very tight!).
- Cut the onion into large parts, and put the pieces into boiling water for a few minutes before cutting them into smaller pieces. This also works with boiling water, thanks to the steam.
- Cut an onion in a container filled with water.
- If you really find that nothing works, replace your onions for less irritating varieties (baby onions or scallions). The taste will be different but you will have fewer tears!