How to Cut an Onion Without Crying

From lighting candles to biting spoons, you'll never guess which method for cutting onions left us tear-free.

We all know the feeling. You’re slicing into a crisp onion, and suddenly the waterworks turn on. As if you were watching the last scene of Titanic and every pet-adoption commercial rolled up in one, tears are streaming down your face. Great way to kick off one of our recipes for french onion soup, right?

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Why do onions make us cry?

Onions produce a chemical called syn-propanethial-S-oxide, which is known to trigger tears. When the onion is cut, this chemical sprays into the air, causing even the most masterful cooks to well up.

So perhaps the real question is how do you cut an onion without crying (if you can’t get your hands on tearless onions, that is)?

On this front, wild claims abound. Our Field Editorsand others suggested everything from chewing candy to lighting candles can help prevent the tears. Naturally, our Test Kitchen wanted to try them all. Follow along as Taste of Home‘s Test Cooks, Nick Iverson and Matt Hass, debunk the myths and ultimately settle on the best way to cut an onion without crying.
 
 

Method #1: Frozen onions.

“I put onions in the freezer for 15-20 minutes before I cut them, and I use a very sharp knife.” -Elizabeth Bramkamp, Gig Harbor, WA

Does it really work?

The freezer method was a no-go.

Notes from our Test Kitchen

Freezing the onion made it slightly more difficult to cut and didn’t assuage any of its tear-producing fumes.

Aside from getting our fingers frosty-freezy, this method didn’t do much in the service of stopping those free-flowing tears. We recommend keeping onions at room temperature prior to chopping; however, it’s perfectly fine to freeze onions for long-term storage.
 
 

Method #2: Chewing gum.

“I chew gum while breathing through my mouth instead of my nose. Sounds crazy, but it works!” -Allison Ochoa, Hays, KS

Does it really work?

Sadly, no.

Notes from our Test Kitchen

Although enjoyable, chewing a stick of gum had no effect. (But it was fun to see our Test Cooks blowing bubbles in the kitchen.)
 
 

Method #3: Drinking a glass of water.

“Drink a tall glass of water a few minutes before chopping onions. Dry eyes grab for any bit of liquid in the air.” -Helen Nelander, Boulder Creek, CA

Does it really work

Nope.

Notes from our Test Kitchen

Drinking water didn’t make any difference, but it did keep us hydrated in our warm kitchen!
 
 

Method #4: Biting a wooden spoon.

A wooden spoon held between your teeth will help absorb the onion smell.

Does it really work?

Not for us!

Notes from our Test Kitchen

Unfortunately, the tears just kept on coming. On the other hand, it did give our cooking spoons some rugged-looking bite marks.
 
 

Method #5: Burn a candle.

Light a candle near the cutting board.

Does it really work?

No!

Notes from our Test Kitchen

It looked nice…but did nothing.

This one made us chuckle a bit. The candle provided a bit of romantic ambiance, but it didn’t stop the tears. (A larger flame might work better, but we’re certain it’s not worth the risk.)
 
 

Method #6: Wear goggles.

Chef cutting onionsTaste of Home

“I have worn regular goggles (the kind you get at a hardware store) instead of onion-cutting goggles after seeing someone do the latter on TV. It works great-and you look pretty cool, too.” -Deborah Pennington, Decatur, AL

Does it really work?

Yes!

Notes from our Test Kitchen

The goggle lenses blocked the fumes from the onion, which in turn stopped the tears.

At last, we found a tip that truly works! Despite making the team look like a bunch of mad scientists, this method definitely kept our cooks from crying.

Pro tip: Cutting onions often? Pick up a pair of these anti-tear goggles. ($20) Unlike the kind you’d find at the hardware store, they come in sophisticated styles like tortoise shellso you won’t lookquite as geeky as our cooks do.
 
 

Our Test Kitchen’s Methods

After trying each of these techniques, we asked our Lead Test Cook, Nick Iverson, how he achieves tear-free chopping:

“The most foolproof way is to use a sharp knife. With a sharp knife, you are less likely to rupture the cell walls that contain sulfur compounds in the onion. (The sulfur compounds in the onion react with the moisture in your eye, causing irritation.) The second best way is to work in a well-ventilated room. Open a window or turn on the exhaust fan above your stove.”

Of course, you could always keep a pair of swimming goggles beside your cutting board, too.

Now that you know how to keep from crying, try it out with onion-packed recipes like Rich French Onion Soup or cheesy Onion Beef au Jus.

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Nicole Doster
Nicole is a writer, editor and lover of Italian food. In her spare time, you’ll find her thumbing through vintage cookbooks or testing out recipes in her tiny kitchen.