FOOD 101: Why Onions Make You Cry…And How To Stop It - THE NIBBLE Blog
THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
Also visit our main website, TheNibble.com.

FOOD 101: Why Onions Make You Cry…And How To Stop It

Sliced Onion

Cutting an onion releases the “tear” chemicals (photo Flagstaff Fotos).

 

An onion is a thing of beauty—until you slice into it and the fumes assault your eyes. But that doesn’t need to be. Here are some tips to minimize the impact of the acrid gas that’s released when you slice into an onion.

WHY DO ONION VAPORS BURN YOUR EYES?

Simply peeling an onion does not make your eyes water.

But once you chop, cut, crush or smash the onion, the onion’s cells break open, creating a chemical reaction. Enzymes called alliinases break down the amino acids (sulfoxides)in the onion and generate sulfenic acids.

These further react to produce a volatile gas known as the onion lachrymatory factor, or LF. LF diffuses through the air and activates sensory neurons in eye, causing that burning, stinging sensation.

It’s not dissimilar to the effects of tear gas. Tear glands come to the defense, producing tears to dilute and flush out the irritant. If you slice onions a lot, your eyes will become more tolerant (they may build up a tolerance to the LF).

 
The amount of LF differs among onion varieties. That’s why some onions are real “burners” and others are milder. Sweet onions, for example, grow in soils that are low in sulphur and don’t produce much alliinase.

NO-STING & LESS-STING SOLUTIONS

Our personal technique: For no sting whatsoever, wear swimming goggles (or any goggles). It works like a charm.

No goggles? These will help:

  • Slice the onion vertically, through the root end. The onion base has a higher concentration of sulphur compounds than the rest of the bulb. Even better, avoid the root altogether. Use only the top 80% of the onion.
  • Slice under running water. Place your cutting board in the sink and cut the onions under running water. The water whisks the fumes away. Submerge the onions in a basin of water, if you have a basin large enough!
  • Refrigerate the onions before cutting. This reduces the enzyme reaction rate.
  • Turn on a fan. Position it to blow the gas away from your eyes.
  •  
      




    Leave a Comment



    © Copyright 2005-2017 Lifestyle Direct, Inc. All rights reserved. All images are copyrighted to their respective owners.