How to chop onions without crying: we test which hacks really work

Tissues at the ready, Sanet Oberholzer tries five simple tricks that are meant to stop you from tearing up at the cutting board. Some worked, others didn't

15 January 2020 - 00:00 By Sanet Oberholzer
When chopping onions becomes an extreme sport.
When chopping onions becomes an extreme sport.
Image: 123RF/wolphgang

The smell of onions frying is one of those scents that awaken the appetite. It signals that dinner is cooking and a feast will soon be ready to be enjoyed. However, like many things in life, cooking onions comes with both joys and sorrows.

For many, sorrow sets in at just the thought of chopping onions: you know your eyes are going to well up and sting.

The internet abounds with hacks that are meant to take the tears out of this everyday task. We tested five to see which ones really work:

HACK 1: GOGGLES ON

How to: Simply pop on a pair of goggles before you start chopping. 

Does it work? You’ll look and feel a bit strange, but if that doesn’t bother you, this hack works well — unless you wear glasses. If you can't manage to chop onions without your specs on, this might not be the hack for you.

Tear and pain level: Pain-free and tearless

HACK 2: FREEZE 'EM

How to: Freeze the onions before chopping them.

Does it work? Somewhat. You can’t cut the onion as soon as it comes out the freezer as it’s too hard, which means you need to allow time for it to thaw slightly. This isn't ideal if you’re in a rush and don’t want watery onions in your food. As this hack doesn't work 100%, it's not worth the effort.

Tear and pain level: There were no tears and the burning sensation was less extreme than normal, but the process was not completely pain free.

HACK 3: BITE OF BREAD

How to: Keep a piece of bread between your teeth while chopping onions. 

Does it work? Somewhat. This hack is not worth specifically buying bread for, but if you have some in the house, give it a try.

Tear and pain level: Less pain than usual and without any tears.

WATCH | Why do onions make you cry?

HACK 4: SOAK 'EM

How to: Peel the onions, then soak them in cold water before chopping.

Does it work? Not very well. You still have to peel the onion, so if it’s potent you will tear up when doing this. You also have to allow time for the onion to soak, so bear this in mind if you're pressed for time while cooking. Despite soaking the onion for about 10 minutes, I still felt my eyes sting while chopping them.

Tear and pain level: My eyes stung while peeling the onion. Soaking the onion in water reduces the sting while chopping it, but doesn’t eliminate it.

HACK 5: TONGUE OUT

How to: Simply stick out your tongue while cutting the onions.

Does it work? This hack makes cutting an onion bearable. It's also easy and convenient as it requires no additional props, time or effort that prepping the veg normally does. 

Tear and pain level: Much less painful and I didn’t shed any tears.