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Tips that can help with chopping onions include methods to reduce eye-watering, such as ensuring proper ventilation, and those that reduce preparation time. Tools such as food processors, gloves, and other kitchen utensils can also make chopping onions easier.
Eye watering, burning, or stinging is a problem for most people when chopping onions, but there are a number of things that can reduce the eye irritation. Using the sharpest knife possible for can be helpful because it not only speeds up the chopping time but also can help to reduce the amount of tear-producing gases emitted by the onion. Chilling the onions for a period of time before chopping them may cut down on the amount of irritating gases as well.
There are other basic ways to prevent the eye irritation associated with onion chopping. Wearing eye protection is one of the most common ways. Some people like to wear goggles, while others prefer to use eye guards that cover the front and sides of the face around the eyes. Good ventilation in the cooking area also can be very helpful.
Using a food processor can be quite helpful when chopping onions. Food processors are available in various shapes and sizes and may have a number of different features. Some food processors may simply dice an onion, while other models may have various settings that can be used to mince onions or provide fine cuts. When using a food processor to chop onions, many of the gases that irritate the eyes are trapped inside the device, and if the onions are removed swiftly and the processor rinsed immediately after use, eye irritation can be avoided completely.
Some people like to grate onions. Grating instead of chopping onions may save a considerable amount of time for those who cannot use knives skillfully. When onions are grated instead of chopped by hand, a different texture usually results, and some people find this to be advantageous for certain recipes. A good tip when grating an onion by hand is to wear gloves because the juices may cause the hands to smell like onions even after washing. Another way to help remove the onion smell from hands is to rub them over a stainless steel item before washing.
One of the most important tips for chopping onions is to use a method that is least intimidating. Some people like to chop onions with a great deal of precision, making even cuts and taking great care to chop the onion in specific places. If even cuts seem to take too long, chopping the onion using whatever technique is easiest and quickest for the individual is not a bad idea because preparing the onions quickly could prevent eye irritation. For people who are not comfortable using knives, a food processor or hand chopper may be a good choice.
If I'm chopping just half an onion, I use the method I've seen a bunch of TV chefs use. I peel the onion and cut the top off. Then, I cut through the onion, north to south, leaving the root end on both pieces.
I put the onion cut side down and slice crossways through the onion, without cutting through the root. Then, I cut along the north-south line, and finally, from top to bottom. That results in a nice dice, and once you are comfortable with the method, usually doesn't take long. But you need a good, sharp knife. I lust after the knives the TV people have. But they have people on set who sharpen their knives for them. I need to take all my knives to a professional to get them all nice and sharp.
I *always* use my food processor to chop a lot of onions, especially when I'm making cornbread dressing for Thanksgiving. I usually peel and quarter the onions, making sure the root end is cut off, then I put them all in the processor fitted with the cutting blade and pulse them several times, until they are chopped like I want them.
If I need to grate the onions, I have a grater blade on my food processor, too, and I'll use it if that's what the dish calls for. But for a lot of onions, the food processor is the only way to go! Don't know how I made it so long without one!
I try to get all the onions into another container as quickly as I can to reduce the tearing effect.
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