Why Onions Make You Cry (And How To Avoid The Tears)

Onions are undoubtedly one of our least favorite things to chop in the kitchen. They make your hands smell and your eyes sting. However, they are also delicious and elevate a ton of meals to the next level. So, what exactly is happening when you chop an onion? Why the tears? And more importantly, how can you avoid crying the next time a recipe calls for onions? Keep reading to find out!

The Root Of The Issue

It all starts while the onion is growing. Onions absorb sulfur from the soil while they are still in the ground. The onion turns the raw sulfur into an amino acid called sulfoxide. When you cut an onion, exposing the inside to oxygen, it releases a gas. Your eyes recognize the foreign gas, and do everything they can to prevent it from getting into your eyes – namely, tears. Yes, tears are the eyes’ greatest defense! You’ve probably noticed that you only cry when cutting onions. Cooking the onions actually gets rid of the gas, so that process doesn’t cause the tears like cutting raw onions does.

How To Avoid The Tears

There are several effective methods to help you avoid the waterworks next time you’re cutting an onion. First, you can keep your onions in the fridge. The cold air changes the gas and makes it less potent. In the same vein, you can dip the onion in a bowl of cold water before cutting. Scientists also suggest not cutting the root of the onion if you want to avoid tears, as the majority of the gas resides at the root.

Getting Rid Of The Onion Smell

Ok, so you’ve figured out how to chop onions without crying, but what about the lingering smell on your hands? Never fear, we have a few solutions for you! First, you can wash your hands with baking soda. This common household product is great for neutralizing odors. Another tip from the National Onion Council is to wash your hands with lemon juice. Just make sure you don’t have any cuts or scrapes on your hands!

Find out more about onions in the helpful video below!

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