We recently bought a bunch of Vidalia onions from a kid in the neighborhood (it was a school fundraiser). As much as I love cooked onions, I hate to cut them. My eyes hurt horribly, and tear like crazy, when I cut or chop onions. Which got me to wondering why this is.
Turns out there is a very real reason for this reaction. I could go into the highly scientific reason for the eye irritation caused by onions, but the dumbed down reason has to do with enzymes. Cutting an onion damages their cellular structure, which in turn causes enzymes to change into various types of acids.
These acids are released into the air, and eventually reach the eyes. The tears caused by the air borne acids are meant to flush away the irritant.
There are many suggestions on how to prevent eye irritation, including:
- Burning a candle while cutting onions
- Refrigerating onions before cutting them
- Freezing onions before cutting them
- Cutting onions under running water
- Cutting onions in a large bowl, while submerged under water
- Blowing the air away from your face while cutting onions (perhaps by using a fan?)
- Using a sharp knife to minimize cell damage
- Wearing special goggles
I have tried most of the above suggestions, though I really can’t see cutting onions under running water or while submerged. Really? Who in their right minds is going to successfully chop onions in such conditions?
For me, the only real relief from the extreme pain of cut onions is to wear onion goggles. Apparently, some people are more sensitive to the acids that cause tearing than others, and I suspect I am one of those people. It goes way beyond tearing and stinging for me. I am in pain, and can’t open my eyes for quite a few minutes if I cut onions without my onion glasses. But, with them, I’m golden!
Don’t believe me? Then check out the video below where I actually put on my onion goggles. Am I ridiculous looking with them on? Yes. Do they really work? YES!
If you are interested in getting your own onion goggles, you can get them from Amazon. They will provide protection from onion fumes, and make cutting onions a task you can enjoy instead of dread.