Alton Brown’s Secret to Tear-Free Onion Chopping
Have you ever wondered how professional chefs manage to slice and dice onions all day long without being reduced to an ocean of tears? Are they really just that good?
Yes and no.
Recognizing that most home kitchens don't have industrial vent hoods, the undisputed king of kitchen hacks came up with a workaround.
"Culinary truth: The best way to cut onions is with a fan," Brown wrote alongside a photo of himself smiling, tear-free, with a pile of onion slices and an oscillating table fan at the ready.
A few of his followers seemed to misread the tip, however, prompting the Good Eats host to clarify his original tweet.
"For the sake of clarity, I meant: chop onions with a fan blowing the fumes away, not actually chopping them with a fan. That would require a chipper," he advised with his signature wit.
Phew, we're glad he cleared that up!
So, what's with the tears in the first place? Brown explaine the painful and frustrating phenomenon in an old episode of Good Eats.
"When you cut into an onion cells rupture, releasing enzymes which breakdown nearby sulfur compounds into oxides and acids. These reform to make a nasty gas," he says. "This gas moves into your eyes, mixes with your tears, and forms sulfuric acid. Ouch!"
An ordinary fan can save your eyes simply by blowing the gas away.
But, Brown adds, the best defense against tears is still a sharp knife. The sharper the knife, the less cells you'll damage as you cut. Less damage = less gas = fewer tears.