If you like it, save it!
Save and organize all of the stuff you love in one place.Got it!
If you like something…
Click the heart, it's called favoriting. Favorite the stuff you like.Got it!
As soon as my knife slices through the skin of an onion, I start to look like an extra in a Greek tragedy: a mascara-streaked mess with stinging-red eyes. It's around this point during dinner prep that I flee the scene in search of a gas mask and my boyfriend—who is somehow immune to onion's tear-jerking qualities—takes over.
I've tried every trick in the book: a bandana tied over my entire face, breathing through my mouth with my tongue out. (The internet told me this would work; it did not.) I've even employed a pair of old swim googles, which only made me look like a less-charming, very upset version of Hugh Grant in Notting Hill. So while watching our Test Kitchen Manager, Josh Cohen, chop a mountain of onions, I asked him for his secret. The answer? An extremely sharp knife.
"If you imagine the onion cells on a microscopic level, then a dull knife is like smashing through them with a hammer, crushing the cell walls and releasing vapor. If a knife is sharp, it slices through these cells cleanly."
Some quick research confirmed his explanation: The duller the knife, the more enzymes are crushed and the more irritants are released. My thoughts drifted to my knife of choice: a two-year old IKEA chef's knife that's never met a sharpener in its life. At the expense of becoming a wobbly tear-streaked mess, I put the theory to the test.
Test 1: The Dullest Knife I've Ever Known
The knife: My aforementioned IKEA knife, which at this point (several years and even more roommates down) is about as efficient at chopping herbs as a mortar and pestle.
How it performed: Last night, slicing red onion rounds for Ottolenghi's red onion salad, I got about three crosswise slices in before my slightly stinging eyes escalated to fresh-off-the-heels-of-a-break-up tears. Game over.
Test 2: Our Test Kitchen's Dullest Knife
The knife: Food52's test kitchen's dullest knife—meaning Josh won't use it, but that it's still probably ten-thousand times better than own.
How it performed: About one minute into chopping a yellow onion, I was feeling fairly confident, but as soon as I'd gotten my onion pieces into a rough dice 20 seconds later, a wave of fumes hit me and I had to step away to give my stinging eyes a break. A red onion was slightly more difficult, but I successfully made it to a rough chop without crying!
Test 3: Our Test Kitchen's Sharpest Knife
The knife: This is the sharpest knife we have in the kitchen—a brand-new Miyabi that can practically cut an onion just by looking at it.
How it performed: This was possibly the happiest onion chopping experience I've ever enjoyed—around two minutes in, once I'd chopped a yellow onion finely, I finally felt a faint sting. The same proved true of a red onion. But beyond that, I happily chopped without any pain or tears—an allium miracle!
The takeaway: Never will I ever chop an onion with a dull knife again.
Our sharpest sharps:
Zwilling J.A. Henckels Pro KnivesFrom $49
Do you have any tips for chopping onions? Have you found the sharp knife trick to be true yourself? Tell us in the comments below!