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Cutting an Onion


srhcb
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I always save the root end for last -- keeps it all together :biggrin:

So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

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Echo, echo---stem. You can slice it whole, or cut it in half, then slice or up/down cut, then slice to make mince or small dice.

The root end serves as a connector, plus---the stem end does not have that tough little woody circle in it to interfere with the first slices.

Listen to Granny, now, Hon.

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I always cut onions in half through both the stem and root. If I'm dicing, it gives me a bigger flat surface, and I prefer to slice along that axis too. If you don't trim the root end too much, it holds the halves together pretty well. I rarely use less than half an onion, so this works very well for me.

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Hmmm. I always remove both the stem and root end. I realize keeping the root end on would keep the onion from falling to pieces, but trimming off both ends was the way my mother taught me to do it, and while I have abandoned other cooking techniques I learned from my mom, somehow the onion-cutting habit persists... :hmmm:

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Stem end.

If the root end has lots of those annoying hair-like parts, I'll trim off just the very bottom of the root end to cleanly get rid of those. Then I cut enough of the stem end off to give me a stable surface and get rid of the hard green parts, stand the onion up on the cut stem end, and cut straight through the root down to the stem to get two halves.

-- There are infinite variations on food restrictions. --

Crooked Kitchen - my food blog

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I always cut onions in half through both the stem and root. If I'm dicing, it gives me a bigger flat surface, and I prefer to slice along that axis too. If you don't trim the root end too much, it holds the halves together pretty well. I rarely use less than half an onion, so this works very well for me.

JAZ, the method you state is the same technique as shown in the knife skills book from a famous culinary institute (vagueness to avoid copyright hassles). Peel, cut in half root-to-stem, then do your cutting starting at the stem end.

When I was learning to cook as a pre-teen my mother had me trying to cut into the stem end of a whole onion and I always had trouble keeping the onion from rolling around. As an adult I began using a technique called a radial cut. I had a lot of control over the size of the dice but it took a look longer. When I got the knife skills book and tried the method JAZ named, I was amazed at how fast I could peel and dice onions. Bye-Bye radial technique - hello slicing in half first.

Porthos Potwatcher

The Unrelenting Carnivore

Edited by Porthos (log)

Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook

;

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I've never thought about it one way or the other, as I pretty much always use the whole onion.

I am surprised to see everyone talking about cutting through the stem end. My grandmother taught me that most of what makes us tear up from onions is in the stem end. I always chop that end off before cutting an onion, and I have very little problem with tears. I can't wait to hear what people are going to say about this.

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I am surprised to see everyone talking about cutting through the stem end.  My grandmother taught me that most of what makes us tear up from onions is in the stem end.  I always chop that end off before cutting an onion, and I have very little problem with tears.  I can't wait to hear what people are going to say about this.

That's odd. I've heard from chefs on TV that it's cutting the root end that causes tears the most. And we all know that we can believe everything we heard on TV.

-- There are infinite variations on food restrictions. --

Crooked Kitchen - my food blog

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My grandmother taught me that most of what makes us tear up from onions is in the stem end.  I always chop that end off before cutting an onion, and I have very little problem with tears.  I can't wait to hear what people are going to say about this.

Onions don't effect me like that, although they used to. Until you mentioned it just now, I hadn't even thought about it. :hmmm:

SB (maintains a stern visage even while dicing) :cool:

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Can I vote with Porthos?

Seems to me only sensible to slice the onion vertically stem to root - I don't even bother peeling the half I don't want to use right away. Then it's really easy to peel (from the stem) the half to use and start slicing or dicing from the stem end. The root keeps the layers in place which is helpful when in a hurry.

Of course, you don't get onion rings!

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I am surprised to see everyone talking about cutting through the stem end.  My grandmother taught me that most of what makes us tear up from onions is in the stem end.  I always chop that end off before cutting an onion, and I have very little problem with tears.  I can't wait to hear what people are going to say about this.

That's odd. I've heard from chefs on TV that it's cutting the root end that causes tears the most. And we all know that we can believe everything we heard on TV.

They're all wrong. It's leaving the unsliced/diced/chopped half cut side up while you slice/dice/chop the first half that causes the most tears.

Put the oxymoronic whole half cut side down on your board or a plate while you attack the other half and your tears will be reduced at least by half. Gare-awn-teed! :biggrin:

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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I am surprised to see everyone talking about cutting through the stem end.  My grandmother taught me that most of what makes us tear up from onions is in the stem end.  I always chop that end off before cutting an onion, and I have very little problem with tears.  I can't wait to hear what people are going to say about this.

That's odd. I've heard from chefs on TV that it's cutting the root end that causes tears the most. And we all know that we can believe everything we heard on TV.

They're all wrong. It's leaving the unsliced/diced/chopped half cut side up while you slice/dice/chop the first half that causes the most tears.

Put the oxymoronic whole half cut side down on your board or a plate while you attack the other half and your tears will be reduced at least by half. Gare-awn-teed! :biggrin:

Well, come to think of it, I also have usually chopped off the root ends. So that could be the real reason I don't have too much problem with tears. (But my grandmother couldn't have been wrong, could she?) I also never thought of the possibility it was the uncut half sitting on the cutting board that caused the tears. But what about when you cut into that half? Seems to me the tear problem gets greater as you go along.

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Through the root and then stem end, a la JAZ. Can't really figure another way, actually, to cut any onion ever.

Yup, I'd have to go with this too, since you have the root-end to hold it all together when cutting both halves.

Unless, of course, you absolutely have to have rings, in which case I'd slice the stem end first, leaving the root to hold the remainder together.

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.

Virginia Woolf

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I am surprised to see everyone talking about cutting through the stem end.  My grandmother taught me that most of what makes us tear up from onions is in the stem end.  I always chop that end off before cutting an onion, and I have very little problem with tears.  I can't wait to hear what people are going to say about this.

That's odd. I've heard from chefs on TV that it's cutting the root end that causes tears the most. And we all know that we can believe everything we heard on TV.

They're all wrong. It's leaving the unsliced/diced/chopped half cut side up while you slice/dice/chop the first half that causes the most tears.

Put the oxymoronic whole half cut side down on your board or a plate while you attack the other half and your tears will be reduced at least by half. Gare-awn-teed! :biggrin:

Well, come to think of it, I also have usually chopped off the root ends. So that could be the real reason I don't have too much problem with tears. (But my grandmother couldn't have been wrong, could she?) I also never thought of the possibility it was the uncut half sitting on the cutting board that caused the tears. But what about when you cut into that half? Seems to me the tear problem gets greater as you go along.

Most people's grandmothers are never wrong. Sorry did not mean any disrespect to yours.

I've always sliced off the stem end too, but still had intermittent issues with tears. After buying a particularly pungent bunch of onions last month & being especially beset, it suddenly occurred to me that the leaving the uncut half exposed probably wasn't helping matters. A little experimentation confirmed that.

Now I either toss each half right into the pan as soon as it's chopped, if it's for a dish in progress, or sweep it off into a bowl & cover with plastic wrap if I'm doing prep work. Minimal tears, reconfirmed just last nght (the dish-in-progress approach). :smile:

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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I found this out while putting together reading material for horticulture students. Plants with strong smells carry their perfume bottles in different places, and apparently onion ones are elongated and run longitudinally, so cutting the onion vertically first and leaving the horizontal cut (which is more likely to sever the odor "capsule") till last helps. Using a sharp knife so that you don't crush the onion (releasing more odor) helps too.

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  • 4 weeks later...
I always save the root end for last -- keeps it all together :biggrin:

BTW: You're right!

Leaving the root end on does hold the oinion together. I used to always have those little cone-shaped pieces fall out of the onion before I finished using it. :sad:

SB (old dog with new trick :wink: )

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Here's another trick for you that I learned from a book by Carol Field--or Lynne Rossetto Kasper:

1) Cut through the onion, stem to root, removing peel, stem and root.

2) Pick up one half of your onion and look at one of the short ends (stem or root) you just cut through. See how the half of the onion is built up in layers of half circles, or "C"s, all nestled around a small, backwards "D" (the straight line of the "D" being the smallest, integral part of the flat side of the onion)? If you had the patience to read and grasp fully the content of the two preceding sentences, your response should be "Well....Duh!" Sorry, but I don't have a diagram to demonstrate the procedure.

3) With your little paring knife, extract that "D" and maybe one of the "C"s that snuggly hugs it. Place the half onion on your cutting board so that you now have an inverted "U", if rounder, like a Japanese bridge in an orientalizing garden at Monet's house. Push that little, elongated "D" aside on the cutting board for now.

4) Holding the onion securely on the cutting board, take a very sharp small knife--a thin blade is more important than size-- in your other hand. Slice your onion now. Don't separate the onion as you do so.

If these instructions are clear and you're following them as intended, you should find that with that little extracted piece missing, all your slices remain upright and the shape of the onion-half remains intact.

5) Take your large chef's knife, and while still holding the onion half securely on the board, turn the onion 90 degrees to cut through all the slices in the opposite direction, like a grid. In other words, you're dicing the onion.

6) Then chop up the little piece you extracted to make steps 3-5 possible.

The advantage of this method--much simpler to do than to describe--is that the halves of the onion stay together, so it's quicker to perform than carefully scoring your cut onion and then slicing through it when chopping or dicing.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Having given some thought to this thread, and being of scientific mind (not always helpful), I much appreciated your comment, helenjp, about a biological fact that could assist in cutting down the TQ (Tear Quotient) – cells aligned vertically so cutting in a root-stem direction reduces damage and TQ.

My additional thought would be one of technique. I am sure that the Zen of Onion Cutting is equally important, and I have been trying my rhythmical breathing. I can report that it works brilliantly. The technique is very simple:

Breathe in deeply whilst lifting the knife into the cutting position.

As the slice is made, breathe out slowly and steadily.

Repeat for every slice.

I think the reason this works so well is that, apart from the calming breathing patterns, you can direct your breath to blow the onion fumes away.

Would anyone else care to try this?

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Food freak again...I hate large chunks of onion (Blech) so I always dice mine. I leave the root/stem intact and slice the said onion in half and lay it on its flat side and cut horizontally into the onion from bottom to top or top to bottom (but not through the stem) - it is so convenient that the stem/root holds the onion in place. Then I slice vertically. It is so much easier this way.

Whoever said that man cannot live by bread alone...simply did not know me.
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