How to Chop an Onion in Four Easy Steps

Chopping an Onion

By Ken Haedrich
August 9, 2016

Whether you’re making a sandwich or cooking dinner, there’s a good chance that you may be chopping up onions for added flavor.

These wrapped wonders are not only good for cooking, but also provide natural health benefits!

Chop an Onion in Four Steps

Here are tips on how to chop an onion in four easy steps from expert cook Ken Haedrich.

  1. Select a sharp chef’s knife. Before you begin, peel off as many layers of papery skin as you can, the better to make your first cut without your knife glancing off the surface. Pull off any hairy roots, too. They have an unappetizing way of ending up where they shouldn’t. Place the onion on its side on a chopping board. Hold your knife comfortably, with your forefinger running down one side of the blade and your thumb pressed against the opposite side. With one fell swoop, slide the knife down and away from you, slicing off the top half inch of the onion. (If your knife isn’t particularly sharp, first pierce the surface of the onion with the tip of your knife so the blade has a starting notch.)
  2. Turn the onion so it rests on the newly cut flat surface. Starting at the center of the root end, slice the onion in half. Peel off any remaining skin.
  3. Rest half the onion on its largest flat surface, root end pointing away from you. Working from the far edge of the onion toward your body, slice down through the onion, leaving about ½ inch between each cut. Do not, however, slice through the onion at the root end. (An intact root end keeps the onion from falling apart.)
  4. Rotate the onion so the end cut faces your knife blade. Then make ½-inch cuts perpendicular to the first set of cuts. The onion will fall apart into neat, ½-inch dice. Discard root. Repeat with the other half.

Video: How to Chop an Onion

Reader Comments

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My Aunt insisted that when you chopped the root end of the onion it caused the tearing up. She advised to always start with the other end and to go quickly when cutting near the root end. She also advised disposing of the root end as soon as they were cut off to prevent fumes. I used to have problems with tearing before her advice and not since. That was close to 40 years ago. If you cut it like the video posted here and ensure the root is the last attached part and then throwing away the root right away, it works perfectly.

Eliminating tears when chopping onions

If you're very susceptible to tearing while chopping onions, try this. . .
Hold a piece of slightly stale bread between your lips and chop-away, no-more-tears !

no tears

I bought a pair of swim goggles to wear just for cutting onions. Works great and embarrasses my kids as an added bonus!

Cutting an onion

I also remember a chemistry professor saying that if you used a stainless steel knife or touched a stainless steel surface when cutting an onion that would keep you from tearing up. I cannot say for sure that this works as he would toss out some really wild things regarding the chemistry of food. I will say I do have a stainless steel knife that I use for cutting onions and I do not shed any tears.

Cutting an onion

You will want to leave the root section on the onion as it will allow the "leftovers" to last longer in the fridge. Just for fun when my kid was little, when we got down to the root section, we put it in water to root it, then planted it. My kid loved that he "cloned" onions. He was really into gardening. We put the first "clone" into a glass jar so he could see the onion grow better.

My friend in Belgium would boil veggie "leftovers" that were not used in dishes to make a veggie broth.

Burning a candle where you

Burning a candle where you are chopping also reduces the tears.

The sharper the knife, the

The sharper the knife, the less cells you smash and the less you'll cry onion tears. Or cut from the bottom end first and use the top stem end to hold the onion you'll have less tears.