Why do onions make you crywhen you cut them? How do you slice onions without tears? And what is thismyth about cut onions causing food poisoning? Here are a few tips and tricks toreduce the tears!
To put it simply, fumes from onions trigger a reaction in youreyes' glands that starts the flow of tears. When you cut the onions, you aredamaging their cell walls and causing naturally occurring amino acidsulfoxides to get released, mix with other compounds in theonion, and turn into a gas that wafts into your eyes, causingirritation. Your tears are your eyes' efforts to wash away the irritant.
There a few tips and tricks to reduce the tears.
· Put the onion in the freezer for a few minutes before slicing.This slows down the conversion of the acids into irritating gases.
· Skewer a small piece of bread onto the cutting knife, pushing itright up to the handle; the bread will absorb the odors from the onion as youare cutting it.
· Hold a slice of bread lightly between your teeth while choppingonions. This sounds silly, but it works! The bread will absorb some of thegases as they waft toward your eyes.
· Cut an onion properly. See how to cut an onion in four easy steps.
There's a myth floating around that says once an onion’s beencut, you have to use it all and eat it right away; otherwise it can poison you.It's widely debunked by food-safety experts.
Where did this idea come from? It may have roots that go back tothe 1500s, when people believed that scattering pieces of cut onions around thehouse would protect them from bubonic plague. That myth has morphed into astill-circulating belief that raw onions act as “bacteria magnets,” that attract bacteria andviruses from the environment, and hence render them dangerous to eat. Theyaren't. (By the same token, raw onions strewn around your indoor environment won’t protect you and your family against the flu.)
Of course, myths start with a good reason and onions really arehealthy for you! Even the onion skins are high in antioxidant,anti-inflammatory properties. See my short post abut onion skins for health and more.
You can contaminatefresh onions if you prepare them with dirty hands or on a cutting board alreadycontaminated by raw meat or chicken juices. But if you prepare the onions withsqueaky-clean hands on a sanitized cutting board, it’s safe to wrap,refrigerate, and use them later.
Summer brings on picnics, barbecues, and big outdoor reunions that featureplenty of food-safety hazards. Get all the up-to-date food-safety facts—and enjoy your onions!