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A Helpful Guide on How to Cut an Onion the Right Way

A Helpful Guide on How to Cut an Onion the Right Way

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How to cut an onion: a question that is asked and answered (wrongly) all the time. How can someone possibly get it right every single time? Well, we’re here to help you with that! We’ll provide step-by-step instructions on how to cut an onion in the best way possible. So whether you’re making dinner or looking for a fun new cooking project, read on!

A Helpful Guide on How to Cut an Onion the Right Way

Being a chef, I come by this after years and years of practice. We would cut up almost 50 pounds of onions a week just to make the Cornish Pasties we sold every Thursday that brought people up from Chicago to try. Add in the onions for soups, hashbrowns, hamburgers, and casseroles?


I can’t begin to tell you how many onions I chopped over the 10 years we had the restaurant.

I DO remember each time we trained a new line cook and wanted to add that to part of their list of duties. It makes me think of that great clip from the movie Julie and Julia where Julia Childs is trying to keep up with the chefs in training at Le Cordon Bleu.

I just adore Meryl Streep in this role LOL!

She had it right though – it is a basic cooking skill and takes practice to master – ONCE you know the technique. Do you know what Julia did after she completed all of her lessons? Came back here to share hew knowledge and skills with the average American housewife – who gladly jumped to the task of creating more flavorful dishes for their families.

She made French cooking obtainable and accessible for all.

My French onion soup – to this day – is her recipe unless it is my version with Guinness beer in it.

You see, onions are a basic staple in cooking – for many different cultures. Indian, Thai, Mexican, Cajun, and French cuisines are just at the top of the list. The flavor and aroma of onion can turn any normal dish into mouth-watering and delicious one. The size, taste, and color of onions depend upon their variety. Onions are available in three colors i.e red, yellow, and white.

Cut Onions Yourself to Save Money

Yes, you can buy onions already diced in your freezer section but you pay for the convenience. A three-pound bag of onions runs under a buck and that 12-ounce bag of diced onions is almost two dollars.

I don’t want to make this a math lesson, but that is basically paying an 800% markup. (sigh)

Think of all the things you can make with onion

  • Onion Jam is fantastic on burgers
  • Onion Rings – delish in the air fryer!
  • Onion Soup – my absolute favorite soup!
  • Stuffed Onions make a killer appetizer

That is just the tip of the iceberg and using them as the main ingredient. Diced and sliced onions are fantastic for everything from quiche to soups to pizza! Even casseroles are kicked up a notch with them.

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Difference Between Shallots and Onions

You probably had a situation at least once where you’re cooking a recipe and you notice that one of the ingredients is shallots. Your pantry is filled with yellow onions, red onions, and you even have some green ones in the refrigerator. But there are no shallots. Do you need to go to the grocery store to buy some, or can you just use onions as a substitution?


Onions can be categorized as pearl onions, spring onions, and sweet onions. There are a lot of varieties. Some onions are very sweet, others are super pungent, some are small, others are very large in size.

Cut Onions Yourself to Save Money

You can eat some of the onions fresh with their sprouts, for example, green onions. There are also others that you have to dry first in order to remove their papery exterior, which is the case with white, yellow, and red onions.

For some dishes, you simply can’t use shallots. For example, French onion soup. Large onions give the bulkiness to the soup and make the body of it. Of course, you can always spend some more time to chop a lot of small onions if that’s how you prefer to make this dish.

Once the pungent onions are cooked, they will become super sweet and soft. All you have to do is to add cheese and beef broth and you will be enjoying an awesome meal.


Same as garlic, which is a cousin to shallots, they grow as a bulb that can be divided into cloves. However, you will often find shallots being sold as single cloves at the grocery store these days.

They have a mild and sweet flavor, and they can have a slightly similar flavor to garlic. Professional chefs love using shallots because of this. In fact, raw shallots are very popular since they don’t have the bite that onions have.

You should definitely try to make pickled shallots instead of pickled onions. It is incredibly delicious and considered a delicacy. Shallots are already mild when they’re raw, meaning that all you have to add is a pinch of salt and sugar and acidic champagne vinegar. They are perfect for egg dishes, salads, and sandwiches.

Substitution Guidelines

You can easily make substitutions for most recipes. As mentioned above, not for French onion soup! However, you don’t have to worry about the size of onions and shallots. I will give you a rule of thumb, regarding the size. Try to use three small shallots for every one onion you have to put in your dish.

In case you want to substitute onions for shallots, you should always chop them finely. Keep in mind that shallots a lot smaller than onions and you want to compensate for their thin layers. In case that your recipe is saying that you should use raw shallots, chop your onions and put them in a bowl of cold water. This will remove some of the harshnesses from them.

You don’t have to make a lot of changes if you want to substitute shallots for onions. They are milder than onions, and you will probably find that your dish misses some of the shallot’s charismatic punch.

How to Properly Cut an Onion

Learning how to properly cut onion is a skill that should be learned by everyone. It can make you feel accomplished and help you save money on food costs. Simple cooking skills are always great to have in your back pocket!

How to cut an onion

Of all the vegetables to cut, onions seem to be the most difficult for many people. Learning how to properly cut an onion will save you time – and lots of tears. When learning to cut an onion, there are two important things to remember: you need a sharp knife, and you must stabilize the onion as much as you can so you don’t chop your fingers off.

Place your onion, stem end facing away from you, on a cutting board. With your non-dominant hand, firmly grasp the onion. With your sharp knife, cut about 1/2″ from the step end with your dominant hand. After that, make a smaller cut at the root end to get rid of the stringy portion of the roots while keeping the core intact.

Turn the onion over so that the root side faces up. Cut it in half and place the cut side down onto the cutting board. Peel back the onion skin.

Make lengthwise cuts into the onion – from stem end to root end, without cutting through the root end entirely. Cut at an angle around the onion, keeping the knife blade pointed toward the onion’s core. Pay attention and keep the onion slices close together as you go.

Finally, you’ll make criss-cross cuts. Rotate the onion 90 degrees and make cuts that are perpendicular to the first ones. To preserve your fingers, curl your hands and press your knuckles against the knife as you cut the onion. Your knuckles will lightly guide the knife as you finish cutting the onion.

How thin should I slice my onions?

How thin should I slice my onions?

Thinly sliced onions are great for caramelizing. Chefs frequently punch the onion to release more of the onion’s oils, which allows for a greater flavor. Just think of that French Onion soup – the thinner the onions, the easier it is to make them sweeter.

Thicker slices or chopped onions can give some nice texture to stir-fries or other dishes…and are better for making your own onion rings. At least, in my opinion.

How to not cry while cutting an onion

Onions are known to release a chemical irritant that makes us cry, so I bet you’re curious about how to not cry while cutting an onion too, huh? While some people are immune to onion crying, I’m not one of them!

This is a legendary question with a ton of different answers.

  • My mom used to keep a scuba mask handy when she was on chopping duty and just go crazy while being totally tear-free.
  • I would stand on the other side of the pile of onions from the hood system – letting the giant fans suck out my possible problem.

Some onion varieties have more of the irritant than others. Selecting sweet onions rather than white or red can reduce the number of tears shed. Refrigerating or freezing the onion can slow down the release of the irritant, which gives you a longer period of time to get the onions cut and get out without crying.

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Minimizing exposure to the cut side of the onion is key. There are many ways to help cut back on the tears:

  • cut the onion under a vent
  • use fresh onions
  • chew gum
  • run the onion underwater
  • cover your knife in lemon juice before cutting the onion
  • cut the onions with a super sharp knife
  • If all else fails, try cutting the onion outside so you don’t have to breathe in fumes.

Some of these methods may work better than others. Try them out and let me know how tear-free your onion cutting experience was!

Properly Cutting an Onion

Properly Cutting an Onion

We hope these methods help. Knowing how to cut an onion correctly can save time and tears in the kitchen!

Other basic skills and tricks you might want to know: