Onions Without Tears? Fan-tas-tic!

By now, you know I like to play in the kitchen and sometimes I actually make something edible. Since I have leaned more towards the vegetable based dishes, and try to use meat as more of an occasional ingredient, almost like a garnish, big flavors have to come from somewhere other than browned meat and its juices.

One of my favorite sources of richness comes from adding onions, in their great varieties, into many dishes. Carefully caramelized, even the common white onion adds a wonderful depth of flavor to stews, the sweet mellow sauerkraut I mention in the SMOGG Pizza recipe elsewhere on this blog, and Chicken Paprikash, to name a few. By the way, if you do not know how to properly caramelize onions, you are missing out on one of the most delicious ingredients you can make. It takes patience, but is really worth the effort. Look it up on a recipe site and experiment.

But, many people hate preparing onions because of the tears that accompany the slicing and dicing. Sulfurous compounds in the onion (syn-propanethial-S-oxide) waft into the air when you break the onion’s cells, and combine with the moisture on your eyeball and produce a sulfuric acid. The acid “burns” your eyes, and the body produces tears to try and dilute and wash away the acid. So, you “cry.”

Well, CRY NO MORE, because my sous-chef (wife) developed and tested a kitchen solution that WORKS!

The problem is, that the “fumes” from the onion cutting rise up into the air and surround you in a cloud, nearly impossible for your eyes to avoid. So, you have to ventilate the area to prevent that.

Here’s how! Simply, cheaply, and very effective.

Onion Fan
Onion Fan

Go to Wal-Mart or Amazon and buy this little 4″ blade diameter electric fan that runs on 110V and has 4 metal blades. There are many choices, just be careful you don’t accidentally pick a USB powered one.

Now, set up your cutting board so that the fan blows across the work surface, and then towards your range exhaust hood. Turn on the little fan and the stove exhaust hood, and chop away on as many onions as you want. I set the fan a little closer to the cutting board than usual, just to get everything into the picture, but you can back it off by a foot or so, and it still works great. Angle it ever-so-slightly downward. You are trying to set up a laminar flow across the work surface that won’t be all scattered by your knife and onions.

When I make a big batch of spaghetti sauce or my famous hot chili (with chocolate powder as one of the ingredients!) I have to cut a whole mess ‘o onions. This trick saves me a bunch of tears.