Tricks and Tips – Onions

Nearly everyone has, had, or will have onions in their kitchen. Likewise, we’ve heard lots of things about onions making mom cry, or burning when you try to caramelize them. I was lucky enough to have grandmothers and a mom who cooked all the time, so I learned some nifty tricks at their sides.

Cut Onions without Tears

The best thing you can do to cut onions is to ensure that you have a sharp knife. A dull blade will put unwanted pressure on the meat of the onion, causing the “juices” to be released on the cutting board rather than cooked into your dish. This “juice” contains chemicals that may cause you to react – by crying.

It has also been suggested that you can place the onion to be sliced up into the freezer for about 15 minutes immediately prior to cutting. Supposedly this will cause the internal moisture to begin to freeze and not get as messy while cutting.

Personally I like to lop off the ends, peel away the paper layers, rinse both onion and cutting board in cold water, then slice the onion however I need it quickly with a sharp blade. Once it’s cut, I don’t let it sit around – it goes immediately into the mix, pot, pan, or other receptacle for cooking.

Rinse Your Raw Onion

To take the edge off a sliced onion, allow it to soak in cold water and blot it dry before you scatter it on salads or layer it onto burgers and other sandwiches. This is also true for diced onion that you are preparing for onion dip, salsa, or guacamole. If left unrinsed, the onion may start to put off a sulfurous gas that can completely ruin the dish.

Remember this about onions: the amount of sulfur in the soil where they are grown, and thereby the amount an onion absorbs while growing, is in direct proportion to the amount of heat in a given onion.

Caramelizing Onions

An old restaurant trick to caramelizing onions is to drop a little sugar into a dry skillet and cook it until it is a deep golden brown. Add your onions with a little pinch of baking soda and cook over a medium heat. Be sure to have some water handy, too. Add a tablespoon as needed to keep your onions from burning.

If you are cooking a roast in a crock pot, scatter a layer of thinly sliced onions int he bottom of the pot before laying in the roast. They will cook up in the meat’s juices to give you an wonderful topping for slices of roast, or an excellent au jus for sandwiches the next day.


Try these out and see how they work for you. Drop us a line here at TheWanderingTexans and let us know your results!

— Ann Cathey