Why You Shouldn't Cut The Root Off When Chopping Onions

The onion is a very versatile vegetable. It comes in different colors and is edible both raw and cooked, while also delivering a lot of flavor to some of our favorite dishes. It can be cut and cooked many different ways, creating a different experience for the eater each time. There's so many unique ways to cook an onion that it's hard to know what onions you should really be cooking with and how onion types differ from each other.

It's safe to say we have all experienced a little bit of a love-hate relationship with the onion, from pieces falling out of place to the onion making us cry uncontrollably. It's no wonder why some chefs struggle to find the best ways to deal with the vegetable when it comes to adding the ingredient to dishes. Let's be real, everyone makes mistakes when cutting an onion. However, we just found a great onion cutting tip for everyone to make that process a little easier.

It holds the vapor that makes you cry

Onions release a chemical when the skin and layers are crushed. One way to mitigate these tear-inducing chemicals: Keep the root on the onion while you cut. This will help keep the chemicals more intact than if you cut the root off first. The reason onions make you cry is because of a defense mechanism the vegetables have to deter predators. When the onion is crushed, it releases propanethial-S-oxide. This sulfuric compound is mostly contained in the root, which is why you should avoid hurting the root as much as possible (via Healthline).

Gordon Ramsey talks about this phenomenon in his tutorial for dicing an onion. He starts off by saying, "This is the root, that is absolutely crucial. Leave that on there. If you cut that off the onion will start to bleed and you will start crying rapidly." That is the one thing we are trying to avoid. Take Ramsey's advice, leave the root on there and it will be easier to chop that onion all at once without the tears.

It's also easier to hold and cut

There's a good possibility that you've been cutting onions all wrong, but leaving the root of the onion in place is a step in the right direction. Besides cutting down on the release of chemicals that prompt tears, it can also help you be precise and safe with your cutting. When you leave the root on the onion, the layers stay connected and make it easier to control the onion. Gordon Ramsey advises keeping three fingers on top of the onion — one finger in front of the other two — and allowing the knuckle of your front finger guide the knife (per YouTube). 

Cut across the onion with the knife tip facing the root, but not past the root, before then cutting twice parallel to the root. Then, "gripping the onion like a tennis ball," as Ramsey says, you can dice the rest of the onion. Not only does this help produce better pieces, it also helps keep the knife stable so it doesn't slide off the layers and onto your fingers. In case you need more tips and tricks on how to cut an onion, try out these steps to get started and we're confident you'll soon be showing others how to saute onions next!