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Here's how to cut onions without crying

Do onions make you emotional? Yeah, us too.

chopping onions Credit: Getty Images / nicolesy

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Editor's Note: October 30, 2020

The CPSC has issued a recall for this product for laceration hazards, and recommends that owners contact Mueller for a free replacement of a new model.

I've spent my career as a chef perfecting my knife skills. I feel good about the quality of my cuts, but even I can't help but shed an onion tear from time to time. I've tried about every trick in the book to prevent myself from crying—freezing the onions, using super sharp knives, leaving the root end intact, rubbing Vaseline under my nostrils... I even tried wearing ski goggles to protect my eyes once. (It worked, but I looked ridiculous.)

Something I hadn't tried until recently: An onion chopper. Choppers like the top-rated Müeller Onion Chopper Pro Vegetable Chopper ($21.87 on Amazon) claim to prevent tears, but I wasn't so sure it would work. Furthermore, after years of honing my dicing abilities, I was skeptical about whether an onion chopper could make nice cuts. Still, I was determined to find out if the Müeller onion chopper could end my onion tears forever, so I decided to give it a go.

The gadget

Credit: D. Mattison

Using the onion chopper - it works as advertised, the onions are beautifully chopped and I didn’t shed a tear.

There are a ton of different onion choppers out there. Some are big and bulky, and others seem too small to be useful. We went with the Amazon bestseller, which is the Müeller Onion Chopper Pro Vegetable Chopper. With over 2,800 reviews, we certainly weren’t the first ones to try out this gadget.

The design is simple enough. It comes with two dicer blade plate sizes (a large 13.6mm dicer and a smaller 6.8mm dicer). Once the blades are locked into place, place the onion on the plate. Using your hands, push the hinged door shut to move the onion through the blades. Voila: diced onion! Since the chopped onion is contained inside the plastic case, the idea is that no onion vapors can escape to make you tear up.

The alternative

Credit: D. Mattison

Using the knife – clean and simple. The classic way to cut an onion.

The classic way to chop an onion involves a knife and cutting board. Place the onion on a cutting board and, using a sharp knife, remove a 1/2 inch from the top of the stem end. Trim the strings off the root end, but leave the hard core intact (this is one of those tricks to keep you from crying). Then, cut the onion in half lengthwise, from stem to root.

Peel back the skin and discard it. Place each half cut-side down and make lengthwise cuts (from stem to root) around the onion. Keep the knife's tip about 1/4 inch away from the root and angle the knife so it is always pointed towards the onion's center. Continue making cuts until you have made your way around the onion.

Once the onion is covered in angled lengthwise cuts, you can cut cross-wise straight across the onions. Hold the onion firmly with your fingers, using your knuckles as a guide for your knife. Continue cutting until you reach the end of the lengthwise cuts and discard that 1/4 inch root end. If your knife is sharp and you’ve avoided piercing the root, you should (hopefully) be able to avoid onion tears!

The results

Credit: D. Mattison

The results – all in all, the yield was the same, and both methods created beautifully diced onions.

All things considered, the onion chopper actually held its own against the knife. I did still have to dirty up a cutting board to chop off the ends of the onion (to make it fit, and also to make sure none of those root strings ended up in my finished product), so it’s not a 100% knifeless gadget. But the diced cuts were indistinguishable from my hand-cut ones, and the container held all of the mess and onion vapors. I didn’t shed a tear, so it worked as advertised!

While using a sharp knife and avoiding slicing into the root’s core did prevent me from crying (this time), every onion is different. I’ve teared up plenty of times using this technique, so I know it’s not foolproof. And since I've spent plenty of time practicing my cutting technique, I dare say my hand chopped onions were perfect.

The one area where the knife pulled ahead was cleanup. It's easy to clean a knife with a simple swipe of the sponge. With the onion chopper, some bits and pieces clung to the sides of the chopper’s blades and I had to use a chopstick and the included brush to dislodge them. Once the grid was scrubbed with a sponge, some soapy bubbles stubbornly lingered on its surface. I ended up wasting a bunch of water to fully wash it out.

The winner

If you’re not comfortable handling a knife, or you’re looking for a quick and easy way to chop onions, this contest goes to the onion chopper. With one swing of the hinged door, the gadget produced onions that were as beautiful as the ones produced by my honed knife skills. And it can chop more than just onion—you could easily load it up with carrots, celery, bell peppers. You name it and it’ll chop it!

But if you're like me and you see every onion as an opportunity to perfect your knife skills, then skip the gadget and chop by hand. Tears or not, practice makes perfect!

Get the Onion Chopper Pro Vegetable Chopper by Müeller for $21.87 on Amazon

Prices are accurate at the time of publication, but may change over time.