While I was writing a recipe for vegetable broth, I realized that it might be helpful to include instructions on cutting an onion. Cutting onions seems to cause a lot of undue strife. It’s not just the tears, it’s the geometry. The concentric rings don’t translate obviously into an even dice. If you cut an onion properly, then you leave the root end in tact (which you use as a handle to hold the rest of the onion while cutting it). Then you have a little end of onion leftover which can be saved with the rest of your veggie trimmings for broth. So without further ado: my treatise on slicing and dicing onions.

Before you start:

It is most important to use a very sharp kitchen knife. The tear-inducing chemicals are the product of a reaction that occurs when chemicals from different parts of the cell come into contact with each other. So the more you crush your onion’s cells with a dull knife, the more you will be crying.

Cut an Onion
Cut an Onion

1. Halve and skin the onion.

If you are preparing a lot of onions, then it can be worthwhile to soak them in tepid water for a few minutes. This will make the brittle skin more flexible and easier to peel off. If I’m just cutting one or two onions, I don’t bother. Cut the unpeeled onion in half from root to stem. Trim away the top quarter-inch of the onion, and then pull the peel away from the rest of the onion. Trim away the very edge of the onion roots; you only want to get rid of the roots that are holding dirt. Discard skin and root trimmings.

cut an onion
Cut an onion

2. Make horizontal cuts.

With the palm of your left hand gently pressing down on the onion, make a series of three or four (depending on how big the onion is) evenly spaced horizontal cuts (the cuts should be about 1/4″-3/8″ apart). If you are right handed, that means the root end of the onion will be to the left and you will draw your knife from right to left, holding it parallel to the counter. Do not cut all the way through, though. Imagine a line about half an inch up from the root end and do not cut past that line. Keeping the root end in tact is the key to cutting onions efficiently.

Onion cut
Cut an onion

3. Make vertical cuts.

For these cuts, the stem end of the onion should be facing you. Make a series of (6-7) evenly spaced vertical cuts. Again, leave the root end in tact by starting all of your cuts a half inch away from the root end. Place the knife blade precisely where you want the cut to begin (see illustration) and press straight down.

cut an onion
Cut an onion

4. Dice.

Hold the onion with your left hand, curling the tips of your fingers in (this technique makes cutting safer — your knuckles keep the knife edge away from the tips of your fingers.) It is a grip that feels awkward at first, but will actually allow you to cut more quickly once you have mastered it. Starting at the stem end, slice your onion in 1/4″-3/8″ slices (this is the exciting part, when all of your diligent skillful cuts reveal a gorgeous dice!). When you get down to the end of your onion, you will be left just holding the last little bit attached to the root end. Toss these onion ends in a freezer bag with the rest of your veggie scraps for making broth.

*If you want slices of onion rather than diced onion, skip steps 2 & 3.

What an awesome edible bulb the humble onion is and what flavor it adds to a salad or cooked food such as roasts. 

Onions are easy to grow and while most commercially cultivated onions are grown from seed, for home vegetable gardens, they can be grown from small bulbs. How to cut an onion will be no different, regardless of whether you buy- or grow your own onions. 

Cut an onion
Cut an onion

Onions in their Many Forms 

cut an onion
Cut an onion

For first time gardeners, onions are known to be hardy and can survive in different growing conditions. They’re ancient plants and it is believed they were known in China and India thousands of years ago. Today, when you see onions in the grocery stores, they are already somewhat dried and you’ll notice that their skins are very thin and dry, but just as delicious as ever. How to cut an onion won’t be affected by the dry skin of the onion, but by its freshness. A new, crisp onion is easier to cut than one than has stood around and become tough and rubbery. 

A look on the shelves at the grocery store and you’ll see that onions are also available in processed form. How to cut an onion doesn’t really apply here as these onions have all been processed in one way or the other. You also have pickled onions available in glass jars as well as dehydrated onion products found on the herb and spice racks. Onion flavored salts are a popular condiment to throw in your shopping basket. 

The Way You Cut an Onion Counts 

Most people don’t relish the idea of even getting to know how to cut an onion as they’ve experienced the burning sensation and tears that come with chopping up an onion. Some of them can be actually quite pungent. As a matter of fact, onion bulbs all vary in size and pungency. There are techniques to cutting an onion if you want to get the best from them. They all release that chemical compound that irritates the eyes and causes the tears to flow, however knowing how to cut an onion the right way can make a big difference.

How to Cut an Onion Without Crying  

For anyone who can’t bear to cut an onion because of the havoc they cause to your eyes, onion cutting experts will tell you its all about learning how to cut an onion the right way. How to cut an onion will require you using a super sharp knife. There’s a reason for this. A sharp knife, as opposed to a blunt knife, will cause less damage to the onion’s cell walls and this ensures less irritants are released. 

If you’ve cut your onion in half, for instance, place the cut sides down on your cutting board. The side that you’re not chopping should be left unpeeled. Once you’ve chopped the one half, put the chopped onion in a bowl and then chop the other side of the onion. 

Of course, there are lots of other ways that people use to keep their eyes from watering when cutting onions. 

Always cut the Stem-End First 

When you know how to cut an onion, you will have discovered which end of the onion to cut first. The one end is the root side and the other is the stem side. 

The root-end serves a useful purpose during the slicing process and is the part that has stringy roots showing. Slice the onion in half lengthwise, in other words, from the root side to the stem side. The layers of each half of the onion are actually held together at the root end. How to cut an onion is important to know as it keeps the onion from falling apart. 

Sometimes a dish will call for sliced onions and even then you have to know how to cut an onion into slices – lengthwise or crosswise. If you are cooking the onions, you might want to cut them from root to stem which is lengthwise. The reason this is a good idea is that the onions will hold their shape better during the cooking process. 

Crosswise-cut onions, on the other hand, will fall apart when cooked. This is actually an important tip on how to cut an onion for future cooking. If you’re looking to be adding raw onions to a salad and you like the idea of onion rings because they look good too, you will want to cut them crosswise. Then again you may want to dice an onion into a small salad that you’re making for just two people –

How to cut an onion into Dices

  • Peel your onion
  • Cut your onion in half
  • Lay the onion halves flat down on your cutting board
  • Use a sharp knife to cut across the onion in 1/2’’ slices
  • Go in the other direction now and cut across again in 1/2’’ slices.

If you’ve been wondering how to cut an onion into squares, dicing is actually the very same thing.

How to Dice an Onion Like a Chef

If you want to know how to cut an onion into dices like a chef, it will be worthwhile as you cut that much quicker. A chef in a guest house, restaurant or hotel will have to know how to cut an onion in different ways, but quickly too. A sharp chef’s knife is an absolute must with your efforts on how to cut an onion.  As always the chef knows too well which is the root end and stem end.

  • Cut the onion in half from the stem end to the root end
  • Cut off the stem end.
  • Remove the skin from the onion.
  • Work first with one onion half. Make between 2 – 4 horizontal cuts through the onion, leaving the root intact and not cutting all the way through.
  • Make 2 or 3 vertical cuts through the onion half so as to make a checker-board pattern of cuts. The root stays intact and this holds the onion together.
  • Take your cutting board and lay the onion half flat side down on the edge and slice the onion into equal slices.

How to cut an Onion for Burgers

Who doesn’t love the idea of hamburgers over the weekends or on the beach, and how to cut an onion for burgers is no big deal – it is easy and quick. Grilled hamburgers on an onion bed sound just perfect for a casual lunch or supper. The recipe given here is good also for vegetarians and vegans too. Boil a cup of aduki beans and 2 beets in separate pots. Cut the onion into julienne (thin strips) and sauté in a pan along with the 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and a pinch of salt, until golden brown. Once the aduki and beets are ready, place them in a bowl and crush with a hand mixer or processor. Add: salt, pepper, parsley, caramelized onions and two cups of rice flour (used to give firmness to the preparation). Mix with your hands until you get a dough that barely sticks in your hands. Take a handful of mixture at a time and shape it like a hamburger patty. You can then stir fry them in an iron pan.

Now’s the time to cut your onions across into thick slices and put them in a shallow baking pan. Then lay the burger patties on top. Put this under a grill and cook each side for about 8 minutes and baste during cooking. Once these are cool, you’ve got a mouth-watering grilled burger to take with you anywhere.

How to Cut an Onion for Salsa

While on the topic of hamburgers, you may want to know how to cut an onion for salsa. When you think of it, salsa is a much healthier alternative to tomato sauce or ketchup and lots of the ingredients are rich in vitamins.

There are hundreds of different kinds of salsa but essentially the Spanish salad is made of tomatoes, chilies, onions and avocado.  How to cut onions for salsa will be minced or diced and when added to the salsa can be cooked or eaten raw.

How to Mince Onion

  • Peel the onion and then cut in half.
  • Lay the halves flat down on the cutting board.
  • Cut across the onion making 1/4’’ cuts or smaller if you like.
  • Moving in the other direction, cut the same sizes

How to Chop an Onion

Chopping an onion can be done in a variety of ways. After peeling and cutting the onion in half, lay the flat sides down onto the cutting board. Cut in one direction into the size pieces you want

Moving in the other direction, cut again in the size slices you want.

How to Cut an Onion to Sauté

Who doesn’t love the idea of sautéing onions? If you want to know how to cut an onion to sauté, once you know how, you’ll be preparing onions this way and eating them as is before you even add them to your dish.

Sautéing onions is frying chopped up onions with butter or olive oil until they’re nice and tender. What is nice about a sauté onion is that you can use any onions and any cut. You can add this sauté to burgers, eggs, potato salad – you name it.

How to Cut an Onion for Different Dishes

The very thought of a delicious Fajita is enough to get your mouth watering, but how to cut an onion for this Mexican dish? 

How to cut an onion for fajita is simple enough and will require you slicing the onions. The idea is to slice in a way that gives you even slices. You want to know how to cut an onion evenly so that some of the slices don’t cook faster than others. Peel your onion and cut in half from stem to root. Lay the flat side down on the cutting board and trim off the stem- and root end of the onion. Turn the onion now so that one of the ends is facing you to make the cut from stem end to root end.

How to cut an onion for stew may require cutting the onion in wedges, especially if you’re making a traditional Irish stew. You’ll want lots of onions so without any waste of time, simply cut your onion in half lengthways from bulb end to tip, removing all the outer skin. Place the onion cut side down on a chopping board and cut off the bulb. Making use of a good, sharp knife, cut the onion  lengthwise into even wedge slices.

How to cut an onion for stew is also simple and requires you cutting the onions in a way you prefer. This can be sliced, diced or minced- there are no rules on how to cut an onion when it comes to enjoying food. It does however seem that most people like to have their stew with a sliced onion. How to cut an onion in slices is easy.

Cut away the top ends of the onions and throw them out. Slice the onion in half from top to bottom, giving you two halves. Remove the outer layer of the skin. Place the flat side of the onion down on your cutting board and slice down, staring on the onion’s end.

Move your knife with each cut according to the thickness you want with the slices. The slices which are made up of layers will peel apart into individual slices. Of course, most people want an onion ring and then you won’t be cutting the onion in half.

Onions hold Many Secrets to Great Cooking

How to cut an onion isn’t difficult, whether it is about how to cut a red onion or how to cut a white one, and knowing the different ways offers excellent opportunities for exercising your skills in the art of cooking.

Nobody is going to become a skilled chef overnight, but it is beneficial for all to learn something about onions because we all know that onions hold many of the secrets of great cooking.

If you want to add super flavor to your food, you’re going to need to know how to cut an onion. There are so many ways on how to cut an onion and you want to know when to dice them, slice them, chop them or mince them. 

Every recipe you use with onions in them will require you cutting them a different way.

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