A Food Scientist Breaks Down the Reason Why We’re All Cutting Onions Wrong

Yes, there is a way to slice them that will make you cry less

A white onion cut pole-to-pole. Slicing an onion this way makes you cry less compared to orbital sliving.
You've been cutting onions all wrong.
Eddy Buttarelli/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty

In a video posted on YouTube, cooking show host Ethan Chlebowski peeled back yet another layer about the onion. Specifically, how to slice one the right way.

Onions can either be sliced pole-to-pole (from root to stem) or cut orbitally (through the middle). Since onion cells are longer pole-to-pole, cutting in that direction and going with the grain damages fewer cells. If you damage fewer cells, less of the stinging gas that typically irritates the eyes is released. Slicing with your knife against the grain causes a greater disruption and releases more oniony tear gas. Also, in addition to having better texture, pole-to-pole onion slices are less pungent in taste and odor than those cut orbitally.

“Orbital slices rupture more onion cells and yield a very onion-y aroma … an uneven wormy texture and they’ll probably make you cry more,” Chlebowski says in the video. “On the other hand, pole-to-pole sliced onions will rupture less cells leading to a less onion-y aroma, more uniform structure and they’ll make you cry less while cutting them. One isn’t inherently good or bad but I use pole-to-pole slices for about 95% of my onion applications.”

So, no matter how you slice it, those are the facts.

Here’s Chlebowski’s video:


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