Pungent and tangy, onions are a popular addition to numerous dishes in both their raw and cooked form. There’s only one problem: they come with baggage. Not only are they famous for causing less-than-kissable breath, but they’re also better at making you cry than your ex.
At Stoggles, we’re here for your eyes, whether you’re on a construction site wielding a nail gun or in the kitchen slicing and dicing your favorite vegetative tearjerker. Together, we’ll explore why onions make you cry, how to prevent it, and why safety glasses should be on your top five list of favorite kitchen gadgets.
Why Do Onions Make You Cry?
To your knowledge, you’ve never hurt an onion, yet they are relentless in their ability to make you tear up. What gives? It’s in their cells. Similar to your ex, it’s literally in their DNA to make you cry. Unlike your ex, it’s not personal.
The culprit is a chemical irritant inside the onion called syn-Propanethial-S-oxide, which we’ll refer to as SPSO. This chemical stimulates the eyes’ lachrymal glands (tear glands), which cause you to produce tears.
For years, researchers believed the enzyme that caused all the waterworks was alliinase, but later studies ruled it out. Garlic, for instance, contains alliinase and doesn’t make your eyes water. Garlic wouldn’t do that to you.
The tears don’t start until the onion is cut, which causes damage to the cells of the onion and causes chemicals in the cells to synthesize into SPSO. The SPSO is then released into the air as a gas. When the gas comes in contact with your tear glands, they become irritated and begin to produce tears.
Bottom line: You’re not an emotional mess, you’re just sensitive to onion fumes, and some of us are more sensitive to these fumes than others.
Tips To Take the Tears Away
There are a million different ways that people suggest you handle onions to prevent tearing. Most of the time, we just try to cut the onion as quickly as possible and shove all the leftover parts in the trash.
If you’re looking for scientifically backed ways to reduce your emotional anguish when cutting these root veggies, we’ve got a few tips.
Placing your onions in your fridge for 30 minutes prior to cutting may help you avoid all the teary-eyed drama. Chilling onions delays the release of the compounds in the cells of onions that synthesize to form SPSO, which means if you’re quick, you could chop your onion before the chemical ever reaches your eyes.
In all likelihood, it probably won’t completely prevent it, but it will help reduce the off-gassing.
Chop From the Top
Although SPSO is found throughout the entire onion, the highest concentration of the chemicals that produce it are closest to the root or top of the onion, so avoiding that section can save you a few tears shed.
To avoid the top, cut the bottom away from the onion and chop until you reach about one inch away from the place where the onion would be connected to the root. While this will reduce the amount of SPSO in the air, it will also reduce the amount of chopped onion you have for your recipe.
Bag Up Your Garbage
If you are seriously sensitive to onion off-gassing, you may find it helpful to place your onion scraps in a plastic bag before tossing it in the garbage or sending it down the disposal.
An environmentally friendly option? Use the leftover onion in your compost!
Wear Safety Glasses
The obvious solution for chopping onions without tears is to place a barrier between the fumes of the onion and your eyeballs. The best way to do that may be to wear protective safety eyewear.
While it may seem a little over the top to wear safety glasses in the kitchen, we’re about to explain to you why it’s hands down an egg-cellent idea.
What About Onion Goggles?
If you’re really into kitchen gadgets or if your eyes are particularly sensitive to onion fumes, you may have stumbled upon onion goggles. These glasses are essentially clear, plastic lenses with padded foam backs that sit against your orbital socket, forming a light seal of protection from fumes.
The problem is that they aren’t necessarily a great solution. The foam is usually ill-fitting, and the glasses themselves don’t provide much protection at all. What’s more, the foam can absorb a splatter of onion juice, causing worse irritation to your eyes.
If you do opt for onion goggles, remember to never wear them for anything other than cutting onions. They likely do not have a safety rating that protects your eyes from impact, heat, or any other eye hazard.
A better solution? True safety glasses protect you from fumes, impact, and a whole host of other hazards.
Safety Glasses for the Kitchen
You wear oven mitts and aprons to keep safe in the kitchen, and if you’ve ever nicked your finger while using a knife, you may even wear a cut-resistant glove. Don’t wait for an eye injury to convince you that you need safety glasses in the kitchen.
Safety glasses can protect you from:
- Splashes and splatters of chemicals, hot liquids, or oils
- Scalds and burns
- Impact from tools, mixers, or other kitchen utensils
- Allergens (like onions) or foodborne illness if you got raw meat or juice in your eyes
In addition, wearing safety glasses is a bright way to promote kitchen hygiene by keeping your eyebrows and eyeglasses from entering your food. No one wants to touch a pepper and immediately touch their eye… seriously.
The Best Safety Glasses for Cutting Onions
Call us biased, but we wouldn’t trust our baby blues (and browns and greens) to any other safety glasses other than Stoggles, whether we’re cutting onions or cutting wood. Stoggles are designed to keep your eyes safe while also keeping you completely comfortable and impeccably stylish.
We’ve got more layers of safety than an onion has layers of tear-inducing onion fumes.
Here’s what makes our eyewear perfect for the kitchen and beyond:
Have you ever noticed how powerful your stand mixer really is? When you’ve got it on high speed for a creamy, homemade whipped topping, it’s the prime location for an accident to happen. If something were to drop into the mixer, it could be spun out with some serious force.
Keep your eyes safe with ANSI Z87.1-2020 certification. This impact test rating ensures your eyewear protects you from weighted objects at varying speeds, and every single pair of Stoggles comes standard with this level of safety.
Side and Top Shields
Forgo the foam and opt for the shields. Foam doesn’t create a solid seal around your eyes and can actually absorb liquids if there is a spill or splatter. Side and top shields provide added protection around your eye area to help keep fumes further away and protect vulnerable areas of your eyes.
Don’t get steamed when you peek over your pasta pot. Anti-fog-coated lenses prevent your eyewear from fogging, which can cause you to remove your glasses and wipe them down. That makes your eyes vulnerable to an injury and also takes time away from whatever it is you’re doing, like ensuring your pasta is cooked to the perfect al dente doneness.
Stoggles fight fog like no other. For nine months, we worked on the perfect dip solution to replace the old industry standard (a spray covering). Our dip solution ensures that it’s even and lasts longer. Yeah, we like to look good, but we know that without science, there is no style.
Until you’ve achieved a seriously high level of culinary expertise, you’ll probably be staring at a tablet or iPhone to read your recipes. Protect your eyes from blue light emitted from your favorite devices with blue light-blocking lenses.
Stoggles are crafted with blue light-blocking technology injected right into the lenses, so you never have to worry about coatings wearing off or harmful blue light reaching your retina. You’ll be safe and protected no matter how many times you have to re-read that gravy recipe.
Alright, we get it. You don’t necessarily have to have UV protection when you’re in the kitchen — or do you? If you use UV lamps in a commercial kitchen for cleaning and disinfecting, you absolutely need protective eyewear.
Another reason to opt for UV protection in your safety glasses? Outdoor kitchens. Increased popularity of cooking outdoors means you probably spend at least several months cooking or grilling patio-side. If you find it challenging to cook with sunglasses, UV protection without tinting is available in every single pair of Stoggles.
Our safety eyewear is crafted from durable, lightweight polycarbonate material, which is naturally UV-blocking.
Stop Crying, Get Stoggles
If you’re like us, you have zero plans of going on an onion-elimination diet. That’s okay.
With a great pair of Stoggles, you can keep onions on the menu, and keep your tears for bigger, more important matters, like holiday movies on Netflix. Stoggles help keep your eyes safe without sacrificing comfort or style. It’s the perfect way to cut through the onion drama.
Why does chopping an onion make you cry? | Library of Congress
Cooking with Onions without Crying | UNL Food
What is blue light? | BBC Science Focus Magazine