I Tried All The Internet's Best Hacks For Preventing Onion Tears—Here's the One That Actually Works

And it doesn't involve sticking your head in the freezer.

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A woman chopping onions with a kitchen knife on wooden cutting board
Photo: Basak Gurbuz Derman/Getty Images/Allrecipes

Onions and I have a complicated relationship—they're such a flavorful, affordable, and versatile addition to many meals, but they always leave me in tears. And I don't know about you, but I am not a glutton for punishment, so I set out to make onion tears a thing of the past.

Why Do Onions Make You Cry?

Onions are full of tear-jerking contents, including sulfur acid and enzymes. When you start cutting an onion, you're breaking cell after cell, releasing the sulfur into the air. This is why your eyes feel the burn pretty much immediately after the first cut. Onions evolved to develop this defense tactic to protect themselves from being eaten. But lucky for us, there are a few ways to get around bawling your eyes out just for a little onion.

There are a handful of new gadgets and hacks on the market that I tried in my quest for dry eyes so you don't have to. These included refrigerating the onion before cutting it, wearing ski goggles, putting bread on the roof of my mouth, chopping near an open flame, and sticking my head in the freezer to counteract the burn. While a few of the hacks delayed the onset of the tears, it didn't take long before I was still crying over the cutting board. One thing of note: I've heard from multiple people that the actual best defense against onion tears is wearing contacts. I even witnessed the magic of contacts while working in kitchens with contact wearers [editor's note: as one of the contact wearer's who worked with Breana in a test kitchen, I can 100% confirm this as fact]. I don't wear glasses or contacts, so I went on a mission to find another defense to tear-jerking onions.

The Only Hack That Prevents Onion Tear That Actually Works

Onion goggles! (Buy it: $25; Amazon) Put your pride away and get ready to make your family cry a different type of tears when they see you. These trusty onion goggles have foam between your face and the plastic frame and they're anti-fog. They have saved me from a river of tears when working anywhere from a test kitchen to prepping dinner for my family, and they are the most fool-proof method I have come across. I got a similarly less-teary result when I wore ski goggles, but ski goggles are pretty expensive to be bouncing around the junk drawer in my kitchen. Plus, they're even bulkier than onion goggles.

Sure, my onion goggles are one of the most ridiculous-looking items in my kitchen, but sometimes you just have to go function over fashion. Over my decades as a chef, I've tried it all and this is the only thing that works. I've always had extremely sensitive eyes—even if I'm in the kitchen with someone else chopping onions, that pervasive vapor finds its way into my poor eyes. If these goggles work for me, I'm pretty confident they'll be your favorite new kitchen gadget.

But don't just stop at onion goggles, if you want to go the extra mile on preventing tears, always use a very sharp knife. A dull knife can crush the cells of the onion, releasing the tear-jerking juices, while a sharp knife will cut right through it. "Chop faster" was a chef-recommended tactic that I would not recommend without a cut-resistant glove. But really, a sharp knife and better knife skills will make onion chopping far less painful.

A pair of black and green rimmed glasses lined with a layer of foam sits on a cutting board next to chopped onion

Buy it: $25 (was $28); Amazon

The Bottom Line

If you're a contact lens wearer, then consider yourself in luck, and be sure to wear your contacts when onion chopping time rolls around. But if you don't wear contacts it's time to invest in a pair of onion goggles (and maybe a knife sharpener) to quit the crying while cutting onions.

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