It’s one of those essential kitchen skills since onions are one of the most widely used ingredients in almost any cuisine around the world.
Onion comes in several sizes and form, the most common being the yellow onion and the red onion.
The yellow onion has a strong pungent flavor that gets sweeter as the longer you cook it. Even though its outer layer is yellow or brown, the inside is white. During the cooking process, it starts to caramelize, developing a brown color and sweet flavor.
The red onion tends to be used more often for raw dishes such as salads since its flavor is a bit milder and the color tends to wash off when getting cooked.
When a recipe calls for onions, be aware of the size you have at hand. Some onions tend to be really small, the size of a lime, while others turn out quite big, similar to an apple. Sometimes, you might actually need two small onions or even just half of a big onion. Trust your judgement.
First, let’s look at how an onion is build.
The onion is a round vegetable covered by one brown skin. You have to different ends to the onion, the root and the tip. You can recognize the root by the hairy ends coming out of it, while the tip usually has one small and slightly thicker tail.
Once you remove the skin, you find the onion arranging in several round layers. Each layer below becomes smaller. It’s these layers we’re interested in since they give us the strong and pungent onion flavor we’re looking for.
Now, when chopping the onion, you first want to correctly remove the skin, and then cut the onion finely into small bits.
Here’s how you do it.
First, you remove the tip of the onion to create a flat surface for cutting. Place the onion on this flat surface, root pointing upwards. Make sure you do not accidentally remove the root instead of the tip, since removing the root causes you to start crying. That’s the part most people dread about cutting onions.
As you have your onion sitting on its flat surface, cut it in half by slicing through the root. Continue with one half, set the other aside.
Start by removing the skin of the onion. You might find it easier to remove the skin together with the first layer of the onion. Some people do prefer to always remove the first layer of the onion as it tends to be less soft when cooking it later.
Now, with the skin removed, place it on the flat surface you created when halving the onion. The layers should be facing upwards towards you. Make sure the root is pointing to your left side (for right-handed people) or right side (for left-handed people).
We’re first making horizontal cuts. Start by holding the onion with a claw grip, your fingers looking in front of you, your thumb holding the bottom of the onion, the tip of your fingers tucked in behind your knuckles.
Use your knuckles to correctly guide your knife in a straight line. Having your fingertips tucked behind your knuckles makes sure you won’t be cutting your fingers, but always have a safe zone.
With the tip of your knife looking towards the side of the root, make small horizontal incisions working your way from the top to the bottom towards you. Make sure to not cut all the way through to the root, leaving the root intact.
Next, you’re placing your hand on top of the onion. With your knife now parallel to the cutting board, you’re making two more horizontal cuts through the middle while applying slight pressure from above your hand. Make sure your fingers are always above your knife when cutting.
Lastly, it’s time to chop the onion, making vertical cuts from the right towards the root (or from the left if you’re left-handed).
Hold the onion again with your claw grip, applying pressure from both sides with your thumb and pinky so everything is firmly together.
Using your knuckles as a guide, make vertical cuts to the onion. Continue moving your grip towards the root as you cut.
Once the end of the onion becomes too small to hold, place it on its flat side, and continue chopping. Simply get rid of the root in the end.
With a little bit of practice, you can soon become very proficient in chopping onions and enjoy this task.