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Welcome to Sarah's Culinary Q & A: How to slice an onion without crying

Onions are cut into strips, rings and diced in three sizes. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service1 / 4
The onion is cross cut for dicing. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service2 / 4
For onion strips, cut the root off cleanly and slice through. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service3 / 4
A shallow slice across the onion makes it easier to peel Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service4 / 4

I often receive emails from our readers who will ask questions about a recipe or culinary technique or share a memory about a dish we recently featured. Many of you have the same questions, and I am excited to introduce our new Q & A series, which will be featured every four to six weeks in this column.

One of the most frequent questions Tony and I hear, both via email and in person, is "How do you peel and cut an onion without crying?" Onions are an essential flavor builder in many dishes, but cutting them can be a tearful chore when the proper technique isn't employed. Before I mastered it, I'd tried everything from special goggles and slicing gadgets, to placing a piece of bread under my tongue as I chopped, yet the tears still flowed.

Years ago, as I was watching Tony prepare dinner in our kitchen, I marveled at how quickly and efficiently he diced an onion. But even more amazing was that he did it completely tear-free. Although I considered this to be one his super-powers, as a trained chef he was cavalier about this basic culinary skill.

But, for us home cooks, acquiring a little professional know-how can make all the difference in how we approach — and enjoy — cooking.

Using the proper tools is an essential factor to having success in the kitchen, and for onion slicing, a large, sharp chef's knife is your best friend. Once you master the technique, you will be able to slice and dice an onion with ease and banish the crying for good.

Even just peeling an onion can be a tedious and tear-filled task, but not with Tony's technique. He makes one slice from end to end about a quarter-inch deep into the onion, and then removes the first layer of the onion along with the peel in just a few quick pulls.

Dicing an onion quickly and easily involves a series of three simple cuts — vertical rows from end to end, horizontal rows from end to end, and another set of vertical rows across. The width of your rows determines the size of the dice — the thinner the rows, the smaller the dice.

When dicing an onion, it's important to slice just enough off the root end to remove the roots, while still leaving the end intact. You could also simply leave the entire root end intact and discard it when you're done slicing, which is my preferred method.

When I married Tony almost 25 years ago, I didn't even know how to boil water. Since then, in my quest to improve my culinary prowess, I've asked him just about every question possible, no matter how stupid. Granted, I've received more than my share of eyerolls, but the knowledge I've acquired, and the comfort I feel in the kitchen, makes it all worth it.

I would love to know what questions you may have and will do my best to respond as quickly as possible, eyeroll (and tear) free. Please send your questions to me at snasello@gmail.com. Happy cooking!

How to dice an onion

1. Cut the top off the onion.

2. Cut the root end off, being careful to leave just enough to keep the onion intact.

3. Slice from the onion from top to bottom, cutting only ¼-inch deep into the onion.

4. For fastest results, remove the peel along with the first layer of the onion.

5. Cut the onion in half, from end to end.

6. Lay one half flat on a cutting board.

7. Working from left to right, slice down vertically in rows across the onion, leaving about a half-inch at the root end to keep the onion intact. The width of the rows will determine the size of the dice. The smaller you make your rows, the smaller the dice will be.

8. Lay the blade flat at the end opposite the root end. Start at the bottom of the onion and cut rows horizontally through the onion working from the bottom on up, stopping about a half-inch away from the root end. For even dices, space your rows the same width apart as the vertical rows in step 7.

9. Position your knife at the end opposite the roots, and slice in rows straight down, from top to bottom, leaving the root end intact.

10. Discard the root end.

How to slice an onion

1. Cut the top off the onion.

2. Cut the entire root end off.

3. Slice the onion from top to bottom, cutting only ¼-inch deep into the onion.

4. For fastest results, remove the first layer of the onion along with the peel.

5. Cut the onion in half from end to end.

6. Lay one half flat on a cutting board, with one end facing you.

7. Cut down and slice the onion in vertical rows from end to end, working from left to right. The width of your rows will determine the size of each slice.

How to slice onion rings

1. Cut the top off the onion.

2. Cut the root end off completely.

3. Slice the onion from top to bottom, cutting only ¼-inch deep into the onion.

4. For fastest results, remove the first layer of the onion along with the peel.

5. Working from one end to another, cut vertical rows straight down through the onion. The width of your rows will determine the size of each ring. Cut thin slices for salads, and thick slices for onion rings. 

Recipe Time Capsule

This week in...

• 2017: Mediterranean Steak Salad

• 2016: Lemon Poppy Seed Breakfast Bread

• 2015: Muffuletta Sandwich and Chunky Olive Salad

• 2014: GooGoo's Baked Ham

• 2013: Baja Fish Tacos and Basic Aioli

Recipes may be found with article at inforum.com or on Sarah's blog at thelostitalian.areavoices.com.

"Home With the Lost Italian" is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello's in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 13-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello//thelostitalian.areavoices.com.