Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How to cut an onion

I recently took a cooking class, and one of the things I learned was how to cut an onion. This was so helpful that I wanted to share it with you.

Start with a good, sharp knife. You don't have to spend a fortune; I bought a Kitchenaid Chef's Knife (it also came with a good paring knife) at TJ Maxx. It didn't cost me much, and I love it.

Disclaimer: Please be careful throughout this process. These knives are big, and you need to concentrate and go slowly to avoiding cutting yourself! Sharpening your knife from time to time makes things easier and keeps things safer because you don't have to "saw" as much. Always hold the onion in place as you are going.

Begin by cutting the end opposite the root off the onion. Leave the end with the root on.

It's always a good idea to have a trash bowl, A la Rachael Ray.

Next, stand the onion up with the end that was cut as your base. Slice the onion in half, starting by going through the root.

Now, peel the outer layers of the onion off so that the smooth, white layers are on the outside.

I also learned that it's best to hold the knife like this:

Rather than holding the handle near the end, grip the handle closer to the part that is attached to the blade. Place your thumb on the TOP of one side of the blade,  and your index finger on the TOP of the other. (Obviously, you want to make sure and keep your fingers away from the cutting part of the blade.)
This gives you more control over the movement. Be careful!

I apologize for the grainy pictures, but have you ever tried taking a picture with one hand while holding a sharp knife in the other ;)?

Now, place each onion half with the large cut side down, and hold the onion in place with your fingers by the root. Take the knife, and place it so that you can cut horizontal layers through the onion. Start cutting, using the end of the blade closest to the handle. As you move the knife towards the root, move the knife diagonally through the onion, so that by the time you get to the root, the end with the tip of the blade is what is cutting the onion. Does this make sense? It's a little hard to explain in writing. Go very SLOWLY, and, again, be CAREFUL!

If you do this correctly, then by the time you get near the root, the end of the blade will be what is cutting the onion (see picture below). Okay, this is important: STOP before you cut the root!

This will hold the onion in tact once you begin to dice it. Repeat, cutting 2-3 horizontal layers total on each onion half as instructed above. This will help to make smaller diced pieces. Notice what part of the blade is cutting by the time you get near the root.

Once you've sliced your horizontal layers, root still in place, take the onion and rotate it to where the cut end is facing you and the onion is still resting on the large, flat portion. Continue to hold the onion with your fingers at the root. Now, make parallel cuts from the cut end towards the root. Again, STOP before you cut through the root, so that the onion remains intact. Do this to both onion halves.

Now, rotate the onion 90 degrees as pictured below. Carefully hold the onion together by placing your thumb on the root end and your fingers on the opposite, (or vice versa, depending on which hand you use) so that you are holding the onion with your fingers and thumb like bookends. Carefully slice through the onion several times (these cuts will be perpendicular to the ones you made in the previous step),  starting at the cut end and working your way towards the root.

Do this to both onions halves, and you're done! Discard the root end. Isn't that easy? And don't you have nice, small diced up pieces?

Each time I repeat this process, it gets easier and my onions are diced a little better. I'm so glad I learned how to do this. If your pieces aren't as small as you like, simply take your knife and dice through the pieces until you are satisfied. The more you practice this method, the less you'll have to do this at the end.

By the way, I love this tool pictured below: It is great for scooping up diced veggies, and you can also use it for slicing and dicing! You can get it at most good cooking stores.

All done! I hope this helps. Phew! This post took a while to do.
I don't know how people who take pictures step-by-step every time have time left to do anything else!

One more tip I'm hoping to start:

To save time, it's a great idea to dice up onions and freeze them separately in small freezer bags. This saves a lot of time during cooking, and it's much cheaper than buying the pre-chopped bags of onions in the freezer section.

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