The Way You Cut Your Onion Actually Matters — Here’s Why

published Mar 31, 2023
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Woman in blue apron about to chop up a yellow onion
Credit: Kelli Foster

No matter how you slice it, there’s a tip that Michael Chao shared with his 58,000-plus followers on Instagram that has immediately become one of our favorites — and it involves cutting onions

According to the food photographer and stylist known for his educational tips and tricks centering around food prep, how you want your onion to cook (or its desired consistency, should we say) can be successfully attained by how you cut said onion. Whether you want crunchy slices that maintain their shape and texture, or the kind that melt into your dish for less bite and more flavor, it all depends on the direction you cut the bulb. 

Chao’s explanation is simple. Once you slice your onion in half, you will see that onions have layers that run north to south (or root — the end with the little tuft of sprouts — to top). Because onions are 90 percent water, as you cut them, you’re allowing water to escape by exposing the fibers with each slice.

Cutting the onion with the grain, from north to south, exposes fewer fibers. This translates to them not releasing a lot of water, leaving you with cooked onions that are crunchier and have more texture. This technique is great for pickled onions and stir-fries. When you cut across the grain, however, you’re exposing more fibers and allowing more water to escape, so the onion slices will melt a lot faster and soften when you cook, making this the perfect technique for when you need to caramelize onions.

As one follower commented on the post, “I never thought I’d find cutting onions interesting but here you are proving me wrong.” We’re also intrigued and can’t wait to put this notion to the test.