Onions add such great depth of flavor to so many dishes. I use them constantly when I cook. I’ve noticed, though, that many people do not know how to chop onions. Chopping onions is an important cooking skill to know because it is used often in recipes. Even if you think you do not like onions, most of the time, it is a texture thing for people. When you learn how to chop an onion, you can really get rid of the texture issue and enjoy the flavor it brings to your recipes.
When I first got married and started cooking a lot, I only used dried minced onion in my recipes. It is a so-so substitute for fresh, and there are some occasions I still use it, but fresh onions are really so much better – and even healthier for us.
If the texture is your big onion issue, use this method to chop onions. After you get to the last step, you can even run your knife over the stack of chopped onion pieces a few more times to make them even smaller.
Also, even if the recipe says something like brown the meat first, then add onions, you do not have to go in that order. To minimize that textural issue of onions, saute/brown them first and then add the meat. Or you can even just cook them in a different skillet and then add them to your dish.
When you do this, you are making the onions softer and a bit milder even. There will be no crunch left in with them which is what folks don’t like generally.
Side note, I am the same way with celery and chop it finely also and cook first to dissipate that textural issue.
Be sure to use the right kind of knife as well. I watch people on videos and on TV that are cooking, and they use something like a steak knife for everything. This is not good as it just is not the right tool for the job. Compare it to trying to write in calligraphy by using finger paint to do it – it just doesn’t work well. A chef’s knife or a Santoku knife (a small one of these is much easier for someone new to working with knives is best, I think) is a much better option and can be used for many things in the kitchen.
This method of chopping onions will work with any of the more round onions – red, white, yellow, and even shallots. For onion varieties like chives, leeks, etc., this is not the method to use. If you aren’t sure which onion to use for different recipes, check out my post, Onions: How and When to Use Which Variety.
Step One – Cut onion in half
First, cut your onion in half lengthwise. This will leave you with both a stem end and root end on both pieces of the onion. Peel off the onion skin that is the thin paper-like outer layer. If need be, you can also peel off the layer underneath if your onion is not quite so perfect or fresh.
Step Two – Pullback skin/layers (as you can)
When you do this, it makes a handle of sorts for you to hold onto as you continue to chop the oven. It is not required, but it helps quite a bit if you aren’t used to doing this.
Step Three – Horizontal Slices
Once you have the onion peeled and skinned, you want to take your knife (make sure it is sharp) and cut horizontally into the oven from the cut side into the stem, but not all the way. The more slices you make this way, the thinner the onion pieces will be.
Step Four – Cut vertically
Now take your knife and cut vertical slices into the onion. Again, the more cuts you make, the smaller your final pieces of onion you will be.
Step Five – Slice Down
After the first two cuts, now put your knife in line with the cut edge of the onion and start slicing. The pieces will all be little square (square-ish) pieces. You may have a bit of waste at the very end of the onion by the root, but you can always use that to make stocks and such if you throw it in the freezer. If the final pieces still are a bit large for you or your needs, put all the pieces in a pile and run your knife thru them in all directions to chop more finely.
See, not so hard at all. The more you do this, the better you will get at it as well. I promise. Again, this gives you so much more flavor using fresh onions instead of dried onion in any form. If you follow this, even the most picky eaters in your family probably will not notice the presence of onion in the finished dish, but they will notice a better flavor.
How often do you use onions? How do you prepare them?