We've all been there: you're staring at a fantastic-looking salad or sandwich full of your favorite ingredients. You take a bite, and you taste only one thing—raw onion. A glass of water, a toothbrush, and an hour later, and your breath still tastes like only one thing—raw onion.
Raw onions are extremely healthy, but even the biggest onion lovers are familiar with the feeling of an over-assertive onion and the raw sharpness that it carries with it. And while roasting, sweating, and caramelizing onions eliminates the sting, it also eliminates some of the unique flavor and glorious crunch of the raw onion.
Thankfully, there are a few tricks that restaurants employ to lessen the negative qualities of raw onions, while keeping the ingredient intact (picking the right onion can also help).
The abrasive quality in onions comes from the sulfur compounds, which are neutralized when onions are heated. But water can have a similar effect as it dissipates many of the compounds, and thus reduces their pungency. Just leave the onions in the water for ten or so minutes, and you'll have remarkably less intense onions. You can also soak them in vinegar or citrus juice to add a new flavor to the onions.
This trick is a double hack, though: adding ice to the water gives the onions crispiness, which can breathe new life into older onions, or simply turn fresh onions into the perfect crunchy condiment.
For those that don't want the crispiness of water-soaked onions, salting them can eliminate some of the sting while also giving them a softer texture. Simply coat cut onions in a generous pinch of salt, and let them sit for 15 minutes; this will draw out much of the moisture, and some of the compounds that result in the pungency. Afterward, You can wipe/shake off the excess salt if you desire.
This is also my tip for dynamic salad dressings; salt some chopped shallots, as the moisture will infuse the dressing with a mild onion flavor.
If you don't want to wait the 10-15 minutes for the other tricks, this is the quickest route: put the chopped onions in a bowl with some water or vinegar, add some salt, and throw them in the microwave for ten seconds. Voilà!
For a compromise between raw and cooked, The Kitchn advises cooking for a minute or two on high heat, which will eliminate the intensity while retaining the raw texture.
And if you simply don't like onions, don't worry: there are plenty of alternatives.
All alliums are not created equal, which is why you need this ultimate onion cheat sheet. Isn't it time you knew how to get through the task of cutting onions without crying? And learning how to chop, dice, and mince onions like a pro will save you so much time in the kitchen.