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Elyse Kopecky Demonstrates the Fastest Way to Cut an Onion

As part of her series on knife skills, Elyse is getting into the details of onion prep.

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Having the skill the properly (and quickly) break down a whole onion can save you boatloads of time in the kitchen, as onions are used in tons of recipes from soups and stews to frittatas and pasta dishes. Once you learn it, there’s no going back. Watch Elyse Kopecky demonstrate, below.

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[Part of the Mastering Meal Prep with Elyse Kopecky series]

Read the transcript:


In this episode, we are going to teach you some knife skills. I think developing your knife skills is the number one way to save time in the kitchen. Once you get more comfortable, chopping up a ton of produce and using different techniques to cut your fruits and veggies, you’re going to be more willing to come home with a bigger bag of vegetables from the farmer’s market.

So, first I’m going to teach you some tricks of proper technique to cut an onion. So it’s really important to use a really good quality chef’s knife and have a sharp blade. First, you want to keep your onion intact. So you never want to cut trim off the root end of the onion. That’s going to keep the onion held together the whole time while you’re cutting it. So you never want to cut through that. So the other end, the like dry skin end, and you’re going to trim that off to start. Anytime you’re cutting with a knife, you want to keep your fingertips kind of tucked away from the blade. We’re just going to cut that little end off. And that gives a really nice flat surface for your onion to sit on the cutting board, just like that. And now I’m going to cut my onion in half, right through the middle.

Once you cut your onion in half, it’s really easy to peel. You can try to take off just the dry peel part, but sometimes if that’s really sticky, I’ll take off the first layer of skin, which makes it a lot easier to peel. And now this half of onion is ready to dice or chop into small pieces. And as you can see, I’ve kept the little root end intact so that it stays together when I’m cutting it. So if you want to get fancy and have smaller cuts of dice, you can cut a couple layers through the middle of it. And your end result of your onion will be smaller pieces of dice. So I’m just going to put one or two slits through the bottom. This is probably the trickiest part, and you can definitely skip this if you’re not going for really finely chopped onion, but you want to be careful not to go all the way through just to the root end like that.

Again, it helps to have a really sharp knife. Otherwise that technique is a bit tricky. So you can definitely skip that, but that just gives you these beautiful even size pieces at the end. And then I’ll have a smaller dice on the final result. So you can see, I cut those three slits in, but the onion is still intact.

Then I’m going to come across again. Anytime you’re cutting, you want to keep your fingers tucked back. And I’m going to make slits going opposite way, trying to keep the onion, trying to keep from cutting all the way through so you can get close to that root, but cut just like that. Then you’re going to rotate your onion just a little bit, fingers tucked away. And this is the final cut is just chopping it, going back towards the root and you have these perfect pieces.

When it starts to get towards the root end, you can easily slip and get a finger. Not speaking from experience. I’ve never cut myself yet, but it could happen. So I always rotate my onion down so it’s a bigger flatter surface to get that last little bit. And then if it’s flatter, it’s not going to slip and you can really get down to that root. And that’s the part you can just throw out. So now we have these perfect little squares of onion and these are great for onion as a base, a starting point for so many recipes for soups and sauces, adding a little sautéed onion and olive oil to, if you’re sautéing veggies, things like that.