Knife Skillz: Finely Dicing an Onion

July 26th, 2008 by katie

Finely dicing an onion

I am not sure what it is about onions that turns people off. Frankly, I love onions. Yet, I have found many people-especially husbands-who can’t stand onions in their food. At the knife skills class we took recently it was the general consensus among the men that they did not want chopped onions in their food. The agreed upon solution amongst the women? Continue adding onions, but at a smaller dice so they couldn’t be easily picked out. A bit passive aggressive, no?

Cutting an onion has long been a knife skills nightmare. First you spend forever peeling it, then it falls all apart while you are trying to chop it, and you can’t even see what you’re doing through the burning, stinging tears so the end result is a haphazard mish-mash of onion pieces and probably a little blood. But, like most things, there’s a trick to dicing an onion. Once you see it, you’ll be a master of the finely diced onion.

Save yourself the trouble of peeling the onion from the onset. First, cut off the top of the onion-not the root side, very important! Removing the end of the onion first allows the papery peel to come off much easier. It also allows you to see where to separate the paper and first layer of onion and to get a better grip on it.

Onion planks

Next, slice your onion in half from the top through the root to give you a flat surface to rest the onion on. At no point do we cut the root end off the onion. The root is what is going to hold all of your onion layers together while you are chopping. Begin making vertical slices all the way through the onion but not extending past the root (see picture above). The thickness of these slices will determine how fine of a dice your onion comes out to, so as you practice try making the slices thinner and thinner.

Onion dice

Once your vertical slices are in place begin slicing your onion across it’s width, as though you wanted onion rings. Thanks to your root, you won’t have to try to grip all of the pieces together while you are slicing. Watch as your vertical slices make your onions “rings” fall into a perfect dice! Remember the key to dicing is planks, then squares. Onions are great in that the planks are built in. Of course, if you really have to you could go back over your onion pieces and mince them even finer. Beyond that, you’ll just have to breakout the grater or food processor.

Stay tuned for tips on how to keep the tears at bay!

Follow along the Knife Skillz Series.

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3 Responses

  1. Paul

    Really appreciate the dicing tips! Sounds helpful.

    As a man cooking for a woman who doesn’t like onions (I love them! and it’s hard cooking without them), though, I’m a little horrified that the solution of the women in your class was to chop the onions up finely so the men couldn’t pick them out. Not only does it seem pretty thoughtless, but it also strikes me as a way to have someone not like your cooking. If anything, if I had to use onions in something, my inclination would be to chop them very large so that they’re easy to pick out — isn’t it better for them to be able to remove the part of the food they don’t like? Also, I’m completely in favor of preparing up to the point where onions are added and then splitting into two pots/pans/whatever, adding the onion to one and not the other. But if you’re not willing to go to the trouble, making them easy to work around seems like basic courtesy. Saying “I’m going to make this food you don’t like as hard as possible to avoid” seems downright mean!

    Anyway, thanks for the good dicing tips, and sorry to have gone on a bit — it’s just that as someone who deals with this problem, I couldn’t believe that was the consensus!

    Hi Paul, thanks for stopping by! I think the reasoning was this: the onion flavor wasn’t the problem, it was the texture of the cooked onion pieces they didn’t care for. Therefore, they wanted the flavor of the dish to remain the same they just preferred the onion to be so finely diced as to not notice it. I should have been more clear! -Katie

  2. Andy

    Great illustration. I love onions now, although I used to not like them much (actually, I used to be a really picky eater in general). I think it was last summer in Greece when I started to really like them. I’d eat some Greek salad twice a day, and it had a lot of raw, red onion, so you just had to start liking it.

    Nice pictures too. The color really pops out. Did you have to edit those at all or is that just what came out from the camera. I always want better pictures but just haven’t had the time to figure out photography or photoshop yet.

    It is sort of what came out of the camera. I usually do an Auto Fix (Auto Color, Auto Balance, and Auto Levels) then I use the slide bar on the levels screen until I like the brightness of the colors. Sorry I can’t be more technical, I am not much of a photographer. -Katie

  3. melissa

    Katie, you sound like me. I just use Picasa, free from Google, and that’s as good as my editing gets.

    Love this knife series. I clicked on the garlic and tomato links too. Nice!

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About chaos

cha·os -noun 1. a condition or place of great disorder or confusion. My chaotic kitchen is the result of three kids, two adults, dog, cat, and fish, a food obsession, a wine drinking hobby, and too few hours in the day. Between trying to feed a family of five healthy, happy meals, watching my weight, saving my pennies, and staying partially sane I have picked up a few tricks along the way. So here they are: the very best tips, tricks, and recipes from my chaotic kitchen-to yours!

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