How To Cut Onions Without Buying A Chopper Device

If you want to know how to cut onions and aren’t easily fooled by late night TV commercials, I’m about to save you a tremendous amount of time and money.

I have a neighbor that owns every kitchen gadget and appliance available.  She must have the QVC shopping network on speed-dial.  These devices are advertised to save your time and lower your kitchen stress, but they do just the opposite.

I imagine a race between my neighbor and I.  We’ll both dice an onion, she with her chopper/dicer device, me with my chef’s knife that I bought 17 years ago for twenty dollars.  Ready?  Go!

She has to take out a knife anyway to cut the onion in half and peel the skin off.  A chopper/dicer doesn’t peel the onion for her, and it’s too big to fit into the appliance.  Then, she has to go to the kitchen cabinet to retrieve the gadget.  Then plug it in and try to attach the chopper bowl.  Well, we all know they never fit quite right, so with a bit of monkey-ing, it finally clicks into place.

Then comes the blade, and there’s only one way that it fits correctly onto the motor, so more monkey-ing until it snaps on.  Place the onion in the chopper, screw the lid on tight and press the button a few times to zap the onion.

She empties the inconsistently cut pieces of onion into a bowl or cutting board, and now must disassemble the device, rinse all the pieces, place it in the dishwasher, later to return to the kitchen cabinet.  There!  Just about 10 simple steps.

That’s not how to cut onions.  In my onion race fantasy, I’ve long since finished dicing my item into nice, consistent pieces.  My chef’s knife has no moving parts, it wipes clean in seconds, never breaks, takes little maintenance, and is easier to control and an electric appliance.

Since the root end of the onion holds the layers together, I consider the root end my friend.  I’ll try to leave that in tact.  First, I cut the onion from blossom end to root end to give myself a flat surface to work from.  This avoids rolling onions and bleeding fingers.

Leaving my root end friend in tact, I remove the blossom end and peel the onion.  Now, with 4 horizontal strokes and 4 vertical strokes, I’ve created a checkerboard fashion in the onion.  Cutting down and across the top of the onion half has the item simply fall apart in consistent pieces.

Since consistency of cut is consistency of cook, I will have a better final dish than my neighbor who basically pureed her onions.

The 5 Steps on How To Cut Onions:

1)  Cut from north pole to south pole (root end to blossom end)

2)  Peel away the skin

3)  Make horizontal cuts across the layers

4)  Make vertical cuts to make a checkerboard design

5)  Cut down across the previous two cuts to create diced onion.

You don’t need additional kitchen appliances to cut kitchen ingredients, they waste your time and money.  The device is meant for only one purpose.  Once you discover the correct method for using a chefs knife, you’ll be preparing beautiful meals from fresh, wholesome ingredients without having to give your credit card to the TV shopping network.

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About Chef Todd Mohr

Chef Todd Mohr is a Certified Culinary Educator who has empowered home cooks all over the world with the reliable, dependable, repeatable METHODS behind cooking that build confidence, generate creativity and enable anyone to cook with the ingredients THEY desire.


  • kathy
    11:22 AM - 10 March, 2012

    I used to dread having to "chop" that onion for every dish, using the inefficient mezzaluna method, and then having some of the smaller pieces burn during the saute. Not any more; I feel very efficient now, using Chef Todd's precise dice method. The knife does need to be sharp, and I found that concentrating on using the "heel to tip" for the horizontal slices will help tremendously. Keep your hand on top of the onion, and it'll be safe. Your finished dish will look much more professional, and people love to watch someone dice in this way! Thanks Chef Todd for all that you do for us!

    • cheftodd
      1:26 PM - 10 March, 2012

      Thanks for the vote of confidence, Kathy!

      The most over-used, ineffective, and misunderstood practice in the kitchen is that stupid mezzaluna technique. You're right, it just cuts items inconsistently, assuring they will not cook all the same.

      Consistency of cut is consistency of cook. It all starts there!

  • Debbie Holland
    8:07 PM - 9 March, 2012

    This is very helpful and I have seen you do it in many videos and it comes out the same every time (LOL). To please my picky eaters who (think they) don't like onions, I will use my very thin boning knife and a lot more very thin slices to make super small onions that dissappear in the cooking process visually.
    I love your teachings Chef Todd. God Bless and please keep the videos coming. They have been a tramendous help.

    Debbie Holland
    Member forever

    • cheftodd
      1:27 PM - 10 March, 2012

      Hi Debbie!
      And yet I have NEVER cut myself doing this. Actually, I've never cut myself when cutting food or vegetables. The times I have cut myself always seem to be wiping or cleaning the knife when I'm not paying attention and don't have a practiced technique.

      Thank you for your kind comments.

  • Patosan
    4:07 PM - 9 March, 2012

    I already dice my onion just like this also. BUT it has never been explained to me as well as you did! #1?...not sure, but good. Would put it right up there with "taste as you go" 😉

    • cheftodd
      1:29 PM - 10 March, 2012

      Hi Patosan!
      If we're looking for #1 cooking adages, I'd say "use a thermometer" would be the single most important piece of advice.
      Number two - "taste as you go"
      Number three - "consistency of cut is consistency of cook"

      And then there's always the fact that when you put two chefs in a room, you'll get five opinions.
      Thanks for checking in.

  • Ward
    3:17 PM - 9 March, 2012

    Other than washing dishes, this is one of the procedures you learn fairly quickly when working in a kitchen. It is invaluable knowledge not only for a speedier prep, but to ensure equal cooking of the cut pieces. And after mastering the art of food preparation, off to learn saute!

    It may take a little getting used to (cutting/ preparing the onion) because a lot of people are leery of slicing just under their fingers with a sharp knife, and SHARP is the qualifier... it needs to be sharp. The solution? Go slowly -- don't try and zip through the procedure like you may see on television. Once you get the hang of dicing in this manner, speed will come naturally.

    Dicing onion in this fashion will not only make you feel more like a chef, but you'll look more masterful as well. Now go dice something!

    • cheftodd
      1:30 PM - 10 March, 2012

      Good advice, Ward.
      People think they need to do this very quickly, they don't.
      Slow and deliberate at first, and as skill comes so will speed.

  • Gordon
    2:53 PM - 9 March, 2012

    You've really upset me. What am I supposed to use next time I need to cut a shoe? Or a can? I'll get QVC on speed dial. Maybe they have a shoe-cutting device or a can-cutting device I could buy. 🙂

    • cheftodd
      1:31 PM - 10 March, 2012

      LOL Gordon!
      The funny thing was that there WERE kitchen knife demos going on at that Home Show who were cutting shoes and cans. I think I ticked them off. Oh well.

  • Michael Hoel
    2:24 PM - 9 March, 2012

    Thanks Chef Todd,
    As always, love your teaching.
    Sharp, quality knives are a must. Recently I purchased a really nice chefs knife but I have to hide it to keep the rest of the family from mis-using it. Smiles!!

    • cheftodd
      1:32 PM - 10 March, 2012

      Yes, hide those nice knives from the rest of the family, otherwise it will become a junk-drawer item used to open envelopes!
      (ohhhh, I shutter to think)

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