Vegetable Butchery 101: Chopping Onions

What we’re cooking this week.

Vegetable Butchering 101: Chopping Onions (Jim Dixon)

Jim Dixon wrote about food for WW for more than 20 years, but these days most of his time is spent at his olive oil-focused specialty food business Wellspent Market. Jim’s always loved to eat, and he encourages his customers to cook by sending them recipes every week through his newsletter. We’re happy to have him back creating some special dishes just for WW readers.

I can’t imagine cooking without onions. Almost everything I make starts with chopping an onion, and over many years and hundreds of onions. I’ve developed an opinion on the best way to do it. But first, a couple of basics that apply to all vegetable butchery:

Use a sharp knife. If you don’t know how to sharpen your own, find a class or have somebody else sharpen them. Kitchen stores and knife shops can help, and there are lots of simple sharpeners that fit in a kitchen drawer. If you have a set that came with a sharpening steel, you can use it to fine-tune the edge, but it won’t actually make it sharper. Using dull knives is not only dangerous, it takes the pleasure out of an essential part of cooking.

Since most vegetables are roundish, the first step in chopping any vegetable is making at least part of it flat. You need that flat part to keep it from moving around while your very sharp knife is so close to your fingers.

For onions, cut a thin slice from both the root and stem ends, then cut them in half from top to bottom.

Peel off the dry, brown layers and place the cut, now flat, side down on your chopping board. Cut the half onion into slices anywhere from ¼ to ½ inch thick; despite what most recipes say about even or very thin slices, if you’ll be cooking the onion, it doesn’t really matter all that much.

Hold the sliced onion together, turn it 90 degrees, and slice it again. You’ve just chopped an onion.

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