Dicing an onion can be tricky (not to mention hazardous, if you don't pay attention). But mastering the technique can dramatically improve your cooking and will speed up tiresome prep work. If you're sautéing an onion, following this technique will ensure your pieces cook evenly and make for a final dish that's a hell of a lot tastier. And if you're leaving it raw, your salad or salsa will not only look better, but the onion's pungent flavor will be neatly distributed. We spoke with Chef Barbara Rich, Instructor at the Natural Gourmet Institute, a health-focused culinary school in New York City to guide us through the process. Buy a three-pound bag of onions (or more; practice makes... better) and watch the video and read her instructions below to get started.
Preparing the onion:
- Using a sharp knife, slice off the stem and the outer portion of the root.
- Place the onion on a cutting board stem end down (the surface should now be flat).
- Cut onion in half through the root. Half of the root should be on each half of the onion.
- Peel off skin and discard.
Dicing the onion:
- Place the onion cut-side down on the closest edge of the cutting board. The root end should be away from your knife hand.
- Holding the knife parallel to the cutting board, cut into the onion with a sliding stroke. You should be holding the onion with a flat palm, but do not press down too hard. Cut toward the root, stopping about a finger-width from the root. It is important that you do not cut all the way through. If you do, the onion will not hold together, making it very difficult to finish the next two cuts.
- Make three to four cuts perpendicular from the root down to the cutting board, from the bottom of the onion to the top.
- Give the onion a quarter-turn toward you. Cut across the onion, using the lines on it as a guide. You may have to hold the onion together as the edges can splay as you cut.
- Turn the onion back to its original position. Cut the onion against the lines of the onion. Hold your non-knife hand as if you were making the “hang ten” sign. This will help you hold the onion together. Note: You will have a bit of onion near the root remaining after dicing, this can be used in stock or roughly chopped for other uses.