5 Tips for Cooking with Garlic and Onion

Nearly every savory Italian recipe starts with the dynamism of garlic and onion. Whether you are slicing onions thin to caramelize them for a pizza or peeling a whole garlic clove to add a touch of flavor to crunchy toasted crostini, this powerhouse produce combo enlivens cuisine from all regions of Italy. 

Whether you are an avid cook or a weekend kitchen warrior, you know that they are not the easiest things to work with. Here are five tips for making sure your cooking with garlic and onion is successful and tear free.
1Does cooking with onion and garlic leave your hands or cutting board a little odiferous for days? By rubbing your hands and work surface with a fresh lemon cut in half, you will naturally disinfect whatever the vegetables have touched and eliminate the smell. For a bonus, cut the used lemon into small pieces and pulse in your garbage disposal for a burst of citrusy-fresh blades.

2What causes the dreaded tearing up we experience while cutting vegetables in the onion family, known as alliums? They emit a sulfur product called a lacrimator that escapes into the air when we chop an onion and then breaks down into sulfuric acid. The best way to prevent tearing up is to rinse cut onions, leeks or shallots in cold water, or let them sit in chilled water, for a full 30 to 60 minutes before cutting.

3The water method works for more than just keeping oniony tears at bay if you are adding onions to a recipe, in which they will be eaten raw, let the chopped onions soak in water for roughly an hour and a half. This will reduce their bitterness. (If you don’t have that kind of time, a hearty rinse in a sieve under cold water will help.)

4When sautéing garlic and onion together, the garlic will always cook first. To prevent undue browning (which makes onions taste sweeter but makes garlic bitter and harsh), start your sautéing in a cold pan with a little olive oil and butter combined. The oil-butter mixture keeps the oil from burning, and the slow increase in the pan’s heat will balance the difference between the two vegetables’ cook times.

5If you love serving garlicky food but fear the after-burn on your breath, try eating an apple. A component in garlic stays active in the digestive system a full 6 and 18 hours after eating, which is when it peaks in our mouths; but the same enzymes that cause fruit to brown will counteract the potent garlic.