How to finely chop an onion

I am not a foodie. I do not seek out gourmet eating experiences and am happy to eat pretty much a limited range of dishes cooked at home, do not watch any of the many cooking shows on TV, nor am I particularly interested in talking about food. But ever since I read the book Soul of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman that I wrote about here, I have been impressed with how rigorous the training is that chefs receive and the precision operation of restaurant kitchens.

I myself do very little cooking in the home but do quite a bit of the preparation, such as the cleaning, cutting, and chopping. In the hierarchy of a restaurant kitchen known as the Brigade de cuisine, I am basically an apprenti, a lowly position that ranks just above the lowest rung of plongeur or dishwasher, a job title that also applies to me.

But even in my inferior role, I try to improve my skills and so was very interested in this video by master chef Marco Pierre White that shows how to cut onions extremely finely without cutting your fingers in the process. He says that this is important for many dishes such as risotto because finely chopped onion not only releases more flavor but it also melts when cooked and this is important if one does not want the dish to contain bits of onion.


  1. Bumberpuff says

    If I need to finely dice more than 1 onion I like to use a benriner mandoline. Food processors can work too, but the onions often come out almost pulpy which might not work well with some dishes, I also don’t own a food processor right now.

  2. Donnie says

    Excellent! Thanks, Mano. Off to the kitchen this weekend to make some asparagus risotto for my wife….I will try it this way. Also, you need to make sure that your knives are sharp. Onions make your eyes cry when you have a dull knife and crushes the onions instead of slicing through the onion -- or at least what I have heard per Alton Brown.

  3. moarscienceplz says

    When I was a teen, nearly every high school had a home economics class which taught things like this, and the fact that some measure cups are for solids and others are for liquids, and how to iron a shirt, etc. Unfortunately, it was only an elective class, and in those more sexist days only the girls would sign up for it. I am glad, however, that my sisters both took auto shop in high school.
    I think everyone should be taught how to chop an onion, mow a lawn, change a diaper, replace an electrical outlet, bake bread, unclog a toilet, sew on a button, saw a board with a hand saw, grow tomatoes, and change the oil in a car.
    As Robert Heinlein said (and no, I don’t agree with his libertarianism, but I do agree with this), “Specialization is for insects.”

  4. wilsim says

    Tried to absorb the info in this video.

    Thanks for linking.

    My wife is disabled, so I do all of the prep work, all the cooking, and the cleanup / dishes. The prep work before the cooking takes the most time, by far.

    And my sister has laughed at me for years for “not knowing the right way to chop an onion” as if getting the onion into little pieces the wrong way ruins their flavors. HAH!

    Now, I can reference this video and finely chop my onions, to my sister’s amazement

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