If you’re making onion rings, you really have to have rings. It’s kind of in the name. For almost anything else it’s better to have all the pieces be just about the same size and shape, and the way onions are built that’s just not going to happen with rings. (Unless you mince them and mechanically extrude them to make perfect little uniform rings like certain fast “food” places do.)
I covered how to dice an onion a while back. That’s great for recipes where you’ll be cooking the onion, or for macaroni salad. But for other salads it’s probably better to “shred” the onion. No, it’s not really shredded, that’s just chef talk for “long thin strips”. Not only is this the best way to prep onion for salads, it’s even easier than dicing.
Slice off the root and stem ends.
Lots of cookbooks talk about how to trim really close to the root and stem to minimize waste. If you’re working at a restaurant and going through 50-pound sacks of onions every night, go ahead and worry about that last quarter ounce of onion. If I’m only slicing one or two — or even four or five — I can live with a little bit of waste. If I were really that worried about waste I’d have a compost heap.
Now set the onion on one of the new cuts and slice it in half.
It should be pretty easy now to peel the papery outer layer off.
If you’re having trouble, use a paring knife to get under the edge and peel it that way.
Once it’s peeled, take one half and cut it in half again from end to end.
Starting from the center, where you just made the last cut, start slicing until you get about halfway to the edge …
… and it’s too skinny to be stable.
Then lay the end piece down …
… and keep going, starting from the small side. Notice that I’m guiding the knife with knuckles on my left hand …
… with the fingertips tucked back.
No one wants fingernails in their food. Keep going until you get to the edge.
Repeat this for the other pieces, or put the rest away for the next meal. That’s the other good thing about this way of cutting: it’s very easy to cut a half or even a quarter of an onion.
Separate any pieces that are stuck together.
And that’s it.
Don’t miss the thrilling followup, How To Peel A Cucumber, and the edge-of-your-seat excitement of Cucumber and Onion Salad, coming up later this week. Sign up for my email or RSS reed in the column to the right.