How To Tell If An Onion Is Bad

 How to tell if an onion is bad

Have you ever reached into the pantry to grab an onion and encountered a texture you weren't expecting? It happened to me when the onion rolled out of the bag and hid in the far corner of the cupboard. I have only one word to describe the experience: Phew! The onion had literally dissolved in its skin and sat there, crumpled and foul smelling, in a pile of liquid.

We do not recommend waiting until you experience a bad onion. Instead, learn how to tell if an onion is bad by reading the telltale signs leading to spoilage. This advice applies to most types of onions: sweet onions, shallots, or yellow, white and red onions. Fresh garlic from the onion family (such as green onions, spring onions, leeks, or chives) has different rules and shorter shelf life.

Signs Your Onions Are Going Bad

If the onion has gone bad, this will be pretty obvious. Crumpled onions should be thrown into the trash without thinking. The same can be said for smelly onions or onions that have excessive moisture.

Less obvious symptoms are small moist spots, brown spots, or a softened texture. If these spots can be removed from part of the onion and the rest of the onion looks "normal", it is probably safe to cook with. The same thing can be done for a sprouted onion that has no other signs of spoilage. It's okay if you don't want to eat the sprouted part; you can cut the onion in half to remove the sprout and any remaining sprouts. But if you notice any signs of mold or have any doubts about whether the onion is still safe to eat, it's best to throw it away.

How to pick good onions

The good onion is one that can be stored for several weeks in the pantry (just keep in mind these foods you shouldn't store together). Look for onions with a firm texture and dry, papery skin. Avoid onions that are soft or have brown spots. You'll also want to avoid any onions that are sprouting. Sprouted onions are usually still good to eat, but they don't last that long.

Tips for storing onions

How to store whole onions

Store whole onions in a cool, dry, ventilated place out of direct sunlight, such as a pantry or closet. It will last for several weeks to several months, depending on the temperature inside the storage area. Avoid storing potatoes and onions together, as the pair will accelerate each other's spoilage. The potatoes will sprout faster and the onions will soften and liquefy next to the potatoes.

You don't want to keep onions in the fridge either, as the cold and humidity can cause damp spots to form on the onions and soften their texture. Fresh onions – such as scallions, spring onions, leeks, or chives – should be stored in the crisper container of your fridge and usually only last about a week before they start to go slimy.

If you've had a whole onion in your fridge, read on for other common foods you've been storing incorrectly.

How to store chopped onions

Once the onion is peeled and chopped, it is best to store it in the refrigerator. Wrap the

unused onion halves in plastic wrap or place them in an airtight container. We like to use glass containers because they don't absorb odors. When stored properly, these onions will last 7 to 10 days.

How to freeze onions

Onions freeze really well, but only if you plan to cook with them. Frozen onions lose their crunchy texture, so they are not ideal for making pickled onions or other raw applications such as salads and rice dishes. To freeze onions, cut them into similar-sized pieces and place them in a freezer-safe bag. Wrap the onion flat so you can break off a section and use it as needed rather than thawing the whole thing. Frozen onions can last up to a year, but around eight months they start to lose their quality.

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