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The Secret Reason Why Sandwiches Taste Better Cut in Half

Discover why a sliced sandwich is so perfectly palate-pleasing.

Ever notice yourself enjoying a sandwich more after cutting it in half? Or that you have one particular way of cutting it every time? Apparently, there's a reason for that.

According to a study performed by the Department of Culinary Science at The University of Vermont, the way we cut our sandwiches has a direct effect on how much we enjoy them. To make their discovery, the researchers rounded up a culturally diverse range of subjects and gave them a survey on sandwich satisfaction. The participants were also given four actual peanut butter and jelly sandwiches: one whole uncut sandwich, as well as three others, sliced vertically, horizontally, and diagonally.

After designing a way to rate the "taste to enjoyment" ratio (the "TE", as they call it), the researchers charged their sandwich-eating participants with rating each sandwich experience on a scale of 1 to 20 in areas such as flavor, heartiness, presentation and overall enjoyment. In every single category, people vastly preferred all three cut sandwiches to the uncut sandwich, but the diagonally-sliced sandwich was the standout winner against its competitors.

So, why do people actually prefer diagonally-cut sandwiches? The most likely answer, according to a "rectangle vs. triangle sandwich debate" on NPR's All Things Considered, is that the triangular shape allows for maximum exposure to flavors due to the increased surface area of its more flavorful ingredients. By this metric, the ideal sandwich silhouette would in fact be a minimum of two diagonal cuts that form four smaller triangles, thus exposing even more surface area and eliminating any full bites of corner crust, which skimp on flavor and moisture.

"What you really want is a higher number of acute triangles that still maintain their structural integrity," says Philip Dituri, PhD, Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education at Fordham University. "If you are primarily concerned with optimizing your exposure to all of the flavors and each ingredient in every bite, you should throw the sandwich in a blender and drink it. Not so appealing sounding, but you'd get an even distribution of food and flavor. Of course that's not the whole picture."

He adds that every time you take a bite, you're creating new surface area and exposing more of the ingredients, so from a surface area perspective, your initial cut is only a starting point. The rest of the widespread preference for diagonals and triangles can likely be explained by aesthetic preference and the convenience of holding and biting into the sandwich without making a mess.

Thankfully, you can't go too wrong with sandwiches, no matter how you slice them. And when you want to make every meal a little bit healthier, add the 6 Miracle Meals That Top Doctors Eat into your regular routine.

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Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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