Is the Y cut the best way to slice a sandwich?

Experts slice up the horizontal vs. diagonal vs. Y cut debate.
a sandwich cut into a y shape
Does the Y cut offer better bites than the classic sandwich cuts? Image: Popular Science

It’s been a wild few months for sandwiches. For decades—nay, centuries—humans have split their sandwiches using one of two cuts: horizontal or diagonal, giving you rectangular or triangular halves respectively. So it has always been, with only a few exceptions (small kids prefer the double-cut, which results in four squares, and some people don’t cut their sandwiches at all). 

But then, last month, numerous users on Twitter, TikTok, and other social media sites started singing the virtues of the Y cut. Some attribute this “innovation” to a Twitter user named Ryan Duff, though in typical internet fashion attribution is hard to trace directly. 

That’s not important, though. I want to know what science, and food experts, have to say about this. What I found will change the world. Or not. Probably not. But you’re reading it already, so why not keep doing that? I thought so. 

There aren’t a lot of sandwich studies

It’s odd, but there don’t seem to be many scientific studies out there specifically about slicing sandwiches, but there are studies about how the appearance of food can change the way you experience it. 

Researchers at Penn State University showed that increasing the portion size can increase the amount you eat. That study offered college students different size sandwiches and “ratings of hunger and fullness were not significantly different after eating the 12-inch and 8-inch sandwiches,” despite the difference in calories. 

And research at Arizona State University suggests that how food looks can influence how much you eat. That study cited 50-year-old research on sandwich slicing to make the point: 

Nisbett and Storms (1972), varied the size and number of food pieces and found that subjects ate more when given four, quartered sandwiches (16 pieces) than the same sandwiches cut into 32 bite-sized pieces. The authors hypothesized that quartered sandwiches may have resembled “meals” that are typically eaten in large amounts, whereas, bite-sized pieces may have resembled “snacks” that are typically eaten in smaller amounts.

This is a little all over the map, I’ll admit, but it does all point to the fact that how we cut our sandwiches changes the way we perceive them and how much we eat. So how does that connect to the Y cut? To find out I needed to talk to some actual food experts.

Experts prefer the diagonal cut

I reached out to Claire Lower, the digital editor at Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street. She has an academic background in chemistry and over a decade of experience writing about food. 

“I don’t see myself taking the time to do this, but I’m a big fan of anything that gets people to eat more sandwiches,” she said. 

Having said that, she could see the logic of the cut, even if it seems a bit silly. “First, it’s (almost) symmetrical, but novel, so it seems genius, even though it is just mildly clever,” she said. “But it also lets the eater start with three bites that they know are going to be ‘good,’ as in they will have the even distribution of fillings and condiments you get at the center of the sandwich.” 

Lower then referenced a story she wrote back in 2017, about football coach Mark Richt’s surprisingly detailed answer to a question about sandwiches. In a viral tweet he drew the sequence of bites he prefers after cutting a sandwich diagonally:

hand drawn diagram of sandwich parts
What’s the best bite? Image: Mark Richt/X

While explaining this sequence, Richt called bite three the “filet” of the sandwich—that is, the best bite. The appeal of the Y cut, from this perspective, is obvious: You get three of these best bites. 

“Things tend to get a little messier towards the edges as you eat, as the pressure of each bite pushes the fillings around and disrupts the distribution,” said Lower. “With the Y cut you know you have a good ratio of neat bites to messier ones.” 

That’s probably the best argument for the cut, though there is one more—and Lower isn’t having it. “I also think this appeals to crust avoiders who, in my opinion, need to grow up,” she said. “The crust is where the flavor is. That’s where the Maillard browning reaction has taken place.” 

I wanted to round this out so I also reached out to Barry Enderwick of Sandwiches of History to get his thoughts. 

“I am on team triangle (diagonal cut),” he told me. “I totally get the appeal of the Y cut but for me it’s about the ratio of amount of sandwich I can fit in a bite and effort required. So a diagonal cut allows for a nice big bite with minimal effort.” 

I can totally understand this argument about effort. I can’t help but feel a big part of the appeal of the Y cut is how novel it looks online. Still, I don’t want to take away anyone’s sandwich-related joy, so I encourage everyone who is reading this to run their own experiments at home. Worst case scenario is you have too many delicious sandwiches.