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Onions are like the culinary foundation of flavor, the building block for a great meal, and a surefire way to make you cry in the kitchen. As simple as television and recipes make it seem, cutting an onion is awkward and generally leads to mixed results. Did you know that how you cut an onion determines the strength of the onion’s flavor? Here’s the straight-cut answer to get the best results for your next recipe.

Via: DemBellyFull/Flickr

If you cut an onion lengthwise — pole to pole — the fibers of the onion retain their shape and don’t release a stronger flavor. Slicing an onion like this is good for dishes where you want larger shapes, like fajitas or stir-fries. A quick cook method like this doesn’t lessen the onion flavor, it simply balances better with other ingredients. This vertical cut is crucial for caramelizing onions as it gives you beautiful long strands that don’t get mushy nor disappear into the soup or caramelized French onion recipes. As you cook the long strands over time, the shape will maintain, but the onion flavor will get sweet and caramelized.

Via: Cookthinker/Flickr

Cutting an onion horizontally — across its width — makes for a quick way to soften your onion. Since the cell walls and fibers are broken, the onion cooks way faster. This cut is perfect when the onion is the backbone — not the star — of the show. The quick softening and flavor release make for a stronger taste, and it shrinks the size of the chopped pieces, great for integrating into sauces, soups, and purees.

Via: pepperberryfarm/Flickr

Try this different onion-cutting method, and you’ll notice the difference!