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vertically sliced onions?

Why would a recipe call for vertically sliced onions? I have several recipes that do and I can’t for the life of me understand what difference it makes. It's much easier (and more attractive) to slice them the normal way, so there must be a reason why the recipe calls for vertical slices specifically. Any insight would be appreciated. Also would love any tips on the best way to vertically slice. Thanks.

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  1. Often when you want to keep some hint of the look of an intact onion, you slice vertically. This is seen frequently in Asian/East Inidan dishes. It works best with smaller onions.

    1 Reply
    1. re: LJS

      Thank you - I appreciate that. In the case of the recipe I'm making tonight, it's a baked pasta dish with zucchini, sausage and feta cheese, so I don't think the look of the onion will matter as much, but yet it still calls for them to be vertically sliced. Hmmm.

    2. I guess they just look different. For some reason, in stir-fries and for fajitas, I strongly prefer vertical slices! For onion rings… not so much.

      1. Can't say I've every read a recipe that specified slicing onions on a specific axis.
        "Vertical" would be relative to the position of the onion on the cutting board. Are we slicing them with the stem root side down, sprout up? That's what I would assume from the description but to slice them vertically in that position doesn't, IMO, produce anything accept various semi-circular pieces which, sliced on the opposing axis, would be rings.

        1. The main alternatives are diced or rings (or half rings). When cooked down to the point of caramelizing, these slices can be more attractive than spaghetti like (broken) rings.

          1 Reply
          1. re: paulj

            I guess I'm curious to know if it compromises the dish in any way if I slice it in rings or half rings instead? I assume it must or else the recipe would just call for sliced onions. But how?

          2. it's kind of like slicing meat with or against the grain - when you slice onions horizontally (cut in half, lay flat and cut parallel to the root) you are cutting through the fibers of the onion - if you cut vertically you are cutting with the fibers - the onions will stay in tact just a little more -
            or so I've heard!

            1. If you slice an onion horizontally (parallel to the equator), the slice is the same width from one end to the other. If you slice an onion in vertical wedges (from pole to pole, through the center), the slices are narrow at the ends, and wider at the centre.


              Vertical slices are more interesting visually, and under high heat, such as a pizza topping, the ends will get brown and crispy while the centres don't.

              2 Replies
                1. re: Channa

                  Thanks, Channa. That's the first time I've read an explanation that actually makes sense. Although, as I previously mentioned, I don't recall ever reading a recipe that made a distinction between horizontal and vertical slicing of onions, it's easy to see why certain dishes (i.e. pizza or green bean casserole - sorry, couldn't resist) might be improved with special treatment of the onions.