The Controversial Way Ina Garten Cuts Her Bagels

When most people cut bagels, it's usually just a single slice that divides the bagel into two halves. There's also the less common St. Louis style of cutting a bagel, also known as "bread-sliced," which entails slicing it vertically, much like you would a loaf of bread. Ina Garten's preferred approach falls into neither of these categories. Instead, as she casually brought up on an episode of her cooking show "Barefoot Contessa," she cuts it in a way that divides the bagel into three equal slices instead of the usual two.

Though the episode originally aired back in 2012, Garten's unconventional technique has gotten renewed attention on social media. The clip is being shared across TikTok and other platforms, leaving fans divided. "And here I thought Ina was my ally, my friend, my MOTHER. Much rethinking to do," one person reacted on X, formerly known as Twitter. Many people appear to share this opinion, while others find it genius. "Two layers of schmear. She is a visionary," another user commented. What the majority of people on social media don't seem to realize, however, is that Garten doesn't actually turn the three bagel slices into a three-tiered sandwich, which is a whole different bagel-slicing hack.

Why Ina Garten cuts her bagels into thirds

The screenshots from "Barefoot Contessa" that have circulated around social media are missing some context that provides a rationale for Ina Garten's seemingly strange bagel-cutting ways. Even though she does cut her bagels into threes, she only uses two of the slices when assembling each sandwich. So, while her recipe calls for two bagels, she's able to get three sandwiches out of them. Somewhat confusingly, she serves these three sandwiches stacked on top of each other, making it look like two double-decker bagels. But upon closer inspection, you'll see that's not the case.

Garten's method is definitely a good way to stretch the servings of a bagel, but that isn't why she does it. In the episode, she specifically states that she is cutting her bagel like "a nice little sandwich," in other words, so that the thickness of the top and bottom pieces of bread are closer to traditional sandwich bread. This results in a less doughy sandwich and is something that she's been doing for several years. "Years ago I found that toasted bagels taste so much better when they're sliced in thirds instead of halves," she shared in her 2008 cookbook "Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics."

Is this really a better way to slice a bagel?

Perhaps people wouldn't find Ina Garten's approach so controversial if they only realized she essentially turns her bagels into low-carb bagel thins. While nontraditional, bagel thins are generally well-liked, as The Florida Times-Union's Consumer Panel found in 2010. But a common complaint, according to shoppers on Reddit, is that a lot of times they aren't made with bagel dough, but rather regular sandwich bread that's simply been shaped like thin bagels. In that regard, Garten's method is superior because it's still a true bagel.

As for how it compares to the standard way of cutting bagels, it depends on how important the doughiness of a bagel is to you. Garten clearly considers a less doughy, more even ratio of bread-to-filling to be an improvement, but not everyone agrees with her. As one Twitter user pointed out, "The beauty of bagels is their extra-doughy middles. Disrupt that and you may as well be eating bread." Food expert and author Dan Pashman does think "bagel trifurcation" is beneficial, but explained to Today that it makes more sense to just toast the middle slice instead of removing it. That way you don't lose any bagel, and still avoid getting doughy mouthfuls. But if you like bagel thins or scooped bagels, you'll probably appreciate the results of Garten's way a lot more.