MILES PARKS, HOST:
You can dunk it, split it or just nibble away. There are a lot of ways to eat an Oreo cookie. But what if you want the perfect cream-to-chocolate ratio - like, you really want it? You call in the engineers. Crystal Owens is a PhD candidate at MIT's mechanical engineering department. She assembled a team of researchers to produce a scientific study they've titled "On Oreology." She joins us now. Welcome, Crystal.
CRYSTAL OWENS: Hi. It's so great to be here.
PARKS: Yeah, great to have you. And I have to tell you a little quick story. In middle school, I did a science project about how many chocolate chips are in each cookie, and I was told, quote, "That's not real science." And so this is just a really vindicating moment for me personally.
OWENS: Yes. Food science is real science. It matters to so many people.
PARKS: Let's get into your study a little bit. You sought to find the perfect ratio here when breaking apart an Oreo cookie. How did you define what the perfect ratio is?
OWENS: Right. So that's actually a bit of a subjective definition of how you want to eat your Oreos. So I started with my personal definition, which is kind of based on symmetry. You want to have an equal amount of cream on both sides of the cookie if you split the cookie into the two pieces. It makes obvious sense that half of the cookie should have half of the cream.
PARKS: I feel like that's controversial. Is that the majority take? I haven't talked to people about this, but I'm - if I split my Oreo cookie, I kind of want it on one half or the other. But I don't have a science brain.
OWENS: Is there a reason for that preference?
PARKS: I'm not sure. You tell - you have thought about this. This is honestly the first time I'm investigating any of my thoughts about any of this. So I feel like - you tell me whether that - there is a reason for that preference or not.
OWENS: I think the one strong argument for getting a bare cookie is either if you want to just eat all the cream on its own or if you want to dip a bare cookie in milk. I feel like both of those are fully valid. But usually, I don't have milk available. So I want to have, like, a little bit of cream so I don't just get the crunch. I get, like, a little bit of, like, a mush and a little bit of a crunch when I eat the cookie.
PARKS: See, that makes sense to me because the only time I eat Oreos, I think, is with a glass of milk. And so that's probably why I'm looking for that. But let's get into the testing here. I understand that you did a bunch of different ways to test the best way to break apart an Oreo, and I read that one of the ways was even twisting it apart so slowly it took, like, almost five minutes to separate the cookie. Is that right?
OWENS: Yeah. So luckily, we had a machine that did the testing, so I didn't have to stand there for five minutes slowly twisting an Oreo. And I don't have to just twist. I can also do helical motions. Because maybe if you twist while you're also pushing down or pulling up, that could affect what the results are. So we did a bunch of different profiles of how exactly you twist along with just the raw speed. And what we actually found was that all of the results were basically the same. There's no...
PARKS: No. Don't tell me that.
OWENS: There's no secret. It's a little bit comforting, though. It means that there's no sort of risk when you eat an Oreo. You can't do it wrong because there's no way to do it right.
PARKS: That's true. I know. But I just feel like we got people on the edge of their seats thinking we were going to reveal some great truth about the best way to eat an Oreo, and it's like, every way. Every way is perfect, it sounds like. Do you have any other plans going forward in the food science world? We were bandying ideas back and forth in the newsroom and we were wondering maybe licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop was the best guess, but I wasn't sure if you had any other thoughts.
OWENS: Oh, I've heard that one, too. I would need, like, a mechanical tongue to do that.
PARKS: OK. We will look out for that, and we will have you on again when you get to the answer of that question. Crystal Owens, who studies mechanical engineering at MIT, thank you so much for talking to us.
OWENS: Thank you so much.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.