In direct-drive electric propulsion systems, where there is no reduction gear to minimize and absorb the adverse effects of cogging torque generated by the permanent-magnet (PM) machine, minimization of cogging torque generation is of particular importance. In this paper, a novel axial pole-pairing method is proposed to minimize cogging torque generation in a special three-phase outer-rotor PM brushless machine, which uses uneven stator poles to enhance back electromotive force (EMF). Analytical formulas of the machine's cogging torque are first derived. The new technique is compared with conventional cogging torque suppression methods by means of analytical models and comprehensive finite-element analysis (FEA). The FEA results show that the new method not only achieves effective cogging torque reduction, but also results in improved harmonic content of the back EMF. The validity of the FEA model is verified by experimental results from the prototype machines. Finally, the significance of optimizing both the load-independent machine design techniques and load-dependent driving techniques to achieve overall torque ripple minimization is discussed.