We’ve all been there: You’re working your way through a recipe and see that the instructions say to slice something in half crosswise. And then you’re supposed to cut those halves lengthwise. You can sort of make sense of it in your head at first, but then you start to overthink it to the point where your face looks like that confused math lady meme. Before you hack your vegetable into bits and give up on the recipe completely, let me explain the difference between the two—once and for all.
What Does It Mean to Slice Lengthwise?
Cutting something "lengthwise" means slicing vertically along the length of something. This is particularly simple to figure out when it comes to ingredients that have long sides, like carrots or strips of bacon. It can be trickier to find the long side of round foods like onions or cabbage. Overall, you should think of lengthwise as from pole to pole—from the two nubs on a lemon, from the root to the bud of an onion, and from the stem to the base of a tomato.
Produce sliced lengthwise should look like this:
What Does It Mean to Slice Something Crosswise?
Crosswise is simply slicing in the opposite direction of lengthwise—like the lines of latitude on a globe, or going around the circumference of a sphere. Crosswise cuts are typically called for when you want to make rounds of even thickness, like onion rings or tomato slices for a bagel.
Produce sliced crosswise should look like this:
What Should I Do If I Mixed Up the Two?
So, you did it wrong? And your oven is preheated and your friends will be over for dinner any minute? Don’t freak out, and definitely don’t throw out your chopped ingredients and start over. Ultimately, slicing is slicing. You’re not being tested, and an onion sliced crosswise tastes exactly the same as one that was sliced lengthwise. The ingredient may act a bit differently when cooked, but for the most part, you’ll end up with something edible, if not completely awesome. Just bookmark this article for next time.
A version of this article originally appeared on MyRecipes.com.