How To Use Chopsticks & Mistakes To Avoid
If you didn’t grow up in a household that didn’t have a single pair of chopsticks in the silverware drawer, you might just be learning how to use these eating utensils for the first time. Whether wooden chopsticks or plastic chopsticks, the grip is the same and fairly easy to grasp when you get the hang of it.
So, let’s dive into a few tips and tricks to perfecting a good grip while maintaining chopstick etiquette so you’re ready to enjoy your future Asian dishes traditionally.
We are bringing you all things chopstick, specifically: how to use them, and how NOT to use them.
To start — did you know that there are three types of chopsticks?
- Japanese chopsticks are primarily made of wood, the most round and tapered at one end.
- Chinese chopsticks are the longest, usually made of bamboo and are only slightly tapered at one end. It is customary in Chinese households to put food in the middle and eat family style. Longer chopsticks make this easier.
- Korean chopsticks are generally made of stainless steel and textured at the end. This makes it easier to pick up and hold food. Rumor has it Korean royalty used to use solid silver chopsticks that would change colors at the end if someone ever tried to poison their food!
Now let’s get into holding them.
What Is the Easiest Way To Hold Chopsticks?
There might be a few ways to be successful with chopsticks, but we like to work smarter not harder. So here’s a step-by-step guide to holding your chopsticks and food.
1. Snap Your Chopsticks Apart
Disposable chopsticks come as one piece of wood. You have to break them apart to use them. It might seem like it would be easier to keep them together, but really, it would make it near impossible to use them. Kids often use chopsticks that are tied together with a rubber band while they’re learning. If you need a little extra help, this is one trick you can use!
2. Hold One Loosely in Your Dominant Hand
You want to use your dominant hand because these fingers are used to holding a writing utensil, which uses a very similar grip. It might not be exactly the same, but you’ll need the dexterity these fingers offer. Hold the first (or bottom chopstick) against the dip in your hand between the thumb and first finger. Rest it against your side of your ring finger and keep it sturdy.
3. Place the Second Chopstick Between Your Thumb and Pointer Finger
The second chopstick will need to rest against the side of your middle finger. You control it, however, with the movements of your thumb and pointer finger. Your ring finger steadies the top top chopstick and allows it to move up and down to pick up food.
4. Apply Pressure To Bring the Chopsticks Together
Pressure is what makes your chopsticks move. Being able to apply and release pressure on the top chopstick is half the battle. Your hand will have to get used to the strength it takes to apply the right pressure to hold chopsticks.
Imagine when you’re eating sushi. If you try to pick up a gorgeous piece of sashimi or a slice of a roll, the pressure is key. Too little, it falls out of your grip. Put too much pressure and your roll or sashimi will be squished and make a mess!
5. Practice the Proper Motion
Practice makes perfect, and that rings true with using chopsticks. The movements will become second nature with practice. Your dominant hand is prepped and ready for this — you just need to tap into the skill. Just like most skills, finesse takes repetition.
6. Enjoy Your Food!
Now that you’ve mastered the movements, it’s time to eat! Start slow — dumplings of any kind will be some of the easier items to pick up at first. With dumplings, the outside texture will be more firm and forgiving for beginners. As you get more experienced, you’ll be ready for bowls of ramen noodles. While you are learning, it’s okay to ask for a fork as backup — don’t ever feel embarrassed!
What Mistakes Should I Avoid While Using Chopsticks?
Now that we’ve explained the ways you should use your chopsticks, let’s go over what to stay away from doing. It’s important to avoid these mistakes to keep from offending anyone. Many mistakes that can be made with chopsticks have to do with deep cultural roots that are important to know and respect.
Avoid Rubbing the Chopsticks Together
If you go out to eat and the restaurant hands you disposable chopsticks, never break them apart and rub them together. It essentially signifies that the quality of chopsticks is poor. This reflects badly on the restaurant; rubbing the chopsticks together implies that you think they buy cheap products.
Do Not Use One Chopstick Alone
Chopsticks aren’t skewers. They’re a pair, and should always be used as such. Also, never use chopsticks in separate hands to cut food like a knife. It is poor etiquette to do any of these.
Do Not Stick Your Chopsticks in a Bowl of Rice
In the same light, never stick your chopsticks straight up in a bowl of rice or other foods. In many Asian countries, this is done as a tribute to someone who has passed or at their funeral altar.
Do Not Cross Your Chopsticks in an X
Never lay your chopsticks down on your plate crossed over one another. This is another symbol of funerals and will be seen as distaasteful at an Asian restaurant. When you put your chopsticks down, lay them next to each other on the table until you’re ready for them again.
Avoid Holding Your Chopsticks Too Far Down
You want to hold your chopsticks on the higher end. If you hold them too far down, your hands will get in the way of eating. Your index finger especially will be covered in food.
Imagine eating a bowl of pho. Spoon in one hand, chopsticks in the other. The chopsticks pick up the noodles while the spoon allows you to eat the broth. Holding the chopsticks too far down will land your hand in your bowl.
Avoid Holding Your Chopsticks Too Tightly
If you apply too much pressure to your chopsticks, your hand will cramp. It will become painful to hold your chopsticks and you won’t enjoy using them. It will also make it hard to control them. You won’t be able to make the fluid motions needed to pick up and hold food.
The Bottom Line
Chopsticks are a skill that our hands have the ability to master. It will take time and practice, but you can do it. We are confident our guide to holding your chopsticks the right way will make you an expert in no time.
As far as food utensils go, these take the most graceful movements to use, but they’re so worth it!