How to Use Chopsticks Correctly

For many, using chopsticks is part of the charm of having Asian food.  To some, however, their use is a complete mystery.  If you find yourself in the latter group, but you would like to master this skill, a little bit of practice can prepare you to use chopsticks with ease.

First, teach yourself how to move your hand correctly when using chopsticks.  There isn’t a great deal of motion involved, but you must get used to keeping your fingers locked together.Your index and middle fingers will hold one of the chopsticks, while your pinky finger will support your ring finger as it holds the other chopstick in position. Open and close your hand a few times while keeping these pairs of fingers together, almost as if you were a cartoon character with only two fingers and a thumb. That is all of the manual dexterity that is required.

The only other lesson lies in learning how to exert sufficient pressure on the chopsticks. A little bit of strength must be applied, since you are actually squeezing your food between the two chopsticks as you are lifting it from your plate to your mouth. This can be practiced at home with a pair of pens or pencils, if you don’t have any chopsticks in your utensil drawer.

Hold your chopsticks together in your other hand, and place them in your writing hand in much the same way that you would grasp a pen for writing. The lower chopstick should rest in the crook of your thumb.  Press the tip of your ring finger against the same chopstick, supported by your pinky, and hold it firmly in place. This chopstick should not move as you eat your meal.

The upper chopstick should rest loosely between the tip of your thumb and your index and middle fingers. This has often been compared to the way that you hold a pen for writing, but this is only true for the index and middle fingers; the tip of your thumb should rest nearer the center of the chopstick, not extending as far forward as the other fingers. The thumb is serving as a fulcrum, allowing the upper chopstick to swing up and down like a seesaw when you raise and lower your index and middle fingers.

When you raise the tips of those fingers, the chopsticks will spread apart, allowing you to get them on either side of that piece of broccoli or General Tso’s Chicken. Lower those fingers, and the chopsticks will close around that piece of food. If you are pressing the chopsticks together firmly enough, you can then pick up that piece of food and deliver it to your waiting mouth. If not, it is likely to fall back to your plate.

To learn how to use enough force, try picking up some small objects at home using your improvised chopsticks. Use them to pick up a napkin, or another pen, or a spoon. This will give you a better idea of how much pressure is necessary to grasp and lift a small item.Once you are used to chopsticks, it should feel effortless; if you press too hard, you may expose yourself to the risk of a cramp.

Observe how others use chopsticks, when you can. There really is no substitute for watching someone who knows how to use chopsticks correctly and attempting to imitate that person.If you do so after you’ve tried it on your own a few times, you will also have a better idea of what that person is doing. You can get the hang of it during the course of a single meal.

Knowing how to use chopsticks correctly can add to your appreciation of Asian food. It can also serve to make a good impression on a business associate or a foreign guest. It can even make for a conversation starter. With just a little bit of practice, you can look like a world traveler.


© 2011, 2013.  All rights reserved.