It's like holding a pencil

It may take a little bit of practice to hold and use chopsticks with ease.  But it’s easier than you think. Once you get the hang of it, a pair of chopsticks is an efficient eating utensil that can be used to eat many types of food.  Below are some simple steps for learning how to hold and use chopsticks.   

Background

Chopsticks are two thin sticks of equal length (about 9 inches long) that are the traditional utensil of many Asian countries, including Japan, China, Korea, Vietnam, and Thailand. Commonly made of wood, bamboo, plastic, or metal, chopsticks are ideal for picking up small pieces of food.

chopstick instructions(83787)

As you become more skilled with holding and using chopsticks, you might find it interesting to learn about chopstick etiquette.  In Japanese culture, for example, it is impolite to move dishes around using chopsticks, to pass food from one pair of chopsticks to another pair that another person is holding, or to poke chopsticks in a bowl of rice.

But, focus on your chopstick skills first; chopstick etiquette can come later.

How to Hold a Pair of Chopsticks

  1. Hold the first chopstick in your dominant hand, tucking it under your thumb.  Rest the top of the stick on the web area between your thumb and index finger.  The bottom of the stick will rest on the first knuckle of your ring finger.  Your thumb gently holds it in place.  
  2. Add the second chopstick. Hold it as you would a pencil, using your thumb, index and middle finger.  
  3. Hold the first chopstick stationery; it does not move.  Move the second chopstick up and down using your middle and index finger.
  4. Practice picking up small items like crumpled pieces of paper.

Here's a video:

Tips

  • Position your hands toward the back half of your chopsticks. 
  • The top ends of your chopsticks should not cross.  If they do, it will be harder to grab food.   
  • Some foods will be difficult to pick up.  These foods include small items like peas or corn or rice that does not stick together.  In Japanese cooking, for example, it is acceptable to bring the small rice bowl to your mouth so that you can use your chopsticks to "push" food in your mouth.  If you are unable to lift your dish to your mouth, ask for a fork or spoon.
  • Usually, you will use chopsticks to pick up bite-sized pieces of food or food that can be cut with your teeth (such as a cooked vegetable).  If you encounter a piece of food that it is too large or too difficult to cut with your teeth, cut it first with a knife. 
  • When at an Asian restaurant, ask for wooden disposable chopsticks (called waribashi in Japanese).  These wooden chopsticks are much easier for beginners to use than plastic ones because they grip the food better.  If you are purchasing chopsticks for home, start with wood or bamboo chopsticks.
  • Rest your chopsticks on the edge of your dish or on a chopstick rest if there is one.

Summary

Most beginners find it awkward to hold and use chopsticks.  However, once you become adept at holding and using chopsticks, you might even choose to use chopsticks when eating non-Asian foods (like a tossed salad) or when cooking your food.  Over time, you might find it easier to use than other utensils!