how to use chopsticks

Chopsticks are probably the most versatile utensil ever. They're a fork, a knife, a pair of tongs, a whisk, and a steamer holder (just pop them in the wok and they'll keep the dish out of the water), all in one. Find out how to use chopsticks in this post!

We've updated it with new information on how to use chopsticks the right way, how to store and wash them, and what to look for when buying them. We also have a new video, so you can see it in action!


This post was originally published on June 10, 2013 (when The Woks of Life was only 1 week old!). We have since updated it with more details, new photos and a video! Enjoy.

How to use chopsticks

Chopsticks can be tricky, whether you grew up using them or are new to using them! In fact, there are plenty of people out there who grew up using chopsticks and can get food from point A to point B, but don't necessarily use them “correctly.”

Some use chopsticks to spear food, although that won't get you far. This method doesn't work with noodles and rice!

So here is our step by step guide:

Step 1: Hold your dominant hand freely. People who grip their chopsticks usually end up throwing food everywhere. Place the first drumstick in the hollow between your index finger and thumb. Balance it on your ring finger.

Step 2: Place the second wand in the hollow between your index finger and thumb along with the first wand, but rest it on your middle finger rather than your ring finger.

how to hold chopsticks

Step 3: Use your thumb, index finger and middle finger to grip the second wand a little tighter, a bit like holding a pen or pencil (but not as tight!). Let your little finger and ring finger touch each other, supporting the bottom drumstick (i.e. the first drumstick). Your thumb will help you secure the bottom and top sticks.

how to hold chopsticks

Step 4: The first rod (on the bottom) remains more or less still. The index and middle fingers do all the heavy lifting with the second drumstick.

Using your index and middle fingers to move the top chopstick up and down, open the chopsticks and close them on the food. Remember to keep your hand free, but still maintain good control over the wand. You will really be tested when picking up heavier pieces of food.

Once you have a good grip, go ahead and pick it up.

And this is all.

Pretty simple, right? You're on your way to mastering chopsticks!

how to hold chopsticks

If you're picking up something slippery or delicate (e.g. boiled dumplings, soft tofu, etc.) you can maneuver the chopsticks under the bottom of the food. Lift the food by placing it on the tips of the chopsticks. This helps avoid crushing or crushing more delicate foods.

Once you've learned the basics, you can also use chopsticks as a knife for some soft foods.

Take a wand in each hand. Holding them at 45-degree angles, forming a cross over the food (i.e., the left hand drumstick should be on your right and the right hand drumstick should be on your left). Drag each chopstick along the bottom of the plate in opposite directions, so that the chopsticks cross over the food, and as you do so, cut the food in half.

Watch the video!

Check out our full tutorial on how to use chopsticks at our Youtube channel!

Common errors:

  • Holding your hand too low — Holding your hand too low makes it more difficult to open your hand and chopsticks. The tops may slam together before you can get very far and you may end up with food or sauce on your hand. It can also create an overly tight grip that's more like holding a pencil than using chopsticks. (Fun fact! Our grandfather told us a story that if you hold your chopsticks low or high it means you will stay close to or move away from home respectively.)
holding the chopsticks with the hand too low
  • Holding your hand too tight — If you squeeze your whole hand, it will be much more difficult to open and close the chopsticks, which will require you to loosen your hand.
holding chopsticks too tight

Teach children how to use chopsticks

Oddly enough, I don't remember much about the process of learning to use chopsticks. I remember it wasn't that difficult and we sometimes used chopsticks in restaurants that had them. At home we got by with a mix of regular chopsticks and forks and the “skewering” method.

There are more elegant ones training sticks these days than before. There are roughly two types. Those that are attached at the top and have finger holes to encourage children to put their fingers in the right position, and those that are simply attached at the top so that the chopsticks open and close naturally, making it more likely that the children grab them. a grab of food.

We recommend starting with the finger hole version and moving up to the zippered option so kids can practice their skills!

That said, it's a bit like swimming and will come naturally. Children enter the water and eventually learn to swim. With chopsticks, they will slowly but surely learn to use them.

Cooking with chopsticks

There are many ways to use chopsticks in the kitchen, not just when you sit down to eat. You can place two on a wok to hold a plate for food flow. You can whisk eggs or ravioli filling, and you can also use them as gentler cooking tools for flipping (e.g., frying potstickers, pan-frying tofu, etc.) or tossing hot noodles.

They're easy to use as you move around the kitchen from task to task, and they also prevent breakage of delicate foods like noodles or tofu, which are easily damaged by metal tongs.

Bottom line, we're always looking for a new pair of chopsticks!

Which chopsticks should I buy?

different types of chopsticks in a formation

When we buy chopsticks, we prefer sturdy and traditional ones bamboo versions. Bamboo ones usually come in two styles: one with uniformly cylindrical ends and one with more tapered ends.

Both work and it comes down to personal preference. Those with tapered ends have less surface area, so it can be trickier for beginners, although with bulkier chopsticks you have less dexterity in picking up very small or thin pieces of food.

The best place to buy them might be a local Chinese or Asian grocery store, where you can really get a feel for what they're like. These days they also make fancier bamboo versions, if that's your fancy.

Disposable chopsticks have a time and a place, and we almost always save them for road or plane trips. (If you're Bill, you also use them as anchors to fill screw holes in walls, door hinges, and even brickwork.)

Melamine chopsticks (i.e. the shiny ones you often see in Chinese restaurants) can get a little slippery and the food is harder to handle. They're also slightly more hygienic if you're worried about avoiding the natural bamboo material. You might want to have a set on hand for those special occasions. We generally avoid plastic chopsticks.

If you see metal chopsticks around, they're probably Korean style! These are heavier and often thinner or boxier. Japanese chopsticks tend to be shorter, with thinner, pointed ends. Both of these styles can be more difficult for beginners to use.

Use chopsticks to steam food

If you don't have a metal rack to steam a plate of food in the wok, you can use a pair of bamboo, wooden or metal chopsticks! (Do not use plastic or melamine materials, which can melt.)

Simply place them a few inches apart on the base of the wok (the water in the wok should not touch them) and place the griddle on top.

How to wash chopsticks

The best dishwashers for washing chopsticks are those that have a flat top rack for utensils. This way, they won't slide around in the utensil basket or get trapped in the bottom of the dishwasher. (This may cause it to break when you take out the dishwasher basket.)

chopsticks in the top rack of the dishwasher

If you have a utensil basket, you can place a piece of baking paper in the bottom of the basket to keep the chopsticks from slipping through (a pro tip from our cousin Kim), or tuck them into the angled holes so they stay in place during the wash cycle.

That said, the best way to wash bamboo chopsticks may be simply with warm water and a lightly soapy sponge. Bamboo tends to absorb dishwasher detergent and can take on a soapy taste.

Judy also noticed that if she soaked the chopsticks fresh out of the dishwasher in a bowl of clean water, the water would become slightly soapy. This may not bother you, but it's why we usually wash our hands by default!

We use a sponge to remove solids. Then roll a handful of chopsticks between your palms to shake the water around them and clean them. (If you don't have a big pile, rinse them well.)

Roll the chopsticks between your hands under running water

From there, spread them out to dry in a single layer on a clean tea towel or drying rack.

Let them dry completely before placing them in the drawer. If you put the chopsticks away before they are completely dry, they may develop mold.

Save your chopsticks

As mentioned, most utensil drawer organizers will have a compartment long enough to hold chopsticks. We like these bamboo ones! This is how we store most of our wand collection.

chopsticks in the utensil drawer

If you have multiple sets of chopsticks, you can secure them with rubber bands and store them that way. With so many sets for food setups and blogs, this is what we do with the ones that aren't in the daily rotation!

bunches of drumsticks tied with rubber bands in the drawer

Another popular option for storing chopsticks is to place them in a utensil holder or repurposed jar/vase right on the kitchen counter or dining table. This way they are always at hand.

This also helps avoid the mold problem as they always stay upright. We recommend storing them with the bottom inside the vessel. This keeps the ends clean and makes them easy to grasp.

Check out the chopsticks on our Chinese cooking tools page and see our favorite pick of bamboo chopsticks. Or follow this Amazon link and buy all kinds of chopsticks!

You are on your way to mastering the chopsticks.

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