Cutlery Etiquette - Eating Utensils Etiquette

Cutlery etiquette - For those who want to know how to hold their utensils properly.

Both Continental and American style are accepted in cutlery etiquette. The difference is that the American style of using utensils has a zigzag sort of manner, leaving one utensil on the plate and switching hands to pick up the fork when putting the food in the mouth.

The Continental style eats with both utensils in hand until the meal is finished.

For countries that has western dining, Continental style is usually followed. Both methods are acceptable in these countries.

Cutlery will differ according to what is served. For instance, if there is pudding, a set of pudding utensils, a pudding spoon and fork will be set on the table.

Some fine dining restaurants seem to have a specific cutlery for everything. If in doubt, do not be shy to ask the waiter.

General Table Setting - Cutlery Etiquette

The general cutlery etiquette would be to use the cutlery from outside in.

Therefore, the table will be set the utensils to be used from 'outside in' so from the utensils you can tell what would be served.

Thus, if there is a bread plate and a soup soon, you will know that bread and soup will be served. If you find a pudding fork and spoon in between your dinner fork and knife, then you know there will be pudding afterwards. Likewise, if there is no pudding after the main meal, then there will be no fork and spoon in-between. In this sense, if the general cutlery etiquette is observed, your table etiquette setting is correct.

Click for more info on Table setting etiquette.

How To Hold Your Cutlery


This is how you should hold your soup spoon or pudding spoon or if you are using this spoon to eat rice.

If you are drinking a western style soup, scoop outwards before bringing it to your mouth. I was taught this as a young girl in my British etiquette classes but I don't remember why. I think it is because scooping inwards makes you look greedy and you tend to drink your soup too fast. If you are drinking soup from an Asian cuisine, it is perfectly acceptable to scoop inwards.

You are also supposed to sip from the spoon instead of putting the entire soup spoon in your mouth.

Put the spoon with its end at 6 o'clock to indicate to the waiter that you have finished.


The proper way to hold a fork.

The fork should always be facing the plate (when not putting food in your mouth) and not to the sky. It looks threatening.

Do not hold fork in stabbing position, no matter how tough the meat!


Proper way to hold a knife.

Similarly the knife, like the fork should always be facing downwards at the plate and not upwards. And do not put knife into your mouth no matter what!

Spoon (for asian cuisines)

When eating rice with a spoon (in Asian countries)

You begin by holding a spoon similar to the way you would hold a fork.

You'll use your fork to push the food into the spoon. Then as you bring the spoon to your mouth, you change the grip to be like this.

And you place the spoon halfway in your mouth, tilting it so that the food goes into your mouth. Some people are okay with putting the entire spoon in your mouth (like you would when you eat cereal with milk), but try to do this with grace without distraction.

How to Hold Chopsticks

This is the proper way to hold a pair of chopsticks:

This is the correct cutlery etiquette to hold your chopsticks when about to pick up food; pushing your middle finger to separate the chopsticks.

Read more about chopsticks etiquette here.

To eat a bowl of noodles, these are the cutlery used.

Your chopsticks should be placed over the bowl when finished. The spoon in the picture is a chinese spoon.

To eat a bowl of noodles, you hold your chopsticks in your right hand and in your left hand, the chinese spoon. When you eat noodles, the chinese way is to lift noodles into your spoon, dip to collect soup then put the spoon in your mouth. In other cultures, for example, the Japanese and Koreans, it seems acceptable to put the noodles into your mouth and slurp it up...

The Japanese spoon is used for drinking soup or the broth of the noodles.

The Japanese spoon is larger and has a little kink at the end. I suppose to prevent the spoon from sinking into the bowl especially since the Japanese noodle bowls tend to be bigger.

Correct Placement of Cutlery Etiquette

"I'm taking a break from eating to engage in conversation."

"I'm finished."

Cutlery or non cutlery?

Eating Bread

Do not use your fork and knife to cut the bread. Use your fingers to break a small piece of the bread, butter it with your butter knife and use your fingers to put the buttered bread in your mouth.

Crudites or Canapes

Do not pick them either with your fingers or utensils from the communal plate and put them straight into your mouth. Set a few down on your plate then slowly eat them.

Your Cutlery Collection

If you are stocking cutlery for your home, you can generally buy them in pre-prepared sets. For instance, a complete standard set could contain: (46-Piece Flatware Set, Service for 8)

  • 8 place knives,
  • 8 place forks,
  • 8 place spoons,
  • 8 salad forks,
  • 8 teaspoons,
  • 1 tablespoon,
  • 1 pierced tablespoon,
  • 1 sugar spoon,
  • 1 cold meat fork,
  • 1 butter serving knife,
  • 1 pie knife
  • and usually a nice box to contain your wares in.
  • Traditional and classic: Wallace Italian Sterling Palatina 46-Piece Sterling Silver Flatware Set, Service for 8

    Best seller: J.A. Henckels International Provence 45-Piece Stainless-Steel Flatware Set, Service for 8

    You may supplement your collection with individual pieces according to your dining lifestyle and what you need.

    Lunt Bel Chateau Sterling Silver 5-Piece Place Setting, Dinner Size

    You might be interested in:

  • How To have Good Table Manners (just don't do these things!)
  • French Table Manners
  • Types of Elegant Parties
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