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How to use utensils proplerly PDF Print E-mail
Identifying and properly using the many utensils involved with a fine dining experience can be a challenge

 There is a great lack of  knowledge of basic table manners in America today. Most people only gather around the dinner table for holiday feasts or on special occasions, and most restaurants are too casual to require such skills. Proper etiquette is essential for projecting success and savoir faire, or at least saving face in front of your friends.

Learning table manners can be a struggle, especially the difficult handling of the various utensils involved. Every move you make, from proper placement to the use of napkins, should be done confidently and with elegance.

Most of us have faced thje situation where there is a large amount of cutlery and we no idea how to use it. You should only be given as much silverware as you need and it should be arranged in a precise order. A good idea is to watch people around you, when they make the first move, just follow suit. Silverware is used in a specific order, as the meal progresses. The standard rule is to start off with the outer utensils and gradually use the utensils in the direction towards your plate.

Oyster fork
A small fork that is usually angled into the soup spoon at the right. This is the only fork to the right side of the plate.

Soup spoon
It is the biggest spoon on the table, usually pretty obvious. It is also commonly the only spoon provided for the initial place setting.

Salad fork
The salad fork should be the one with the thicker tine on the left. Note: it is considered inappropriate to use a knife, even for larger salad greens.

Fish fork
Both a fork and a knife are usually  provided for fish dishes. The fish fork is shorter than the meat fork, usually the one placed between the salad fork and the meat fork. The knife is usually has a slight bend to it.

The innermost fork and knife are provided for the meat course of the meal. When the meal is  a steak a sharper knife is usually added to the setting at the time it is served.

Dessert Utensils
Often the dessert utensils are brought with the dessert course. If the are put on the table at the beginning, they are usually  placed horizontally in front of the plate and parallel to each other. The bowl of the spoon should be pointing to the left and the tines of the fork pointing right.
If coffee or tea are served, a teaspoon us usually provided; and brought in with a cup and saucer.

How to hold utensils

First, it is important to hold the spoon and fork horizontally by balancing them between the first knuckle of the middle finger and the tip of the index finger while the thumb steadies the handle. The knife on the other hand is used with the tip of the index finger leaning on the blade of the knife.Don't apply too much pressure; simply use it as leverage and guidance, as you cut your food.
There are two different styles of using utensils, the North American Style and the European Style

North American Style

Normally, a utensil should be used with the same hand that you use to write. If you are right-handed, place the fork in your right hand. You should be able to eat and cut your food with the fork only (assuming you are at a fine restaurant where portions are usually small and the texture is soft). It might be very difficult to cut some types of foods, such as a big steak, so use your judgment when it comes to using a knife. This can lead to heavy maneuvering when foods, such as meats, require the use of both a knife and fork to obtain a bite of a manageable size. Simply take the fork in your left hand and turn the tines so that they point downwards. This will allow you to better hold the meat in place while the right hand operates the knife.

Once a bite-sized piece has been cut, set the knife down on the plate and transfer the fork to the right hand. It is considered inappropriate to cut more than one bite at a time. Pick up the freshly cut piece of meat and carry it to your mouth. Indulge . Remember this method is strict; you cannot even use the knife for hard to mount foods such as peas, and the fork must pick up everything on its own. As you can see, this style is slightly difficult to master.

European Style

You can call it the European Style or the Continental Style . This method of using utensils is simply more efficient and less formal. Use common sense; if the occasion calls for a more formal technique use the American Style . According to the European Style , the fork will remain in the left hand and the knife in the right. When food is cut, the fork is used exactly as in the American Style , except that once a portion has been separated from the whole, it is conveyed directly to the mouth on the down-facing fork.

You don't have to put down the knife every time and transfer the fork over to the right hand. As you can see, the European method is more forgiving and allows you to use your knife in more situations. With the European technique, it is also permitted to use a little piece of bread to ease a stubborn item onto the fork. Again, whether you use the American Style or European Style , it's important to never cut more than one or two bites at a time.

What to do with your used utensils?

Again many rules could be applied on the proper placement of utensils once in use. In order to simplify these rules, here are the basics. Essentially, used flatware should never touch the surface of the table. You wouldn't want to dirty the tablecloth, or get other material on the utensil. Make sure your fork and knife are well balanced on the plate when pausing for a drink. If the pause should last longer, make sure you place the fork on the left and the knife on the right, so that they crossover the center of the plate.

Be prepared not to leave any utensils in a non-flat dish when the busboy comes around to clear the table. The soup bowl, the shrimp cocktail, or the teacups are all presented with a plate underneath; therefore use them to place the used flatware. For those of you who want a second serving, place the knife and fork on the right side of the plate, so that there is room for the food. Finally, when you are finished, pair up the knife and the fork horizontally or diagonally in the plate. The cutting edge of the blade should be pointing towards you. As for the fork, it can be placed upwards or downwards.

 Proper etiquette is more than knowing when and how to use utensils. A good start is to develop the habit of observing people around the table on the dining methods they use in the course of the evening. Learning from your surrounding environment can be very useful in many situations, including at a formal dinner. Here are more tools you could use to achieve a solid basic knowledge of proper table manners.

When to start eating?

At a small event, someone should wait until everybody gets served before starting the meal. At larger events, the host will usually urge his guests to start eating upon reception of the food. This will not allow the food to get cold. In this case, it is a good idea to wait until one or two of the other guests are ready to begin as well, so that you are not the only person at the table eating.


Proper posture at the table is very important. Make sure to sit up straight, with your arms held near your body. Never,  hang your elbows heavily on the table when at a formal dinner. It is permissible to lean forward slightly every now and then and press elbows very lightly against the edge of the table, if it is obvious that you are using them for support.

How to use a napkin

The formal use of a napkin is a delicate affair. The napkin is meant to be dabbed at the lips and should not be dirtied in the process. Because every step of the proper etiquette is to preserve cleanliness and proper appearance, if everything goes well during the dinner, it is only normal that the napkin will not get used. At the beginning of dinner, unfold the napkin and put it on your lap, as this gesture will be acceptable anywhere. Iif you're at an extremely formal dinner and your napkin drops to the floor, signal a staff member so that he can pick it up and bring a fresh one. Finally, when leaving the table after the meal, the napkin should be loosely placed beside the plate. Simply leave your napkin loose on the table without folding, crumbling or twisting it.

How to eat soup

Always move the soupspoon away from your body and fill it up two-thirds of its capacity. Then, sip the liquid sideways without inserting the whole bowl of the spoon in the mouth. Slurping is probably the worst thing someone can do when eating soup. A question always comes up when eating soup. Is it proper to tilt the plate? It is appropriate to tilt the bowl, away from the body, to get the last spoonful or two of soup.

Passing the salt or pepper

Here is a perfect example that points out that etiquette is not about efficiency. When someone asks you for the salt, simply pick up both the salt and the pepper and place them within reach of the person next to you, who will do the same until they reach the person who asked for it. Salt and pepper should not be passed hand-to-hand, nor should anyone other than the original requester sprinkle the food with it.

What to do if you can't eat a piece of food

Food should come out of the mouth the same way it came in. Therefore, if for example, you take an olive with your hand, when removing the pit from your mouth, use your hand as well. When eating meat with a fork, you have to use that fork to remove the unwanted fatty piece. An exception to this rule is fish. It is fine to remove tiny bones with your fingers, because it would be difficult to drop them on a fork. When a piece of fat is too big to be removed with the fork, use a napkin discretely to discard the meat, so you can keep it out of sight.

What can you eat with your fingers?

  • Artichokes- Eat the leafs until you see the heart, then use a fork and knife to cut it
  • Asparagus- They may be eaten with your fingers as long as they are not covered with sauce
  • Bread- Must always be broken and never cut with a knife
  • Cookies
  • Chips, French fries, fried chicken, and hamburgers
  • Hors d'oeuvres, canapés, crudités
  • Sandwiches
  • Small fruits and berries on the stem


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