Basic Table Etiquette and Simple Tips

Updated on November 5, 2018
revmjm profile image

Margaret Minnicks has been an online writer for many years. She writes articles that are interesting to her readers.

Whether you are eating at a fancy restaurant or at a dinner party at someone's house, it would be nice if you knew the proper table etiquette.

It would be helpful if you knew which utensil to use as well as which foods can be eaten with a fork or with your fingers.

Which Utensil to Use?

Utensils are placed on the table in the order they should be used. Start with the utensil that is farthest from your plate and work your way toward the center.

Forks go on the left. The shortest fork is the one used to eat your salad, if there is one. The dinner fork is the one closest to the plate. The knives and spoons go on the right side of the plate. The cutting side of the knife blade should be placed toward the plate.

The largest fork is the one used for the entrée. The largest spoon is the soup spoon. The dessert fork or spoon will be placed near the top of your plate. Water glasses are placed on the right of the plate.

Cut Food As You Go

Do not cut your steak, roast beef, or pork chop all at once. Cut as you go. That means you should cut only one piece of food at a time. After you eat that one piece, cut and eat another piece.

This is not the proper way to eat spaghetti.
This is not the proper way to eat spaghetti.

Several Ways to Eat Spaghetti

There are several ways to eat spaghetti. The method used should be one that you are comfortable with.

  1. Use only the fork by placing it into the plate of spaghetti vertically and twirl until you have some on your fork.
  2. Use a fork and a spoon by placing a spoon under the fork and twirl.
  3. Some people cut spaghetti as they go along. Traditionally, spaghetti shouldn't be cut or broken while it is being cooked or when it is eaten. If you are picking up too much with your fork, just use fewer strands.

This is the way to eat soup by filling the spoon by pushing it away from you.
This is the way to eat soup by filling the spoon by pushing it away from you.

How to Eat Soup

Most people eat soup the wrong way. Scoop the soup away from you with the oval spoon starting at the center of the bowl. Then sip from the side of the spoon instead of from the end of the spoon. If you want the last bit left in the cup or bowl, tip the container away from you instead of toward you.

Always keep the container on the table. Never lift it to bring it to your mouth. You should never make a slurping noise when eating soup.

Fingers or Fork?

There are several foods you should eat by using your fingers.

  1. Artichokes: Use your fingers to pull the leaves apart.
  2. Asparagus: Even though some people cut their asparagus in half and eat it with a fork, it is acceptable to eat it with your fingers. If it appears to be soggy or limp, then eat it with a fork.
  3. Bacon: Pick up crisp bacon with your fingers. and eat it. However, if it is soft, use your knife to cut it and use your fork to pick it up.
  4. Bread is always a finger food. You never cut it into pieces with a knife. Break off a piece at a time to butter it.
  5. Cheese: You should eat cheese with a fork if it is served as a side with meat or pie. If it is an appetizer, you may eat it with your fingers, especially if the cheese is in cubes.
  6. Chicken: Fried chicken and chicken nuggets can be picked up with the fingers and eaten. However, the barbecued, baked or stewed chicken should be eaten with a fork.
  7. Chips: Chips should be picked up with the fingers. They would crumble if you tried to cut them with a knife or use a fork to pick them up.
  8. Corn on the Cob: It is acceptable to pick it up with your fingers. If you are served corn on the cob at a dinner party, the hostess more than likely would have supplied small skewers.
  9. French Fries: If you are at a fast food restaurant or picnic, eat French fries with your fingers. During a formal or casual dinner, use your fork to eat them.
  10. Fruit: Whole and raw pieces of fruit are eaten with the fingers. However, once the fruit is cooked, use the utensil closest to it. A fruit cocktail, even when the fruit is uncooked, should be eaten with a fork or spoon.
  11. Pizza: This favorite snack is a finger food. If a slice is heavy with toppings, use a fork.
  12. Shrimp: If shrimp are served in a cocktail sauce, use the small fork that's on the side of the plate. Shrimp with tails on a serving platter should be eaten with your fingers. Shrimp on a skewer should be slid off and eaten with a fork.
  13. Sushi: Most sushi should be eaten with the fingers or chopsticks.

When someone says, "Pass the salt, please" you should pass both the salt and the pepper.
When someone says, "Pass the salt, please" you should pass both the salt and the pepper.

Dining Rules Most People Don't Know

Perhaps you know the following dining rules. However, the average person might not know some of them.

  1. When you are having dinner with others, wait until everyone has been served before you start eating no matter how hungry you are.
  2. If you are dining at someone's house and a condiment is not on the table, it is rude to ask for it. However, it is appropriate to ask for it in a restaurant.
  3. Do not reach across the table. Instead of reaching across the table for something, ask someone to pass food or condiments to you. Nobody wants your sleeves passing across their food.

  4. If someone asks you to pass the salt, you should also pass the pepper. Salt and pepper go hand in hand. They should be kept together.
  5. Do not make a sandwich out of your food unless you are eating sandwiches. If there a slice of ham or roast beef on your plate, you should cut it up one bite at a time and eat it instead of putting it in a sandwich.
  6. Instead of pouring steak sauce, barbecue sauce or ketchup all over your food put it on your plate next to your meat and dip one piece in it at a time.

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    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      5 days ago from Richmond, VA

      Dred, thanks for reading and commenting on my article about table manners. I enjoyed researching the information. I learned a lot myself.

    • dredcuan profile image

      Dred Cuan 

      5 days ago from California

      Hello Margaret,

      I really like these simple tips. I watched the full video and found it very useful. Though I know most of it, sometimes if I eat while having a great conversion, I'm actually missing some of these points. Thank you for sharing!

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      9 days ago from Richmond, VA

      Tim, I found some of the tips interesting. I did not know salt and pepper were supposed to be passed at the same time. I also didn't know that it was rude to ask a hostess for condiments not on the table. I have been to dinners were people were asking for ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, honey and other condiments.

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

      Tim Truzy 

      9 days ago from U.S.A.

      Thanks, aMargaret. Good ips and guidance for eating different typoes if fiid. I enjoyed it immensely.

      Very useful.

      Sincerely,

      Tim

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