How to Use the Knife and Fork Properly

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How to Use the Knife and Fork Properly
How to Use the Knife and Fork Properly

It's easy to look like a caveman when you shred food with a fork and knife. However, at dinner parties, in fancy restaurants or on formal occasions, you will have to use these utensils in a classic way. There are European (or continental) and American styles. Which do you prefer?


Part 1 of 3: Using European (Continental) Style

Use the Fork and Knife Step 1

Step 1. Know that the fork is on the left side of the plate and the knife on the right

If you have more than one fork, the external one is for salad and the internal one is for the main course. The fork for the main course will be larger than the fork for the salad.

We'll talk about table organization in the last section of this article. For now, let's focus on how to hold utensils during the meal! In the “right” way, of course

Use the Fork and Knife Step 2

Step 2. To cut the food, take your knife and hold it in your right hand

The index finger should be straight and rest near the base of the upper, blind side of the blade. The other four fingers must be wrapped around the cable. Even though the index finger rests on top, the thumb should be on top of it. The end of the cord should touch the palm of your hand.

This goes for both styles. And both styles refer to right-handed people. If you are left-handed, you need to reverse sides in the guidelines in the topic above

Use the Fork and Knife Step 3

Step 3. Hold the fork in your left hand

Teeth should point away (and down). The index finger is stretched out and rests on the handle, close to the head of the utensil. The other four fingers are around the handle.

This method is commonly known as the “hidden cable”. This is because your hand practically covers the entire cable, making it disappear from view

Use the Fork and Knife Step 4

Step 4. Bend your wrists so that your forefingers point towards the plate

This should make the tips of the knife and fork point towards the plate, too. Relax your elbows (but don't raise them in the air) and try to get into a comfortable position.

Speaking of which, normally your elbows should stay away from the table at all times. However, if you are taking a break and in an informal environment, don't stress about it

Step 5. Hold food with a fork while applying pressure with your index finger

If cutting, place the knife near the base of the fork and cut with a saw motion. Foods like noodles will require a simple and precise cut, while meats will require a little more work. Generally, cut just enough to take one or two bites at a time.

Hold the fork so the tines curve toward you. The knife should be further away from you than the fork. It can be tilted too - the important thing is to be able to see the knife clearly so you know where the cut is being made. You should be able to see the knife over the fork

Use the Fork and Knife Step 6

Step 6. Bring small pieces of food to your mouth with your fork

In this style, bring the fork to your mouth with the tines curved down. The back of the fork will be raised as you bring it to your mouth.

Keep the fork in your left hand, even if you are right handed. You may find this method more efficient after trying them both

Part 2 of 3: Using American Style

Use the Fork and Knife Step 7

Step 1. When cutting, hold the fork with your left hand

Unlike the Continental method, the American style of using a fork adopts a grip similar to what we do with pens. The handle rests in the space between your thumb and forefinger. The middle finger and thumb hold the base, while the index finger rests on top. Again, the teeth point downward.

Use the Fork and Knife Step 8

Step 2. Just when cutting, put the knife in your right hand

This hand is positioned in the same way as the style mentioned above – index finger on the base and the others around the handle.

Step 3. Time to cut the food

Hold it with your fork (teeth down), cutting with the knife in gentle sawing motions. Your fork should be closer to your body than your knife. Cut just enough for one or two bites.

Step 4. Now switch hands

Here's the main difference between the two styles: After cutting a piece, let the knife rest on the edge of the plate and transfer the fork from left hand to right. Turn the fork over so the tines are curved up and you're done! The food finally reaches your mouth!

This method was popular in the United States. Europe used to use it, but it went ahead and favored a more efficient approach. The jump wasn't all that big, although there are some differences here and there

Use the Fork and Knife Step 11

Step 5. In addition to cutting, eat with the fork in your right hand with the tines facing up

If you're eating a meal that doesn't require cutting, keep your fork in your right hand at all times with this method. The teeth may be turned down if you are taking a bite, but they usually come back up most of the time. However, be aware that this will only be an issue in more formal environments. We are talking about moments when the President is sitting in front of you. If that's not the case, you don't need to stress about it.

Cutlery must never touch the table. If you are using the fork, make sure the knife is resting on the edge of the plate. When you drop your fork, keep its handle on the edge of the plate and the tines in the center of the plate

Part 3 of 3: The Organization of the Table

Use the Fork and Knife Step 12

Step 1. Understand how the table is composed

For 95% of meals, you will likely only handle a knife, fork, and spoon. However, on more posh occasions, you can look at a few more cutlery and wonder what the hell should be done. Here's a basic guide:

  • The basics consist of a knife, a salad fork, a main dish, and a teaspoon for coffee. The fork for the salad sticks out farther and is smaller than the fork for the main course.
  • The organization with five pieces also takes a soup spoon. It is much bigger than the coffee spoon.
  • The organization with six pieces consists of a fork and knife for the entrance, which are further out. From the outside in, they follow the fork and knife for the main course and a fork for dessert and a teaspoon for coffee. These last two are the smallest.
  • And then there is the organization that takes seven pieces. It includes a soup spoon, which is much larger than the teaspoon.

    • If you see a small fork on your right, this is the fork for eating oysters.
    • Utensils are placed in the order of use. When in doubt, always start from the outside to the inside.
Use the Fork and Knife Step 13

Step 2. When taking breaks between bites, let the cutlery rest

There are two different ways to do this without the waiter thinking you've finished eating:

  • European style: Leave the cutlery crossed, with the fork above the knife and with the tines facing downwards. The fork and knife should form a "V" turned upside down.
  • American style: Imagine your plate like a clock. Knife is close to 12 o'clock, handle close to 3 o'clock. The fork, on the other hand, has its tines up and halfway across the plate.

Step 3. After finishing the meal, leave the cutlery in the proper position

That way the waiter will know that the dish can be taken away. Here are the two styles again:

  • European style: knife and fork parallel to each other; handles turned at 5 o'clock (imagine your plate again as if it were a clock), the knife blade pointing at 5 o'clock and the tines of the fork pointing at 10 o'clock and facing downwards).
  • The American style: just like the European, except the tines of the fork face up.

Step 4. Be careful with rice and other small items

If you don't have a spoon, you'll need to scoop up the rice on your fork with spoon-like movements rather than skewering it uselessly. The American style usually prefers to rely only on the fork (again, less efficient), while the European sometimes employs the help of a knife blade or a piece of bread for this.

Step 5. To eat pasta, rotate it with your fork

If you have a spoon, wind some strands with your fork and leave them on the spoon head. If the dough strands are long and difficult to work, they can be cut with a knife. However, before taking any drastic measures, try to pick only a few strands at a time. And it's always good to have a handkerchief ready!

If you're not good with noodles, you're in good company. Even the most experienced pasta eaters make a mess. Just be careful not to make noise when sucking the strands of dough


Do not stress yourself. Nobody does things 100% the same way. And certain foods will require a slightly different methodology. Everything will be fine as long as you master the basics


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