Chopsticks are simple in design yet offer a powerful tool for delivering food from plate to mouth. Better than a fork? Well, I don’t want to be viewed as a traitor … but I must admit, once you get the hang of chopsticks you might just see how they are a better device.
I prefer chopsticks since they are easy to clean — no difficult fork tines to deal with here. You can use them to stir, cut food, serve food, and of course eat food. And, for those you are just kids at heart, by sticking them under your upper lip you can make amazing walrus impersonations.
So, are there really so many types of chopsticks that a chopstick buying guide is necessary? After finding so many chopstick choices (and having made a few bad choices), I decided it might be helpful to those curious about selecting the perfect utensil.
First, consider the material from which the chopstick is made. You’ll usually find three common materials used to make chopsticks: wood, plastic, and stainless steel.
- Wood chopsticks are often sealed with a shiny laminate which can create a slippery surface. While the chopsticks are often beautifully decorated and colorful, I find these to be the most difficult to use. Also, as the laminate wears away, the wood will become more permeable and can become harder to clean. Of course, you can also buy the disposable wooden chopsticks for super-quick clean up and to create a true ‘take out’ experience at home.
- Metal chopsticks are akin to stainless steel dinnerware, often viewed as the ‘good silverware’. Although easy to clean and sanitize, metal chopsticks can be heavier and can absorb heat quickly.
- Plastic chopsticks are reminiscent of Chinese restaurants but there’s something to be said for this. Restaurants know how easy these chopsticks are to clean and use. My preference is actually for this type and find that these are the ones I use on a daily basis. Plastic chopsticks can be found in most asian grocery stores or from restaurant supply companies.
Selecting Chopstick Tip & Body Shape
Just as chopsticks come in several different material types, the shape of a chopstick is likewise important. You’ll notice that the tip of the chopstick may be either pointy or rounded with a blunt end. While pointy tips are intended for picking up the smallest grain of rice, I find the shape less practical when eating slices of slippery meat or vegetables. A rounded tip allows you to easily grasp (and hold onto), foods of all shapes and sizes.
The body of the chopstick is also variable, ranging from fully rounded to squared. The more square the body, the easier it is to grip the chopstick. Chopsticks with rounded bodies can roll between the fingers making it difficult to pick up food without the chopstick slipping. My preference is for the squared chopstick design.
Training Chopsticks for Beginners
For those new to chopstick usage, have no fear. You may feel clumsy using chopsticks at first but with practice chopsticks will become easy to use.
Training chopsticks, also known as ‘cheater chopsticks’, are a great way to learn chopstick mechanics while still being able to get food to your mouth. Training chopsticks come as either a single chopstick unit with a closed end or as a chopstick holder which you can attach to any chopsticks. The designs come in fun shapes and colors with some made especially for children.
Chopsticks are a space saver and don’t take up as much room as western silverware. You don’t need any special drawer inserts and don’t need to worry about separating dinner forks from salad forks. I keep mine in a glass stored on a shelf. It allows for easy access and takes up little space.
I’ve gotten rid of many chopsticks that were difficult to use due to their material or shape. Currently, I have about 25 pairs of chopsticks which is likely more than enough for a household of two. However, I have the urge to buy more.