How to Use Chopsticks – Become an Expert in 90 Seconds


I once used chopsticks like Papua New Guinea tribesman spear fish. Then I developed a vice-like power technique that often ended with wet seafood catapulting across the table. Both experiences left me with a strong dislike for chopsticks — seriously, why on earth would someone not use a fork?

Then I spent a year abroad in Japan during 1992 and 1993. It was a revelation.

The 90-second video above provides all the basics you need to become a chopstick pro and never drop food again. Several finer points…

1) Never stick your chopsticks straight down into your rice as a place holder. This is considered bad luck or even a harbinger of death, as bowls of rice with chopsticks sticking out of the center are used in some rites of ancestral worship.

2) Never attempt to pass food from chopstick to chopstick.
Bad mojo similar to #2, as this is how unburnt bones are moved to the urn at a cremation.

3) During your practice phase, consider turning the hand and using the chopsticks like a forklift (about 1-1.5″ apart) for larger pieces or wet seafood. Bring your rice bowl closer to the serving dish with your free hand to cut down on distance and potential for splatter disaster. Practice in the beginning on smaller fried items with no liquid beneath them.

4) The technique I explain is common in East Asia (Japan, China, Korea), and there are alternate techniques in South East Asia (Vietnam, for example, where this video was taken). The latter tend to use heavier and longer chopsticks, which are held closer together and even scissored.

5) For those who like fun OCD-like behaviors, getting good as using chopsticks will also improve your pen tricks
(demonstrated below).

Posted on: March 30, 2008.

Watch The Tim Ferriss Experiment, the new #1-rated TV show with "the world's best human guinea pig" (Newsweek), Tim Ferriss. It's Mythbusters meets Jackass. Shot and edited by the Emmy-award winning team behind Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and Parts Unknown. Here's the trailer.

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57 comments on “How to Use Chopsticks – Become an Expert in 90 Seconds

  1. Great tips Tim – now I can finally spin a pen! And I can’t wait to go out for Asian food.

    Keep the quirky posts like this coming. They are just as fun to read and beneficial as the investing, lifestyle, and philanthropy posts!


  2. Very nice. When I wa an exchange student in Japan my host mom made me move grains of rice from one bowl to another to train with chop sticks. Sadly most n0n-Japanese can use chop sticks a lot better than the younger generations in Japan.


  3. Actually the chop sticks upright in a bowl of rice is an offering to your ancestors. That is the way you leave rice for them when you visit their tombs.

    #2 is bad because the only time you transfer things from chop sticks to chop sticks is when you pass the unburnt bones from a cremation from family member to family member. Inevitably all of the bones do not turn to ash, so things like thigh parts, and thicker bones do not burn all the way through. They are moved to the urn by hand.


    Hi K,

    Understood. In my attempt to keep it simple I made it confusing. I’ll clarify.




  4. Yah there are a few different kind of chopsticks too, SE Asia and most regions of China use chopsticks touch at the ends when held together so you can use the lazy/scissor method.

    But Japanese and Korean chopsticks tend to be more pointed and don’t meet at the ends when held together so you need proper technique.

    Korean chopsticks are even worse as they are generally metal and slightly flattened, so they are tough to pick up slippery things with.


  5. I grew up in a household of chopstick-wielding experts — well, my Dad and Mom. But I could never quite grasp their advantage over a fork or even a pointy stick. So to this day, whenever I go out for sushi or Chinese food, I always ask for a fork.

    I’ve loved doing #1 in front of relatives and debunking stupid superstition. My Grandma used to bemoan people leaving food for the dead when there are poor people (this was in Bangkok, where the rich/poor divide on the same street is STARTLING!) who are so hungry, that food shouldn’t go to waste.

    Definitely helpful to have videos for this; spatial movement can’t easily be understood by most in text alone.


  6. @8020 Financial
    trust me, you can shovel just fine using chopsticks. haven’t you ever seen a japanese person lift a bowl of rice up to their face and just wolf it down? it’s quite efficient.


  7. Among the Chinese people I know, if I use your technique, I always get that condenscending “look at the gwai lo trying to use chopsticks” look, whereas the “scissors” technique, or adopting something similar to your technique, but using only the thumb and first two fingers, draws no notice. And it is a very handy skill for those times when you have food but no utensils, as any pair of sticks can now do the job.


  8. @8020 Financial

    Have you never seen Goku from DBZ eat? He’s a beast with chopsticks.

    Nice video Tim, I’ll have to show my wife because she hasn’t had as much practice and I’m a horrible teacher.



  9. Thanks for the tip Tim! It will save me lots of afternoons walking around with a dirty shirt because I spoiled it during lunch! By the way, I’m starting loosing my hair (I’m 34), any hacks to prevent that? Obrigado!


  10. Man, talk about practical.

    Awesome information. I really like how varried all of your posts are, but they all seem to fit under a niched down topic of “how to live a proper life”

    Just got back from Costa Rica for the first time and I know what Pura Vida means now.



  11. Noticed you’ve got Pandora playing on the laptop. Great service (and worth the subscription). You’ve shared music rec’s in the past – how about a link to your Pandora profile to share your stations?

    …just click “your profile” button in upper left and share the URL.


  12. Man, talk about practical.

    Awesome information. I really like how varried all of your posts are, but they all seem to fit under a niched down topic of “how to live a proper life”

    Just got back from Costa Rica for the first time and I know what Pura Vida means now.

    Forgot to write great post! Looking forward to seeing your next post!


  13. Posts like these are why I enjoy your blog, Tim. In the midst of some thought provoking posts, as well as very specific action-oriented ones, you also input some fun “how-tos.” As they say, sometimes happiness is found in the little things. Will practice this technique. ;-)