Few kitchen items are as diverse and useful as a handy set of reusable bamboo chopsticks. From mixing and stirring to cooking and eating, chopsticks are fantastic tools. But– only if you know how to use and care for them correctly
Originating in prehistoric times, chopsticks are one of the oldest utensils around. The simple, yet genius tool came to life with a decision to use two sticks, rather than one’s hands, for reaching into a pot of food. Since their humble origins more than six thousand years ago, chopsticks have become the choice utensil for 1.2 billion people worldwide.
Why Choose Bamboo?
Many of the oldest recorded chopsticks were made of bamboo. Now, you can find these utensils made from many different materials– anything from ivory and silver to plastic. But bamboo still holds its place as the first and best chopstick material. Here’s why.
Fast-growing, durable, lightweight, and moisture-resistant bamboo is a natural choice for any utensil. When it comes to chopsticks, the natural qualities of bamboo are a perfect match for the tool. Chopsticks are sometimes used for cooking as well as eating. So the fact that bamboo does not conduct heat makes it superior to plastic or metal. And when it comes to durability and feel, bamboo outperforms wood chopsticks in several ways.
Bamboo vs Wood Chopsticks
If you didn’t know the difference, you might easily mistake a pair of wooden chopsticks for one made of bamboo. But, several key differences keep bamboo and wood chopsticks apart. Bamboo is resistant to water and bacteria, while wood is not. This makes bamboo chopsticks more durable for use with wet, soupy foods. And, it means that bamboo chopsticks are less likely to harbor bacteria than wooden ones.
While many wood chopsticks are heavily coated in glue and lacquer to ensure a smooth, splinter-free utensil, the superior strength and fine grain of bamboo mean that bamboo chopsticks can be made without glues and lacquers.
Disposable vs Reusable: Are Bamboo Chopsticks Reusable?
Wondering if those chopsticks you picked up at the sushi restaurant are reusable? The short answer is, probably, but not for long.
Most disposable chopsticks, even though they may look like bamboo, are made from soft wood like birch. This causes them to break and splinter easily. And therefore, disposable chopsticks are just that– disposable.
However, even disposable chopsticks can often be used for more than the one meal they’re set out for. If you find yourself with a pair that’s in good condition after your dinner, wash them by hand, let them air dry, and reuse them. Be sure not to overuse disposable chopsticks, though. Because they’re not intended for long-term usage, they may not be as resistant to bacteria. You should replace them after a month or so.
Although tossing a set of disposable chopsticks might seem small, over 80 billion pairs are thrown away each year. Sure, disposable chopsticks are often made of natural materials like wood (and even bamboo), which may appear to be a better option than plastic utensils. But when they’re not crafted with quality and for long-term use, chopsticks like these are causing deforestation. The issue is so bad that China even imposed a “chopstick tax” to dissuade diners from using disposables.
Your Guide To Chopstick Use and Care
So, you picked up a new pair of reusable bamboo chopsticks. Now, how do you use them? Follow these simple tips, and you’ll be a chopstick pro in no time.
How To Use Chopsticks Correctly
If you didn’t grow up using chopsticks, learning how to use them might take a bit of practice. But with a few tries under your belt, you’ll quickly find out how useful these utensils are.
Follow these steps to get started. And remember, practice makes perfect! Here’s how to use chopsticks correctly:
- Start by placing one chopstick in your dominant hand and holding it like a pencil. It should rest on the groove between your thumb and pointer finger about ⅓ of the way down from the top of the chopstick. Then, rest of the lower portion of the chopstick on your middle finger.
- Then, set the second chopstick below the first. Again, it should rest on the groove between your thumb and pointer finger. This time, rest the lower part of the chopstick on your ring finger.
- Once you feel comfortable with the basic holding position, it’s time to try some movement. Grasp the upper chopstick firmly with your thumb, pointer, and middle fingers and practice moving it up and down. The bottom chopstick should be relatively still.
- Feeling confident with the chopstick movement? Begin practicing with items of food, like small pieces of fruit or dried beans.
How To Use Chopsticks To Eat Noodles
From ramen to pho, the delicious noodle-based dishes in Asian cuisine are too many to count. Learning how to use chopsticks to eat noodles might be intimidating, but it’s an essential part of enjoying these amazing foods. Here’s how to do it.
First, refrain from using your bamboo chopsticks to twirl noodles as you might twirl pasta around a fork. It’s not considered disrespectful, but it is a surefire sign that you’re not sure how to use your utensils. Instead, do this.
- Using the technique of moving your upper chopstick only, place your chopsticks in your bowl and grasp a small amount of noodles between them. Trust us, the smaller amount, the better.
- Continuing to grasp the noodles tightly, lift them up towards your mouth. If they’re short enough to do so, try to untangle the noodles on your chopsticks from surrounding pieces of food.
- Now, the fun part! Place the noodles in your mouth, remove the chopsticks, and begin slurping up the noodles.
- Keep it simple– if your noodle dish has other ingredients such as meat or vegetables, eat them separately from the noodles.
How To Clean Reusable Bamboo Chopsticks
When your meal is done, make sure to properly clean and dry your bamboo chopsticks. This is essential to ensuring they have a long, splinter-free life.
Bamboo chopsticks, like other wood and bamboo utensils, should be hand washed with mild soap and warm water. Then, let them air dry until they’re completely moisture-free. Store your reusable bamboo chopsticks in a clean, dry, covered place.
To keep bamboo in its best condition, refrain from soaking it in water for extended periods of time or from placing it in the dishwasher. The intense heat and washing cycles of a dishwasher can overdry bamboo, which may lead to cracking or splintering.
How Long Do Bamboo Chopsticks Last?
So, how long will a pair of reusable bamboo chopsticks last? It depends on the pair you buy. Cheaply made chopsticks might only last a few months before chipping or splintering. Look for reusable bamboo chopsticks made with responsibly harvested, organically grown bamboo. And ensure that they are free from glues and lacquers, which contain harmful chemicals, and can chip and crack easier than plain bamboo. If you purchase a well-made pair of reusable bamboo chopsticks, you can enjoy them for years to come.
Enjoy your favorite Asian dishes they deserve. Shop USDA organic, 100% Biobased bamboo chopsticks.