In most situations, following the "outside-in" rule will tell you which knife, fork, or spoon to use at the dinner table.
- Use utensils on the outside first and work your way inward with each new course that is served.
Continental Style v. American Style
(for right-handed dinners)
Hold your fork in your left hand, tines downward.
Hold your knife in your right hand, an inch or two above the plate. Extend your index finger along the top of the blade.
Use your fork to spear and lift food to your mouth.
If your knife is not needed, it remains on the table.
Hold your fork like a pencil, with the shank extended between your thumb and index and middle fingers. Your fourth and fifth fingers rest in your hand.
For leverage, the index finger is extended along the back of the fork, as far from the tines as possible.
Hold the knife with the handle cupped in the palm of your left hand, along with your third, fourth, and fifth fingers. Place your second finger on the back of the blade. Hold your thumb against the side of the handle.
At a small table of only two to four people, wait until everyone else has been served before starting to eat. At a formal or business meal, you should either wait until everyone is served to start or begin when the host asks you to.
If you're allergic to a food or on a restricted diet, explain to your host (not to the table at large) why you have no choice but to decline.
If you order for yourself, you can avoid some of the potential difficulties of a main course by ordering food that is easy to eat and that you’ll know you enjoy.
- If the meal is formal, plates will be removed by the staff.
- At informal meals, the hostess will probably clear the plates, possibly with one or two guests helping.
- At a family meal, members clear their own plates.