5,000 years ago, chopsticks were nothing but a pair of long twigs, manipulated by some anonymous, ingenious Chinese cook to reach into a cooking utensil over an open flame. By A.D. 500, use of them had spread across Asia. In China, they reached their peak of popularity when Confucius made them his eating implement of choice. But today, these centuries-old Asian eating and cooking utensils have taken on slightly different forms depending on which culture is using them.
For instance, Japanese chopsticks are shorter with narrow tips that may have ridged threads for easier gripping. They’re meant for precise grabbing of single bites, such as with sushi, and the textured grips—like the grip with our top pick Antner Hardwood Chopsticks—are ideal for noodles. Korean chopsticks, on the other hand, are flat and rectangular, typically made of metal and paired with a long-handled spoon. Classic Chinese chopsticks are thicker, longer, and don’t taper as much toward the bottom, making them best for delicate cuts. They tend to start square at the handle to prevent rolling and finish with cylindrical ends. Contemporary chopsticks have other smart features that make them easier to use.
No matter which style you decide is best for you, a few universal rules apply. Never stick them straight up in a bowl as it's a cultural sign of disrespect to your hosts and dining companions. Mismatching your chopsticks also carries bad connotations. Finally, don’t point them at people—it’s akin to pointing with a knife, which is rude anywhere you go.
With those basics down, the only thing left to master is actual use. We combed through hundreds of options to determine the best chopsticks for your needs.
Antner Hardwood Chopsticks
What We Love: Natural hardwood, non-slip tips, carved edges
What We Don't Love: Color may fade, rounder shape may roll
Wood chopsticks inevitably warp; they need to be replaced more frequently and require more care than any other material. This care includes more delicate handwashing and oiling if you want them to last longer. However, they feel warm in hand, offer satisfying texture, and are low heat conductors, making wood chopsticks a popular option.
It’s important not to buy painted ones, which may have harmful chemicals. Luckily, unembellished styles can still be stunning, like these Japanese-style chopsticks. They're constructed of natural cassia siamea wood and coated with natural lacquer by Chinese craftsmen. With curved, carved edges on the top half and texturized, sanded tips to better hold onto food, these unique chopsticks are simultaneously modern and traditional.
Price at time of publish: $10
Length: 8.8 inches | Material: Wood | Number of Pairs: 5
Youda Chinese-Style Dragon Chopsticks
What We Love: Fiberglass construction, non-slip tips, won't warp
What We Don't Love: Japanese-style ends are less conducive to the Chinese scooping style of eating
The process of lacquering—applying a glossy, polished finish to wooden chopsticks, whether as simple coats or intricate designs, is a craft originating from Fuzhou, a city in the Fujian province west of Taiwan. It results in beautiful finished products that resist moisture and last.
However, for everyday use, most Chinese folks don’t break out those fancy chopsticks. This fiberglass set is far more accessible and easy to use than slippery lacquer, but it's still dressy with its gorgeous corrosion-resistant, dragon-embossed gold trim, and wide, slightly pointed cap. Plus, its narrow, textured ends offer more precision than traditional-style chopsticks.
Price at time of publish: $19
Length: 9.6 inches | Material: Fiberglass | Number of Pairs: 5
HuaLan Japanese Natural Wood Chopsticks
What We Love: Eco-friendly material, paint-free, minimalist look
What We Don't Love: Flower detail is off-center, slippery lacquer finish can make usage tricky
Although lacquered chopsticks are an elevated form in China, it’s our pick for Japanese chopsticks. Varnished with natural, eco-friendly tree lacquer, this set is made of ultra-lightweight jujube wood and has tweezer-thin tips that are the signature of Japanese-style chopsticks.
Its minimalist aesthetic is spot on for that culture’s preference, and its paint-free finish makes it a beautiful choice. Subtle organic waves around the top half of the barrel help provide a comfortable grip, as well as enough texture to help them stay put when placed down.
Price at time of publish: $8
Length: 9 inches | Material: Hardwood | Number of Pairs: 5
SHARECOOK Korean Chopsticks
What We Love: Easily matches flatware, available in many colors, relatively lightweight, comfortable grip
What We Don't Love: Mirror finish may get scuffed, metal can get very hot, longer than typical Korean chopsticks
Traditional Korean chopsticks are rectangular and flat from top to bottom. This corrosion-resistant 18/10 stainless steel set improves upon this commercial design with softer barrel edges that won’t dig into your hands like skinny, narrow ones are prone to do. (But they're not round; these have an anti-roll shape!)
The tips are rounded with a concentric etching that can help with slippery dishes like japchae. But for those who are more comfortable with the old-school specs, this beautiful Korean-made gift set—complete with matching spoons—is the best you can get.
Price at time of publish: $13
Length: 9.5 inches | Material: Stainless steel | Number of Pairs: 5
Related: The Best Dinnerware Sets
Best for Cooking
GLAMFIELDS 16.5-Inch Wooden Cooking Chopsticks
What We Love: Oversized dimensions for safe cooking
What We Don't Love: Lacquered finish can be slippery
If you’re cooking with chopsticks, it’s probably safe to assume you’re doing it in a wok. If that’s the case, extra inches are your friend. This pair keeps you 16 safe inches away from the action with proportionately thick, sturdy dimensions for nonstop stirring and frying.
They're made in the Chinese style and are varnished with natural, food-grade lacquer to protect the ironwood base from mildew and odor. This coating may keep them from being accurate oil temperature gauges for frying (unlike wood or bamboo chopsticks, which create a stream of bubbles when submerged), but it will ultimately give you more time with them.
Price at time of publish: $10
Length: 16.5 inches | Material: Wood | Number of Pairs: 2
Related: The Best Woks
CATHYLIFE Chopsticks Reusable 316 Stainless Steel Color Laser Engraved
What We Love: Color laser engraving will stay true over time, multiple design options, relatively lightweight, laser-etched grips
What We Don't Love: Can get very hot, may get scratched/scuffed and dim over time
Since it was believed that metal changed color to indicate poison, it has long been the chopstick material of choice for Koreans. That preference remains today due to its hygienic properties, durability, ability to withstand heat, and odor resistance. But its heat retention and general slipperiness have led other cultures to try and make their own versions. This gorgeous pick is one such hybrid, combining Chinese length, Japanese shape, and Korean sensibilities, using corrosion-resistant, sturdy 316 (18/10) stainless steel.
A lush color laser engraving promises never to fade, and laser-patterned etchings at the tips make for a better grip. A squared barrel keeps them from rolling, and a hollow core keeps them lightweight for easier handling—an issue some have with metal chopsticks.
Price at time of publish: $18
Length: 9.8 inches | Material: Stainless steel | Number of Pairs: 2
Related: The Best Knife Sets
For a long-lasting, all-purpose set of chopsticks, it’s hard to beat the beautiful Antner Hardwood Chopsticks. If you need long chopsticks for cooking up tasty dishes, we recommend the GLAMFIELDS 16.5-Inch Wooden Cooking Chopsticks.
What to Look for in Chopsticks
The three major styles of chopsticks are Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. The standard is the Chinese style, which features blunted, cylindrical tips that don’t deviate much from handle diameters. They're the longest, followed by Korean chopsticks, which are also very flat, very thin, and typically made of metal, unlike the other two styles. The latter is not ideal for rice, but they’re also not made for rice—that’s what the spoon is for. Finally, Japanese chopsticks are dramatically thinner and pointier at the end and can be round-barreled throughout. They're much shorter and designed for precision; they also often have grip threads carved into the ends to better grasp your food and make up for the larger natural gap between the tips.
There are pros and cons to every type of material. Natural materials such as bamboo and wood can feel warm and comfortable to hold. Stainless steel is durable, easy to sanitize, and easier to match to your flatware. Plastic-type materials such as melamine, acrylic, and fiberglass are low-maintenance and long-lasting. Then, there are materials like ceramic and lacquered woods, which are beautiful but slippery.
What material your chopsticks are made of is subject to personal preference, but we advise that you stay away from uncoated bamboo or wood (to avoid splinters); plastic, which can melt; and painted chopsticks, which can chip off.
The appropriate length of chopsticks depends on the style and your own hand’s dimensions. The rule of thumb here is to measure the space between the tip of your thumb and pointer finger, then multiply that by 1.5. However, if you want more control, go for shorter ones. For cooking or serving, get oversized pairs: they provide safety from heat and steam. Just bear in mind that for eating, chopsticks longer than 10 inches may feel clunky, and anything less than 8.5 inches is typically too small for most adults.
Thickness and Handling
The thicker the chopsticks, the easier it will be to scoop food and take bigger bites. Chinese chopsticks are the thickest, then Japanese-style, despite their needle-nose precision at the grabbing ends. Thinnest of all are Korean chopsticks, whose long rectangular shape tends to be uniform from end to end. These can be challenging to maneuver since their sharp angle can be rough on your hands. This challenge is useful to keep in mind for all the styles, though: Overly square, 90-degree angle handles will bite into your hands, which is less than ideal.
On the other hand, round chopsticks will have you chasing them or not putting them down during your meal to avoid them running across your bowls, plates, table, and more. Trendy handles like octagonal shapes and rounded squares may actually serve you better than these extremes for comfort, practical, and aesthetic reasons.
Why should I buy reusable instead of disposable chopsticks?
The obvious reason is that reusable chopsticks are more eco-friendly than single-use ones, sustainable as raw bamboo can be. Because they’re unsealed, the latter can absorb bacteria, mold, and other ickies you don’t want in your mouth. And who wants to deal with those splintering edges? Reusable chopsticks are not only smoother and more pleasant to grip, but they’re also not very expensive—roughly a dollar or so per average pair.
How often should I replace wooden chopsticks?
Once the finish wears off or they start to warp, it’s time to look into a new set. Wooden chopsticks can last up to two years—even more with extra care. For instance, cleaning them by hand with very mild soaps, giving them plenty of air to dry after washing, and oiling them once in a while with food-grade mineral oil can extend their life.
Are chopsticks dishwasher-safe?
Depending on the material, they can be, but it’s not recommended to machine-wash chopsticks. Logistically, they’re thin enough to slip through the holes in utensil baskets and can shift around. This can potentially cause damage to your dishes and the dishwasher interior, particularly if they get caught in the spinner.
How do you wash chopsticks?
Simply gather them together, soap them over with a sponge, then rub the whole batch together under running water. Every so often, you may choose to disinfect them. Many Korean restaurants boil their metal chopsticks. The typical Japanese method is to fill a narrow, tall jar with plain vinegar and drop the chopsticks in for a few minutes. Rinse them with boiling water, allow them to air-dry, and presto! Germs begone.
How many pairs do I need?
For a household, you need as many pairs as there are family members, then a few more for serving. When eating family-style, you may want to use a pair of designated serving chopsticks per dish to reduce germ exposure. However, this is a subjective practice that varies by household, as it is more seemly in Asian cultures to only take a bite or so at a time and eat over a small drip plate instead of piling up an individual portion.
Do I need chopstick rests?
No, not unless you’re using round chopsticks that threaten to roll off any resting surface. Rests are often decorative and can be fun and elegant, but most Asian households don’t require them for informal occasions. Resting your chopsticks against the rim of your rice bowl or plate is fine.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
This guide was written by Su-Jit Lin, who has over a dozen years of experience writing about food and dozens more about cooking it—and enjoying it all with extreme gusto. She's been using chopsticks since before she could be trusted with a fork. That said, Su-Jit is also a recreational volume eater, and her favorite method of food conveyance is a shovel.
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