The American Dining Style

There are four steps used in American style dining rather than the two steps in Continental style dining.  American style dining is also referred to as "zig-zag" dining.  

The United States was founded on the premise of living life in a unique, independent manner.  Eating is no exception.

The Four Steps of American Dining

Step 1

With the fork in your left hand and knife in your right hand, cut your food.  The left index finger is placed on the back of the fork with the handle end in the middle of your palm. The index finger of your right hand is placed on the top edge of the knife at the juncture between the blade and the handle.

American Dining Step 1 - Cutting Your Food

Step 2

Keeping your fork in place in your hand, lay the knife at the top of the plate.  Make sure the blade edge is facing you.  (It is considered an affront to other diners to point your blade at them.) 

American Dining Step 2 - Knife at the top of the plate

Step 3

Now that your right hand is free, switch the fork from the left hand to right.  Holding the fork like a pencil, place the bite onto the fork.  Move your left hand to your lap. 

Step 4

Bring the fork to your mouth and enjoy the bite!  (Do remember to keep your left hand off the table, though if you're left-handed, there is a tendency to move it onto the table--maybe to be ready in case it's needed.)

Memory tip:  When eating American style, after cutting a bite, only ONE utensil is in use--the fork.  That is, until you cut another bite, in which case the switching routine begins all over again from the start.  Overall, your LEFT hand won't have as much to do and it should be placed in your lap when you are eating.

Taking a Break...Resting Position

If you need to pause during the meal - maybe you'd  like a sip of water or need to blot your mouth with your napkin - you will need to place your utensils in resting position on the plate to indicate your pause.

With your knife already resting at the top of your plate, place your fork in the four o'clock position on the plate.

This tells the server that you are not finished with your meal, and he should not remove your plate.

American Dining Resting Position

Finished With Your Meal...Close-out Position

When you are ready for your plate to be removed from the table, there is a utensil placement that signals this as well.

With your fork in the four o'clock position, move your knife down to meet it.

This is the close-out position for American style dining.

(Note: Placing the knife and fork parallel in a 6:30 o'clock position is also acceptable.)

American Dining Close-out Position

For Lefties

Being left-handed has its challenges when it comes to eating American style.  Fortunately, you can still maintain good table manners with a few tweaks in utensil positions.

Most left-handed individuals choose to make a simple modification to the system described above, with the adjustment in the third and fourth steps.  

How to do it: 

1)  Cut with the knife in the right hand and fork in the left hand.  (First position the the knife handle in the palm of the right hand and the fork positioned in the palm of the left hand.)

2) Place the knife at the top of the plate as demonstrated above, with the blade facing in. 

3)  Keeping the fork in the left hand, ROTATE it as if you were holding a pencil.

4) Bring the fork to your mouth with the left hand, fork tines facing up.  


Americans and some Canadians are the only people who eat using the American style of dining.  These days, greater numbers of people are choosing the two-step (Continental) dining style because of its ease and convenience.  

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