15 Food Etiquette Mistakes Everyone Makes

These are etiquette mistakes we've all made at one time or another. Help is on the way!

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Bohemian Gold flatware
Taste of Home

The rules of etiquette should help make social interactions less awkward, not the other way around! But some are more logical than others, especially when it comes to food. We put together a list of common mishaps plus an easy fix for each one.

You’ll be more than ready for your next fancy party—especially when you bring a delicious app to pass.

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Senior couple eating breakfast at home.
Shutterstock / Halfpoint

Not taking small sips

You might be parched, but no one else at the table needs to know. Keep it classy by taking small sips, not big gulps. (And try not to take a sip when you have food in your mouth. Chew and swallow the food first or you’ll give other guests a real show!)

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Negroni Cocktail with orange and ice.
Oksana Mizina/Shutterstock

Not removing the stir stick from your cocktail

When you’re at the dinner table, non-edible items such as stir sticks or paper umbrellas should be removed from the glass and placed on your bread plate. If you’re mingling at a cocktail party, place the item in your napkin and wait for an opportunity to discard it.

(Psst…can you make these essential classic cocktails?)

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Pouring white wine from bottle into the wineglass on the table over blurred background
Shutterstock / Africa Studio

Not using the stem on your stemware

When your glass has a stem, that’s where you should hold it. Regardless of what you’re drinking, holding a glass by its stem will keep the beverage from getting too warm, and will keep the bowl of the glass clean and smudge-free.

If your wineglasses get all fingerprint-y, here’s how to polish them.

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Taste of Home

Not breaking your bread

No matter how good the dinner rolls may look and smell (especially if the host used our amazing dinner roll recipe) etiquette dictates that you break your bread before you take a bite. If the bread has a hard crust, you can cut it with a knife.

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restaurant interior

Not knowing where your bread plate is

Your bread plate is directly above your fork, which should be to the left of your dinner plate. The small plate to the right of your dinner plate is definitely not yours, so try not to munch on your table-neighbor’s dinner roll.

Hungry for homemade bread? Try any one of these truly spectacular bread recipes.

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Bowl of pickled olives on wooden background

Making a fuss out of spitting your olive pit

Yes, you’re allowed to eat whole olives from an antipasto platter. But now you’ve got an olive pit in your mouth, and you can’t very well swallow it. Don’t panic!

Spit it discreetly into your left hand and place it to the side of your plate.

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Blurred background woman's hand with the spoon while eating soup in the restaurant

Scooping your soup toward you

It may seem counterintuitive, but soup should be scooped away from you. If there’s a soup spoon (it’s rounder than a regular spoon) at your place setting, that’s the one you should use.

Put your soup skills to work with our top 10 soup recipes.

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wicker basket of cherry tomatoes

Biting your cherry tomato in half

Cherry tomatoes are super-messy unless you eat ’em whole. When eating them with veggie dip, just pop them into your mouth. When eating cherry tomatoes in salad, use your fork to eat them whole.

There’s one exception. When a tomato is too big to fit in your mouth, cut it in half with a knife and fork.

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french fries
Shutterstock / K321

Always eating french fries out of hand

When you’re eating fries with food that’s eaten by hand (hello, hamburgers), go ahead and eat them with your fingers. But if you’re served french fries with fork-food such as grilled steak, spear everything.

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Taste of Home

Using a knife on your baked potato

This one surprised us! The longstanding rule of etiquette is not to use a knife on a baked potato, even to add butter. Experts recommend adding butter with the tip of your fork, believe it or not. The rule against knife-use applies to lots of soft foods, including eggs and soft vegetables.

Save these tasty baked potato recipes for later.

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Taste of Home

Cutting up all your meat at once

When you cut your meat, do so one piece at a time. In other words, cut and eat one piece before you cut another. This is always easier when the cook takes a second to make tough meat deliciously tender.

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COLE & MASON Derwent Salt and Pepper Grinder Set - Stainless Steel Mills Include Gift Box, Gourmet Precision Mechanisms and Premium Sea Salt and Peppercorns
via Amazon

Passing the salt

OK, this one’s a bit of a trick: You can pass the salt, so long as you pass it with the pepper. Salt and pepper are considered “one” and must be treated as such.

Bonus tip: All passing should be done to the right. Imagine the chaos if food were passed every which way!

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Taste of Home

Dunking stuff in your coffee

Yes, that homemade butter pecan biscotti is just begging to be dipped in your cup, but don’t (unless you’re at Dunkin’ Donuts or an equally casual place). By the way, when you’re done adding cream and sugar, place your spoon on your saucer.

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Sugar packet
Shutterstock / successo images

Leaving your empty packets of sugar on the table

Instead, crumple your sugar packets and place them neatly on the edge of your saucer or dessert plate. The same goes for your empty creamer containers.

Tired of the ol’ cream-and-sugar routine? Here are 10 unexpected (but wonderful) things to add to your coffee.

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Dirty dishes with cutlery on a brown wooden table
Shutterstock / Butus

Not showing the waiter (or host) you’re done

When you’re finished eating, lay your cutlery parallel across the edge of your plate. (Crossing your cutlery suggests that you’re still eating.) Then take your napkin off your lap, and set it to the left of your plate.

Now that you’re a food etiquette pro, take your game up a notch by learning these table etiquette tips.

Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared regularly in The Huffington Post as well as a variety of other publications since 2008 on such topics as life and style, popular culture, law, religion, health, fitness, yoga, entertaining and entertainment. She is also a writer of crime fiction; her first full-length manuscript, The Trust Game, was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.