Eating messy food: the perfect way to eat a burger

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Japanese researchers recently presented the ideal way to eat a hamburger that minimises spillage and gives the maximum amount of burger with every bite. The study has also caught the attention of TIME magazine and Kotaku. The researchers showed that the ideal way to eat a burger is with the thumbs and pinkies supporting the bottom of the burger, with the other fingers spread evenly on top.

I will conduct my own experiment to verify their findings (sample size n=2). Until then, here is a little guide on how to eat some of the more popular messy foods.

Burgers and sandwiches

A firm hold is required to eat burger and sandwiches. Use cutlery only as a last resort. According to Debrett’s, officially, sandwiches should be held with one hand and put down in between bites.

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Pizzas are eaten like one would a sandwich. The trail of mozzarella should be bitten off before it gets too long and hangs down from the slice. Any offending strings of cheese on the chin should be daintily teased into your mouth with your finger. Again, like a sandwich, only use cutlery when it’s absolutely unmanageable to pick up a slice.

Wings and ribs

Normally, big servings of food, for instance, steak should be cut a little piece at a time then eaten (cut-eat-cut-eat), doing this for spare ribs would mean getting the cutlery sticky. Cut each rib away from the rack, then pick it up and devour. Have a supply of napkins to clean your hands afterwards. The same goes for chicken wings, pick it up with your fingers and eat with abandon.


Prawns still in the shell should be first topped and tailed, and then the rest of the shell peeled off. Remove the vein on the spine then pop the little crustacean in your mouth. Mussels are eaten with an empty shell used as a little shovel. I find this tedious and just use my fingers or a fork to extract the plump mussel from its shell.

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Spaghetti and noodles

Try cutting spaghetti or noodles and the Chinese at your table will be horrified that you are symbolically cutting your life short. Instead, twirl the strands into a neat coil using your fork against a spoon (see picture); alternatively, twirl against the side of the pasta bowl. Avoid sucking the last strand as it risks flicking sauce onto your cheeks. Instead, catch it with your fork and guide it into your mouth.

Bon appétit,


3 thoughts on “Eating messy food: the perfect way to eat a burger

  1. Pingback: Army officer bans sandwiches | The Etiquette Butterfly

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