The key etiquette rules on how to eat hard food. Tips to deal with foods that are tough to chew. Be the ideal guest and avoid any embarrassment.  

What hard food etiquette is

Some food can be too hard to eat. Difficult to cut, or tough to chew. Meat is one of the most common. However, it can be other foods too. Raw vegetables, fruit, or aged cheese.

Hard food etiquette is the set of rules to properly eat food that is tough or too hard to chew. Such rules help avoid behaviors that can disrespect hosts or guests, or make you look unpolite.

If you are hosting, follow hard food etiquette to appropriately serve it to your guests.

If you are a guest, respect hard food etiquette rules to properly eat and enjoy it.

Etiquette rules to eat hard food

1) Know which foods can be tough to chew

Learn which foods are hard to eat for you. Knowing them in advance will help you deal with such foods.

Meat can be tough to eat

Red and white meat can be tough to eat. This is more common with red meat and venison. While white meat tends to be easier to chew. Usually, some cuts of meat are especially tough. Furthermore, the cooking method can affect the toughness of the food.

Fish and seafood are rarely tough to chew

Fish or seafood is rarely a hard food to eat. However, some fish can be tough to chew. Such as tuna or swordfish.

Aged cheeses can be hard foods

Dairy products and soft cheese are usually easy to eat. However, aged cheese can have a hard texture and can be tough to chew.

Some vegetables and fruits can be tough to chew

Some vegetables and fruits can be tough to chew. Vegetables can be hard food to chew when they are raw or not properly cooked. Fruit can be tough to chew when it is not ripe. Some varieties tend to be tough to chew regardless of their ripeness. Such as coconut.

Some grains can be hard

Some types of bread or baked foods can be hard. Even more so when they are not fresh. Cereals such as granola can be tough too.

Sweets and desserts can be hard food

Some sweet foods can be too tough to chew. Such as blocks of dark chocolate or Torrone.

2) Avoid eating hard food

If possible, it is best to avoid hard food altogether. When you are at a buffet, simply skip hard food. Do the same on informal occasions. Such as a barbecue or aperitivo

3) Eat at least some of each food

On formal occasions or at seated meals, you cannot avoid the food. It is impolite to refuse food because you deem it too hard to eat. Similarly, it is rude to leave the food on your plate untouched. It will embarrass your hosts. Thus, you should make an effort to eat at least some of it.  

4) Try to cut hard food from a different angle

If your food is tough to cut, do not use additional force. You risk moving your plate or shaking the table. Try instead to cut the food from a different angle. Some foods such as meat are often easier to cut in one specific direction.

5) Ask for a sharper knife

At a restaurant, you can ask for a sharper knife, such as a meat knife. However, it is not polite to ask for additional utensils at a private dinner. It implies that the food is too hard, and it will embarrass your host.

6) Eat hard food in smaller pieces

Cut tough food into smaller pieces. Identify where the food is softer. Cut the food into small morsels, which are easier to chew. If they are still too hard to chew, you can swallow them whole. 

Do not spit food because it is tough to chew.

Hard food etiquette: the worst mistakes

Avoid the worst hard food etiquette mistakes. 

  • 9/10. Serving too hard food to your guests.
  • 8/10. Leaving the food untouched on your plate. 
  • 8/10. Using additional force to cut the food.
  • 6/10. Serving yourself hard food when you can avoid it.
  • 5/10. Asking for a sharper knife at a private dinner or lunch.
  • 3/10. Eating tough food in large pieces.


  • The Influence of Food Consistency on Chewing Rate and Muscular Work: