What Is the Proper Way to Eat Bread at a Formal Dinner?

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When attending a formal dinner, knowing which fork to use with what course isn’t enough. There are firm rules of etiquette you must follow, including the proper way to eat bread or rolls with your meal. Cut a dinner roll in half with your knife, for example, and you risk offending the host and the other guests around you.

The Bread Basket

If there is a bread basket on your table, it is appropriate to take a piece of bread or roll with your fingers and set it on your bread plate. When passing the basket to other diners, always pass to your right. Place the basket on the table in front of the next guest instead of handing it to him or her. Never reach into the basket to grab a roll when someone is in the middle of passing it and only take one roll or piece of bread at a time.

Eating Your Bread

It is impolite to butter your entire roll or piece of bread. Instead, break off a bite-sized piece, butter it and eat it before moving on. The only exception to this rule applies to hot breads or rolls, in which case it is perfectly acceptable to butter a full half so that the butter can melt. For large breads, such as naan, puri or pappadam, tear off your full portion, place it on your bread plate, and then break bite-sized pieces off as you eat. If you want to use a piece of bread or dinner roll to sop up gravy or sauce from your plate, use a fork instead of your fingers.