Difference Between Bamboo And Wooden Chopsticks
The use of chopsticks has been instilled within East Asian cultures for centuries. And as the popularity of their cuisines continues to grow, they’re becoming more widely used than ever before, all across the world.
As different countries have adapted the most traditional form of chopsticks to suit their cuisines and eating practices, a number of other factors have inspired new variations. For example, the readiness of alternative materials, the advancement of manufacturing processes, and environmental considerations. Today, there are a huge variety of options available: from aspen wood and bamboo, to plastic and stainless steel, and even carbon fiber, acrylic and glass.
With so much choice, where do you begin?
Bamboo and wood chopsticks are still the most widely used varieties, as they have been for a long time. However, it isn’t always easy to distinguish between the two, especially at first look. How do they differ? And which is best? We’ve put the two most popular options head to head to explain the pros and cons of both.
Pros and Cons of Wooden Chopsticks
When compared to the likes of plastic and metal chopsticks, wooden designs have many favorable features. They’re very traditional, which is ideal if you’re looking for a more authentic dining experience — whether you’re out at an Asian restaurant, or preparing an Asian style feast at home for family and friends. They have a slightly rougher texture, making it easier to pick up certain foods. They’re also noticeably quieter when placed down on plates or bowls. Wood is also a low conductor of heat, so the food’s temperature doesn’t transfer to your hands.
As a natural material, wood has no chemical or toxic effects, meaning it’s safe and healthy to use, while maintaining its strength and density.
On the other hand, wooden chopsticks are more prone to mold and contamination than other materials. They require thorough sterilization, and will at some point need replacing as they deteriorate. They also need a chemical coating to protect from heat and water. Although this boosts the durability of the chopsticks and makes them much more practical to reuse, it takes away from their status as a fully natural product.
Another factor that’s come under scrutiny over the past decades is the environmental impact of using wood unnecessarily. Trees take around 40 years to grow, and as they say, forests are the lungs of the earth. Our trees play a huge part in removing damaging pollutants from the air, so mass deforestation is an unsustainable process that we should minimize wherever possible. This takes us on to the close relative of wooden chopsticks: bamboo.
Pros and Cons of Bamboo Chopsticks
Bamboo is a part of the grass family, meaning it grows fast — as much as three meters a year! This makes it a highly renewable resource that’s much more sustainable in mass production, and a huge environmental plus in comparison to wood.
Just like wood, bamboo is dense and strong, as well as being naturally heat and water resistant when dried properly. As its properties make it so readily suitable for use in chopsticks, there’s no need for it to be lacquered during production — so it scores points there too. This doesn’t mean that dyed or treated bamboo chopsticks are unheard of, however. Try to avoid these, as pigments from the treatment process can fall off during use, and be harmful for our ingestion. A good rule of thumb is to choose bamboo chopsticks that are true to their natural color.
A slight downside to bear in mind is that bamboo’s outer skin and core differ in substance, and mean that it sometimes bends when disinfected at high temperatures. Instead of being a major issue, this is more something to consider during manufacturing and cleaning. Bamboo chopsticks don’t attract bacteria, so rigorous disinfection shouldn’t be necessary.
Wooden or bamboo?
With all things considered, bamboo chopsticks stand as our current favorites. They’re a great option for lasting practicality, while retaining that authentic look.