Flatware Buying Guide: Item Descriptions


Extra pieces, add-on pieces and replacement pieces are Huge! Most flatware is purchased in sets for 8 or 12 and they generally include several serving pieces as well.   Depending on your style of cooking and dining, you may want to add certain items like soup spoons, iced tea spoons, steak knives etc., to match your set. Let’s also not forget that the most common reason for having to replace a flatware set is because of lost pieces. Teaspoons seem to be the most common article as they go out the door with a packed lunch and sometimes never return. Having the ability to add pieces to match your culinary style as well as replace the occasional piece that may go missing is another major consideration in ensuring that your purchase will serve you for a lifetime! Beware of “one off” specials on sets of flatware where no replacement items or auxiliary items are available.

Get quality guaranteed. All good manufacturers will back up the quality of their products with an extended warranty of 20 years or more.   The willingness of a brand to stand behind the products they sell says a lot about how those products are expected to perform over time. Conversely, a 1 or 5-year limited warranty says a lot about the expected quality of what you are buying. Remember, flatware should last a lifetime!

Stainless steel vs Silver plate: Almost every household today uses stainless steel flatware, either the less expensive 18-0 stainless or the higher quality 18-10 variety. The advantage is that stainless steel does not tarnish, therefore does not need to be polished.   Many people who entertain and really want to “put on the Ritz” have a set of silver plate or sterling silver flatware for those special occasions. Although it requires periodic polishing, there is really no substitute for the special hue and feel of a fine silver plated or sterling piece.


Standard Terms There are different ways or terms that are commonly used in describing different types of knives, forks and spoons. Here is a glossary which will help you with any confusion when comparing brands as they sometimes use different terms for describing the articles within your set.


Dinner fork/place fork:  This is the main fork you will use when eating the main course. These range from smaller or traditional “American size” to larger and heavier “Euro-size”.

Salad Fork/Dessert fork:   This is proportionally a smaller piece than the dinner fork. Some patterns might have a different sized fork for each. The traditional American salad fork is short with a wider tine section while more modern designs tend to be a scaled down version of the dinner fork shape. Extra salad forks are often ordered and placed above the plate horizontally to be used at dessert forks.

Place spoon/table spoon: This is the article that causes the most confusion as many people are accustomed to referring to the larger place setting spoon as a “table spoon”. Technically a table spoon is much larger and is also referred to as a serving spoon, something too large to eat with. Be careful with this as this description changes from brand to brand.

Dinner Knife/Butter Knife: This is another description that causes quite a bit of confusion. A dinner knife is a knife that is generally not sharp, is normally serrated and is used to cut food other than meat. Some people refer to this as the “butter knife” because it is not sharp when in fact the butter knife is a smaller knife intended to accompany the bread plate.

Teaspoon: This is the smaller of the two place item spoons and often is used as a coffee spoon, as well.


Standard Serving items and Auxiliary pieces:

Cold Meat Fork/Serving Fork:   This is a large piece and, as its name indicates, is used with a serving platter to transfer food, normally meat, from the platter to your plate.

Serving spoon/Table spoon: This is the large spoon used to transfer food from platter or bowl to plate.

Slotted/Pierced Serving Spoon:   This article us usually the same size and shape as the serving spoon but has a perforation in the bowl. This allows juice or liquid to remain in the serving bowl or platter when food is transferred to your plate.

Sugar Spoon: This spoon is similar in size to a teaspoon but normally has a wider and deeper bowl. In very traditional patterns the bowl is scalloped. This piece normally goes in the sugar bowl itself.

Butter Knife: The butter knife is normally positioned alongside the butter dish and is commonly sold as part of the serving set. In patterns where butter spreaders are not available, the butter knife can also be used as a piece on each individual bread plate.

Butter Spreader:   The butter spreader is usually placed on the bread plate at each individual place setting.

Steak Knife: Steak knives are typically similar in size to the dinner knife but will feature a sharper blade, normally with more pointed end. Their blades are either sharp, have a more aggressive serration or both, so they can easily cut meat.

Iced Tea Spoon/tall drink spoon: Iced tea spoons can be used for iced tea, ice cream sodas, sundaes, or other items served in tall glasses.

Bouillon Spoon: The bouillon spoon can also be called a round bowl soup spoon. Either similar in size or slightly larger than a teaspoon, the bouillon spoon has a larger and deeper bowl that is normally round. In many flatware patterns and presentations, the place spoon can be used as an oval bowl soup spoon instead of the bouillon spoon.



Other Serving Pieces and Auxiliary pieces (optional/special purpose items):

Gravy Ladle: A large serving item used to serve gravy or sauce, normally rests inside or alongside a gravy boat.

Pie Server: Pie servers have a flat wedge shaped blade and are used to cut and serve slices of pie.

Cake Knife: A cake knife is a large profile knife that is similar to a butcher knife without the sharp edge and, as the name indicates, is used to cut and serve slices of cake.

Soup Ladle: A soup ladle is larger than the gravy ladle and is used to serve portions of soup.

Carving Fork: The carving fork, normally sold as part of the carving set, is typically a two pronged fork used to hold meat in place while carving and then transferring the sliced meat to the plate.

Carving Knife: The carving knife, normally sold as part of the carving set, is a fairly large profile knife with a sharp edge. This is used in unison with the carving fork to slice and serve meat.

Dessert spoon: The dessert spoon is a large spoon, larger than the place spoon but smaller than a serving spoon, and is used with certain deserts.

Dessert Knife:   Similar to a place knife the dessert knife usually has a smaller profile and/or blade.

Demitasse spoon: This is a very small spoon served with coffee, usually espresso, and is primarily used to stir in sugar and cream.

Fish fork:The fish fork is similar to a dinner fork but normally closer to the American sizing or Euro size salad fork. This specialized fork has one tine that is wider and has a curved tip.

Fish knife:The fish knife is normally a smaller profile knife than the dinner knife and has a special shaped blade. As indicated in the description, it is used when serving fish.

Oyster fork:This is a small, three or four pronged fork, used when serving oysters on the half shell.

Next: Thickness and Weight Standards