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Guide to Flatware: Basics & Definitions

No tabletop is complete without the proper commercial flatware setting. Whether you are preparing for a casual breakfast, lunch or formal dinner, one must understand what each piece of flatware is that will be placed on the table. Below is a list of the most common commercial flatware on the market today along with brief definitions to guide you along the way.

Flatware Definitions

dinner knife

Dinner Knife

This traditional knife is a part of the traditional five-piece flatware setting. It is primarily used to cut food but can also be used to serve butter or spread jam.

butter knife

Butter Knife

This table knife has a dull edge and rounded point perfect for spreading jam or butter onto softer foods, such as muffins or toast.

fish knife

Fish Knife

This small table knife is designed with a spatula blade intended to be used for eating fish.

European dinner knife

European Dinner Knife

Nearly a third larger and a third heavier than a traditional dinner knife. It is intended for formal occasions and found in most high-class restaurants.

salad fork

Dinner Fork

This all-purpose fork is part of the traditional five-piece flatware setting. It is used during the main course.

Salad Fork

Salad forks are smaller than traditional dinner forks and are used for eating salads and smaller items, such as sliced fruit.

fish fork

Fish Fork

This fork is small like the salad fork. Its design allows someone to easily separate fish meat right from the bone.

dessert fork

Dessert Fork

While closely resembling the salad fork, this utensil is smaller and has more of a thin build. It is typically used for eating desserts, such as cake or pie.

European dinner fork

European Dinner Fork

This utensil is larger and more durable than the traditional dinner fork. They are generally used during formal occasions and are known for their sense of class.

cocktail fork

Cocktail Fork

This is an individual fork traditionally used with the standard five-piece place setting. It can be used to eat small appetizers, such as cheese cubes or olives, and has a three-tine construction.



This classic teaspoon is great for coffee, tea, desserts, cereal and soups. Like the dinner knife and fork, the teaspoon is a popular part of the standard five-piece place setting.

soup spoon

Soup Spoon

This is a type of spoon that is used for eating soup. It generally has a wider and deeper bowl with an oval shape designed to hold more liquid. It is in similar shape to the teaspoon.

dessert spoon

Dessert Spoon

This is a typical soup spoon that generally has a wider and deeper bowl with an oval shape designed to hold more liquid.



This utensil is generally used to serve vegetables. While they resemble the traditional teaspoon, they are larger in size and should be reserved for the serving bowls in the middle of the tabletop setting.

bouillon spoon

Bouillon Spoon

This is another type of soup spoon. They are smaller and have a round shallow bowl designed to hold more soup.

demitasse spoon

Demitasse Spoon

This is similar to the standard teaspoon, but has a longer handle. It is designed to stir coffee drinks served in small quantities, such as espresso.