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A pasta fork is a kitchen utensil which is designed to be used in serving strand pasta like spaghetti, linguine, capellini, and fettuccine. Cooks can use a pasta fork to ladle servings out of a pot or bowl and on to plates; the construction of the fork is designed to hold the strands of pasta on tines to keep it from sliding off. Most kitchen supply stores carry pasta forks, and they can also be purchased through purveyors which specialize in pasta and related accessories.
Essentially, a pasta fork is like a large serving spoon, with teeth. The bowl of the serving spoon may be perforated to allow the pasta to drain as it is served, while the tines of the teeth point straight up, trapping the pasta so that it cannot slide off. Depending on the design, the pasta fork may be large or small, with a very deep bowl or a bowl which is almost flattened.
Classically, a pasta fork is made from metal, but it is also possible to find wooden and plastic pasta forks. Wooden forks are sometimes useful for pasta with extremely acidic sauces which could eat into the metal finish on a metal pasta fork, potentially causing a strange flavor to emerge. If a plastic fork is used, it is important to know how heat resistant it is, as it may melt or soften in boiling water, and this could become a problem.
Many people find that using a pasta fork is much easier than using tongs or attempting to trap pasta between two ordinary forks to serve it. While a pasta fork is a unitasking kitchen utensil, it performs the task it was designed for so well that this flaw can be overlooked. In addition to pulling out servings of pasta, a pasta fork can also be used to detangle pasta, as the tines will help pull stuck clumps of pasta apart.
When looking at pasta forks, your primary concern should be heat resistance. There may be a time when you want to dunk a pasta fork into a pot of boiling water, and you don't want it to fail you. A heat resistant pasta fork is also able to withstand the conditions in a dishwasher, for people who live in households with dishwashers. You may also want to take a look at the construction; watch out for pasta forks with nooks and crannies where gunk could accumulate over the course of years of use, and remember to hold the pasta fork to see how the handle feels in your hand.
There are also individual pasta forks. These look like regular forks but have bumps along the tines to keep the pasta from slipping away before it gets to your mouth. I want some!