What Are the Different Types of Kitchen Flatware?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

Flatware is another term for table utensils, such as knives, forks, and spoons. Named for its relative flatness, compared to other table supplies, most flatware is also fashioned in one basic piece. There are many different types of kitchen flatware; many people have more than one set or kind in their collection.

Everyday kitchen flatware is typically plain and durable.
Everyday kitchen flatware is typically plain and durable.

Everyday kitchen flatware is typically highly durable and relatively plain. Made of stainless steel or even partial plastic, this flatware can stand up to frequent washing and everyday use. Everyday flatware typically is smooth or has very simple patterns. Most sets contain table knives, salad and regular sized forks, and either one or two types of spoon. Most manufacturers offer everyday flatware in sets of four, six, or eight.

Stainless steel flatware can withstand frequent washing and everyday use.
Stainless steel flatware can withstand frequent washing and everyday use.

Gourmet or special occasion kitchen flatware is typically highly decorated and may even carry a designer label. This flatware is typically made of more valuable material, such as silver or gold plating. These elegant designs must usually be hand-washed to prevent damage to the material. Some coordinate with high-end lines of china by the same manufacturer. Some people have a set of gourmet flatware for special occasions, such as holidays or formal events.

While basic utensils such as a fork, knife, and spoon, are easy to understand, many people get confused when it comes to the different varieties of basic kitchen flatware. A salad fork is almost always smaller than a dinner fork, and usually features one pointed tine for spearing salad greens. A butter knife has a blunt edge for slipping through butter, while a table or steak knife usually has a serrated edge for cutting tough substances, such as meat. A soup spoon has a deep, rounded bowl, a dessert spoon is a similar size but may have a longer handle and oval shaped bowl.

Flatware sets of utensils may be accented by serving sets, usually sold separately from the main flatware package. These utensils usually feature the same design and are meant to be coordinated with basic flatware. Additional flatware pieces include salad servers, tongs, dessert spoons, and pie servers. By purchasing these additional pieces, a person can ensure that all table utensils match and harmonize for a unified look.

Understanding the different types of kitchen flatware can help a person organize his or her flatware collection to fit a design aesthetic. It is necessary knowledge for those who participate in table decoration competitions, where points can be lost for incorrect use or placement of a piece of flatware. Decoration and etiquette experts recommend having at least one full set of flatware, including serving pieces, for any formal dining occasion.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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Oneida had carried the flatware pattern I registered for, for something like 40 years. Naturally, after I registered for it, they discontinued it the next year. I never did get any of it, so I had to find my own.

Get the best flatware you can afford. Sterling is nice, but hardly necessary. Do look for the 18/10 label though. This means the flatware has 10 percent nickel content, which is one of the better grades.

Buy from reputable companies. Look online for reviews of good sets. And if the set offers a hostess set, which often includes a large serving spoon, slotted spoon, butter knife, meat fork and sugar shell, go ahead and get it. I got one with the last flatware I purchased, and it was worth the extra money.


In my universe, flatware is what you buy yourself or what you register for when you get married. You register for the good stuff, which includes the higher end flatware, as well as sterling flatware.

Stainless steel flatware sets can be found in any department store, but quality is what you're looking for, if you're registering. Unless you're buying for a college apartment, in fact, you do want to look for better utensils that will last a long time.

In general, I'd say look for open stock flatware in a common pattern. That way, if you need forks in 10 years, you have a shot at finding some that match.

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