A ladle is a type of spoon with a very deep bowl which is designed to be used to serve soups, sauces, and other highly liquid foods. A number of different ladle designs can be found in a kitchen supply store, often made in a variety of materials from bamboo to stainless steel. A ladle is a useful tool to have around the kitchen, especially in households which work with a lot of soups, stews, and sauces.
Typically, the handle of a ladle is long, so that people can dip it into a deep pot or bowl. The spoon section of the ladle may be oriented at an angle to make dipping and serving easier, and some ladles also have small lips to pour fluids without dripping. An all purpose ladle usually has a round bowl about the size of a small closed fist; there are numerous variations on the design for different foods.
Condiment ladles, for example, are miniaturized versions of ladles which can be left in condiment jars so that people can serve themselves. These ladles are often used at large dinners, and they can be seen in self-serve food lines as well, to encourage people to use the ladles rather than their own spoons. Sauce and soup ladles follow the basic design, but they come in a range of sizes from small to large to meet varying needs; ideally, a full ladle comes close to a single serving of the food in question.
A spaghetti ladle is a ladle which looks like it has been crossed with a fork; instead of a bowl, it has a series of tines which are designed to grab and hold threads of pasta for serving. Skimming ladles, on the other hand, have large shallow bowls which can be lightly skimmed across soups and other dishes to remove impurities. Some skimming ladles have special design features to help separate fat from soup stock with a minimal waste of soup.
When seeking out a ladle, look for one with a sturdy construction, as you do not want the bowl of a ladle to fall off when it is in active use. Metals like stainless steel are often good choices for ladles, as are solid wood ladles. Be aware than wooden ladles cannot be run through the dishwasher or they will start to crack and warp; if this convenience is a concern, select a metal ladle with no cracks or crevices for food and fats to accumulate.