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11 Different Types of Forks and Their Uses

11 Different Types of Forks and Their Uses

When it comes to types of forks, you should know your stuff.

There are many different types of forks, and each has its own proper use.

Read on if you want to learn all there is to know about each type of fork.

Types of Forks: The Quick Answer 

According to etiquette standards, a typical flatware set has five types of forks, ranging in size from the fish fork to the salad fork. Aside from these classic forks, there are also many other specialized forks.

Diners only use specialized forks for a specific food. For example, you would only use the oyster fork for oysters or other shellfish.

Let’s go through the different types of forks, their sizes, and explain what we use them for. 

What Are the Different Types of Forks? 

So let’s start by breaking down the different types of standard forks you’ll commonly find in people’s homes.

This section will move from the most significant fork and work our way to the smallest.

1. Fish Fork

Fish Fork
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The fish fork is the second-largest fork on the table. Measuring between 7.25 and 7.75 inches long, people designed the fish fork specifically to help remove bones and unwanted flesh from a fish. 

The fork has four tines, which are the fork’s prongs. The big difference between a fork and the other forks is the fish fork’s tine width and placement. The furthest left tine is extra wide and sometimes has a groove that helps remove fish bones easier.

2. Dinner Fork

Dinner Fork
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The second-largest fork, the dinner fork, is the one you probably have the most of in your cutlery drawer. It is one of the most historically popular forks, dating back centuries. Most people use dinner forks for many different sorts of food.

Dinner forks measure 7.25 inches in length and have four tines, which helps make picking up and holding food easier. People use dinner forks to eat the majority of their meals.

People use the other forks for other purposes. On formal occasions, people may use the European dinner fork. The European fork is slightly larger than the American.

3. Luncheon Fork

Luncheon Fork
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Many people have never heard of the luncheon fork, and they’re often surprised when they find one in their drawer. These forks are generally smaller than fish forks, measuring 6.75 inches long. If you have an older cutlery set, it likely contains a luncheon fork.

Diners use luncheon forks for snacks and appetizers before dinner gets served. In most cases, the luncheon fork accompanies the luncheon plate, which is smaller than the dinner plate that accompanies the place setting at the table.

4. Dessert Fork

Desert Fork
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Dessert fork sizes can range from six to seven inches long and slightly narrower than the salad fork. They have four tines, but the leftmost tine is extra wide. The extra-wide tine allows easier cutting when people eat a firm dessert, like baklava. 

People typically serve the dessert fork alongside a dessert spoon. The dessert spoon has similar dimensions as the dessert fork. Both are small and elegant enough to match the size of the average dessert.

5. Salad Fork

Salad Fork
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The salad fork is the most compact classic fork. Salad forks usually measure six inches long, and they also have four tines.

Salad forks are flatter, and their tines are slightly wider than a dinner fork. In some cases, manufacturers connect the middle two tines to give the fork extra strength.

Salad forks need to be broad, flat, and strong so that they can cut through and pick up raw vegetables. In some cases, people also use the salad when eating non-seafood appetizer courses.

Specialized Types of Forks

Although those five forks are the most common type of fork, there are plenty of other specialized forks.

These forks are much less common, and most people don’t have them in their homes. This list isn’t an exhaustive list of all the forks globally.

Different cultures often have their own special forks. 

1. Lobster Fork

Lobster Fork
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The lobster fork starts at 6.75 inches long, but larger ones also exist. Lobster forks only have one tine that splits into two curved hooks.

The hooks help lift the lobster out of its shell. You have to hold the lobster shell in one hand to use this fork, though. That’s why people only use it in informal settings. 

2. Fruit Fork

Fruit Fork
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Fruit forks are shorter and broader than most other forks. Fruit forks are approximately 6.25 inches long, and fruit forks have two long tines. The tines are wider than most, which helps people pick up and eat fruits and berries easier. 

3. Ice Cream Fork

Ice Cream Fork
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As weird as it sounds, ice-cream forks exist. They look like fancy sporks with a wide bowl and three tiny tines at the top.

Ice-cream forks are usually smaller than dessert forks in length. The bowl and tines make scooping and eating ice cream easier than a standard spoon.

4. Snail Fork

Snail Forks
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As the name suggests, snail forks make eating escargot a breeze. Snail forks are usually 4.5 inches long, and they have two long pointed tines.

Snail forks make getting the meat out of the shell more convenient if you eat snails with the shell attached.

5. Oyster Fork

Oyster Fork
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The oyster fork usually measures four inches long and has three wide, curved tines.

The curved tines help release the oyster or other shellfish from the shell without tearing the meat. The wide tines also help make the flesh easier to pick up. 

6. Pastry Fork

Pastry Fork
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The pastry fork has a maximum length of 5.5 inches. The fork has four tines, with the leftmost tine having notches.

These notches help cut through pastry without tearing it, which allows you to enjoy the pastry dish as the cook imagined. 

Fork Placement Guide

Place setting with various types of forks on the left side of the plate


When you host a formal supper or attend one, it’s best to know where the host will place the forks on the table.

You don’t want to have a mix-up and end up eating your fish with the dessert fork, right?

In this section, we’ll go through the proper placement of the forks. In many cases, you’ll be able to spot the specialized forks by looking at them. The specialized forks have unique identifiers, so it shouldn’t be too hard.

The classic forks are always either on the left of the dinner plate or above it. Starting from the dinner plate and moving left, the order goes:

  1. Salad fork
  2. Dinner fork
  3. Fish fork

Next to the bread plate is where the dessert spoon sits, above the dinner plate. The dessert spoon sits beside the dessert fork. Since the luncheon spoon is for appetizers and snacks before the meal, it doesn’t have a place at the table.

Things to Consider

When it comes to all the different types of forks, you have to consider two key details. The first is what you’re serving at dinner. The second is whether it’s a formal or informal dinner.

What You’re Serving

When it comes to choosing the right fork for any meal, the first detail you should be considering is what you’re serving.

If you’re having a very informal meal with one course and a dessert, you only really need a dinner fork and a dessert fork.

If you’re serving more than one course, consider using more forks. The most useful of these forks are the five classic forks.

That way, if you’re eating fish and salad, your guests won’t have to use the same fork for such different dishes.

As a rule of thumb, start by looking at the different types of courses you’re serving. If you supply a fish course, you need a fish spoon.

If you serve a dessert course, you should have a dessert spoon. Repeat as necessary.

Formal or Informal

How formal your meal is will determine how many forks you need. For example, if you have a traditional meal that includes snails or oysters, you should also include specialized forks for those foods. 

Whether or not you’re hosting a formal dinner will also determine whether you use an American-sized dinner fork or a European-sized dinner fork, which is slightly larger than an American.

People consider the European fork to be more formal. If you’re hosting a formal dinner, you also need to avoid utensils like the lobster fork.

You can only use this fork if you hold the lobster with your other hand. Most people consider using your hand to eat food as informal, if not rude.

If you’re hosting a decidedly casual dinner, you can get away with using a much smaller range of forks. In most cases, two forks—one for cold dishes like salad and another for warm dishes—are all you need!

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the different types of forks:

What material are forks generally made of?

These days, forks and other cutlery can be made of various materials. The most common material in the past was sterling silver.

Sterling silver is primarily silver. But other metals, like copper, blend into the metal to add durability.

A more contemporary material is stainless steel. Compared to sterling silver, stainless steel requires much less care.

You can wash them, dry them, and put them in your drawer without worrying about their looks.

With sterling silver, even after you wash them, you need to polish them every once in a while. Other common materials for cutlery include:

  • Polycarbonate
  • Ceramic
  • Zinc

Why do most forks have four tines?

Although some forks have two or three tines, the most common forks have four. So, why do forks have four tines? Four tines allow us to pick up and hold food better than two or three tines. 

Two-tined forks are perfect for picking things up and placing them on another surface, but they don’t have much utility outside of that. They can’t hold onto food unless the tines stab deep inside the food.

Three-tined forks are better than two tines, but they still can’t hold as much as four tines. Since we know that four-tined forks hold food better than other designs, they have become the most common type of fork.

What are serving forks?

Serving forks usually come alongside serving spoons. People use these utensils to serve food from shared dishes onto their plates.

Serving forks usually only have three tines and are much wider than other forks. They’re much longer than other forks, too, measuring 8 inches in length.

So, What Are the Different Types of Forks? 

Now that you know all about the different types of forks, it’s time to cook something so you can impress your friends and family with your knowledge.

Whether that’s a cold salad or roasted ham, you’ll know what forks to use. So, what are you waiting for?

Get out there and cook something that requires more than one fork, so you can impress them!