What is Cutlery?

Cutelry on a Table
Cutlery on a Table

Cutlery is an essential part of any dining experience. Whether you are dining at a fancy restaurant or having a casual meal at home, cutlery is necessary to help you eat your food with ease. Cutlery is a term used to describe any utensil that is used for cutting or eating food, such as knives, forks, and spoons.

Cutlery has been around for centuries and has evolved over time to meet the needs of different cultures and cuisines. In Western cultures, cutlery typically includes a knife, fork, and spoon, while in Asian cultures, chopsticks are the primary utensil used for eating. Cutlery can be made from a variety of materials, including stainless steel, silver, and plastic, and can come in a range of styles and designs to suit personal preferences.

Short History of Cutlery

Cutlery has been an essential part of human life for centuries. It has evolved from simple tools to sophisticated utensils we use today. Here’s a brief overview of the history of cutlery.

In ancient times, people used sharp stones, shells, and bones to cut and eat their food. As early as 5000 BC, people in Egypt and Mesopotamia began using copper and bronze knives. Later, the Greeks and Romans started using iron knives and spoons made from bronze, silver, and gold.

During the Middle Ages, cutlery was a sign of wealth and status. The wealthy used knives made from expensive materials like ivory, gold, and silver. Forks were introduced in the 11th century, but they were not widely used until the 16th century.

In the 18th century, the Industrial Revolution led to the mass production of cutlery. The use of stainless steel, which is resistant to rust and corrosion, became popular in the 20th century. Today, cutlery is available in various materials, including plastic, wood, and stainless steel.

Types of Cutlery


Spoons are a versatile type of cutlery that can be used for a variety of foods, from soups and stews to desserts and beverages. They come in different sizes, shapes, and materials, such as stainless steel, silver, plastic, and wood. Some common types of spoons include:

  • Soup spoon: a large, round spoon with a deep bowl, used for eating soup or stew.
  • Teaspoon: a small spoon used for stirring tea or coffee or eating dessert.
  • Tablespoon: a larger spoon used for serving or measuring food.


Forks are another essential type of cutlery that come in many shapes and sizes. They are typically used for piercing and holding food while cutting or eating. Some common types of forks include:

  • Dinner fork: a larger fork with four tines, used for eating main courses.
  • Salad fork: a smaller fork with three tines, used for eating salads or appetizers.
  • Dessert fork: a smaller fork with four tines, used for eating desserts.


Knives are sharp-edged tools used for cutting and slicing food. They come in different shapes and sizes, and are made of various materials, such as stainless steel, carbon steel, and ceramic. Some common types of knives include:

  • Chef’s knife: a versatile knife with a broad blade and a curved edge, used for chopping, slicing, and dicing.
  • Paring knife: a small knife with a pointed blade, used for peeling and trimming fruits and vegetables.
  • Bread knife: a serrated knife with a long blade, used for slicing bread and cakes.

Serving Utensils

Serving utensils are larger cutlery items used for serving food at the table or buffet. They come in different shapes and sizes, and are often made of stainless steel or silver. Some common types of serving utensils include:

  • Serving spoon: a large spoon with a long handle, used for serving food from a dish or bowl.
  • Serving fork: a large fork with a long handle, used for serving meat or vegetables.
  • Ladle: a large spoon with a deep bowl and a long handle, used for serving soups and stews.

Overall, there are many types of cutlery to choose from, depending on your needs and preferences. By understanding the different types and their uses, you can select the right cutlery for your dining experience.

Materials Used in Cutlery Production

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is the most commonly used material for cutlery production. It is a durable, corrosion-resistant, and easy-to-maintain material that is widely available. Stainless steel cutlery is made by mixing iron, carbon, and other elements such as chromium and nickel. The addition of chromium and nickel makes the steel resistant to rust, corrosion, and staining. Stainless steel cutlery is available in different grades, with 18/10 being the most common and highest quality. This means that the steel contains 18% chromium and 10% nickel.


Silver cutlery is a luxury option that is often used for special occasions and fine dining. It is made of pure silver or a combination of silver and other metals such as copper. Silver cutlery is often handcrafted and features intricate designs and patterns. It is a soft metal that requires regular polishing to maintain its shine. Silver cutlery is a good conductor of heat, which makes it ideal for serving hot foods.


Plastic cutlery is a popular option for outdoor events, picnics, and fast food restaurants. It is lightweight, disposable, and affordable. Plastic cutlery is made of various types of plastic, including polystyrene, polypropylene, and polyethylene. It is available in different colors and designs, making it a versatile option for casual dining. However, plastic cutlery is not as durable or environmentally friendly as other materials.

Cutlery Around the World

Asian Cutlery

In Asia, cutlery is often made from materials such as bamboo, wood, and ivory. Chopsticks are a staple in many Asian countries, including China, Japan, and Korea. They are used for eating rice, noodles, and other dishes, and are held in the right hand while eating.

In addition to chopsticks, many Asian countries use spoons and knives. However, the shape and size of these utensils can vary greatly. For example, in Japan, spoons are often smaller than Western spoons, and knives are typically used for cutting food into smaller pieces before eating with chopsticks.

Western Cutlery

Western cutlery is often made of metal, such as stainless steel or silver. Forks, knives, and spoons are the most commonly used utensils in Western countries. Forks are used to spear and lift food, while knives are used to cut food into bite-sized pieces. Spoons are used for eating soups, stews, and other liquid-based dishes.

In addition to the standard utensils, there are many specialized utensils used in Western countries for specific foods. For example, oyster forks, lobster picks, and grapefruit spoons are all designed for specific foods and are not commonly found in Asian cutlery sets.

Cutlery Care and Maintenance

Taking care of your cutlery is essential to ensure it lasts for a long time and remains in good condition. Here are some tips to help you maintain your cutlery:


To clean your cutlery, always use a mild detergent and warm water. Avoid using abrasive cleaners or scouring pads, as they can scratch the surface of your cutlery. After washing, dry your cutlery thoroughly with a soft cloth to prevent water spots.


When storing your cutlery, make sure it is completely dry to prevent rusting. You can store your cutlery in a cutlery tray or a drawer. If you choose to store your cutlery in a drawer, make sure it is not overcrowded, as this can cause scratches.


Over time, your cutlery may become dull and require sharpening. You can sharpen your cutlery using a sharpening steel or a sharpening stone. To sharpen your cutlery, hold the steel or stone at a 20-degree angle and draw the blade across it several times.


Regular maintenance of your cutlery can help keep it in good condition. Check your cutlery regularly for any signs of damage or rust. If you notice any damage, have it repaired by a professional. You can also use a cutlery polish to keep your cutlery looking shiny and new.

Environmental Impact of Cutlery

When it comes to cutlery, the environmental impact is something you should consider. Disposable plastic cutlery has become a major environmental problem due to its non-biodegradable nature. This type of cutlery can take hundreds of years to break down, and it often ends up in landfills or oceans, causing harm to wildlife and the environment.

On the other hand, reusable cutlery made from materials such as stainless steel, bamboo, or wood can significantly reduce the environmental impact. These materials are biodegradable and can be recycled or composted, reducing waste and pollution.

Another aspect to consider is the production process of cutlery. The manufacturing of disposable plastic cutlery requires significant amounts of fossil fuels, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. In contrast, the production of reusable cutlery, especially those made from sustainable materials, can have a lower environmental impact.

Lastly, the transportation and distribution of cutlery can also affect the environment. The transportation of disposable plastic cutlery often involves long-distance shipping, which contributes to carbon emissions. In contrast, reusable cutlery can be transported in bulk and distributed locally, reducing the carbon footprint.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the different types of cutlery?

Cutlery refers to the knives, forks, and spoons used for eating. There are different types of cutlery, including dinner knives, salad knives, butter knives, dinner forks, salad forks, dessert forks, soup spoons, teaspoons, and tablespoons.

What is the difference between flatware and cutlery?

Flatware and cutlery are often used interchangeably, but technically, flatware refers to any type of utensil used for eating, including knives, forks, spoons, and even chopsticks. Cutlery refers specifically to knives, forks, and spoons.

What is the meaning of cutlery?

Cutlery comes from the word “cutler,” which refers to a person who makes knives or other cutting instruments. Cutlery is a term used to describe the knives, forks, and spoons used for eating.

What is cutlery etiquette?

Cutlery etiquette refers to the proper way to use knives, forks, and spoons while eating. This includes using the correct utensil for each course, holding utensils correctly, and placing them on the plate when finished.

What are some common cutlery items?

Some common cutlery items include dinner knives, salad knives, butter knives, dinner forks, salad forks, dessert forks, soup spoons, teaspoons, and tablespoons. Other less common cutlery items include oyster forks, grapefruit spoons, and demitasse spoons.

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