Cutlery 101

I’ve been invited to a fancy dinner party with my fiance, and I have no idea where to begin when it comes to picking the right cutlery. HEEEEELP!

— Confounded in Scranton, NJ


Dear Confounded:

Even the most worldly and elegant epicurean can be overwhelmed in a formal dining situation. So let’s start with an easily digestible primer of some of the things everyone needs to know. Beginning with the two basics:

THE 4/4



THE 5/5



Now, imagine you sit down to a meal in a fine American restaurant for a four-course meal.

One look at the table setting and your heart might begin to pound. But don’t freak. With a little help, it’s actually easy to know how the meal will progress and how you should behave.

You’ve probably heard the general rule of thumb: Start from the outside — but there can be more to it than that. For example, say you have a fork on the left and a knife and the spoon on the right. If all goes as planned, this is a good indication of where the meal will start: On the far right with the spoon. The side with the most cutlery goes first.

If the setting has an equal amount of cutlery on both sides, both the outside utensils go first. 

The Four-course meal

spoon 2Example of a four-course table setting with soup, starter, entree, dessert, red wine, white wine, champaign. (A) Napkin (B) Main dining fork (C) Luncheon fork (D) Main dining knife (E) Luncheon knife (F) Soup spoon (G) Butter knife (H) Dessert spoon (I) Dessert fork
Learning the classic table setting can help you shine at any occasion. The next time you attend a dinner with more than a fork and a knife, you’ll be ready. Keep in mind the basics and you may just end up being the dinner partner who gets asked back again and again.
Want more?
Cutlery: Advanced Study
Just for fun, look at this very formal 13-course table setting and see how many utensils you can name without looking at the caption. Answer more than 15 and you’re on your way to becoming a worldly and elegant epicurean in your own right.
(A) Bread knife — on knife rest (B) Caviar spoon (C) Escargot fork (D) Cocktail fork (E) Soup spoon (F) Fish knife (G) Fish fork (H) Lobster pick (I) Entree fork (J) Entree knife (K) Ice cream fork (L) Meat knife (M) Meat fork (N) Salad fork (O) Salad knife (P) Cheese knife (Q) Nut Pick (R) Dessert fork (Q) Crystal salt spoon

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