Different types of forks weren’t popular for helping people eat right away. These useful utensils were all but shunned when they were first introduced. People believed that they were an insult to God because they firmly believed that God gave people fingers to eat with as a natural type of fork.
Italy was one of the first countries to adopt using forks to eat with in the 16th century, along with Spain. France followed a century later. Today, forks and types of spoons are utensils that make appearances at virtually every meal. However, there are also specialized forks you may have to use at one point or another, and it’s important that you can tell the difference between them.
This is why we’re going to outline 26 different types of forks for various occasions, and you can decide which ones you should have on-hand to use if the need calls for it.
1. Carving Fork
As the name suggests, a carving fork was designed specifically to hold a joint of meat in a spot with one hand while you carved it with a knife in the other hand. Some people might only see this type of fork in a restaurant. However, in England and other parts of the world, this is a commonly owned fork that you can use on a weekly basis when you have your roast dinners on Sunday afternoons.
This fork comes with a larger handle that allows the user to get a very good grip on it, and it has two sharp, large tines that are long enough to go all of the way through your cut of meat. You can find this type of fork in a huge range of designs, and some are more decorative while others are classic looking. High-quality forks in this category can be expensive, but these are nice to have for special occasions like Thanksgiving. You can also pass them down as an heirloom.
2. Cheese Fork
A cheese fork usually has a chunky wooden handle with dual longer tines at the opposite end. This is typically a shorter type of fork, and the tines come with a straight edge. This allows them to be very useful for cutting cheeses and serving and piercing them.
You can buy cheese forks when you buy a cheese board as part of a set. They’re very common with charcuterie boards. The prong type of fork is strong enough to slice brie, feta, gouda, camembert, and provolone. If you have harder cheeses, you’ll want to get a special cheese knife. The prongs come to a very sharp point so that they can easily spear smaller pieces of cheese on the end, and you can serve them on a cheese plate.
3. Chip Fork
A chip fork is a type of fork that works as a single-use eating utensil that is very popular throughout the UK because they’re known for their fish and chip shops. These shops provide chip forks for their customers so that they can easily eat their food on the go.
A chip fork is made out of thinner wood, and it’s very similar to a wooden stick that you’d find in an ice cream bar. It has two tines on either end of the handle, and you can use it on any end. These are very useful types of forks as you can throw them away alongside the packaging your meal came in, and they stop your hands from getting greasy when you eat.
4. Cocktail Fork
Cocktail types of forks are smaller forks with two sharp tines, and you can use them to handle smaller garnishes like olives or to eat seafood. If you want to give any cocktail you prepare a more professional touch, this fork will make a great addition to your collection. The fact that it works double time to help you eat seafood is a bonus. The tines work very well to spear smaller shrimp in a shrimp cocktail, and they also help you pull meat out of a crab’s claws.
5. Crab Fork
This type of fork is also called a lobster or shrimp fork. They’re very short, and they usually only measure between four and five inches at the most. They have a very slender design, and the thinner metal handle has two small prongs at the end. The prongs are sharp and fine, and they’re actually so small that they can easily get into all of the crevices of the shellfish to pull out all of the meat to ensure that you don’t waste any of it. This fork typically won’t come in your standard dinnerware set, but you can buy them in sets of four or six.
You’ll see these types of forks in stores along the coast where seafood is a very popular dish, like Norfolk in the UK or New England in the US. This is usually a more inexpensive fork type, and they can make eating shellfish a much less messy and overall easier experience. So, it can be a good investment if you regularly eat this type of food.
6. Deli Fork
A deli fork looks very similar to a cocktail type of fork, but it comes specially designed with the intention of eating prosciutto. This is a very thinly sliced Italian ham. You’ll get a medium-sized handle with two very sharp tines that you poke into the prosciutto so that you can pick it up easily. There are no other uses for this type of fork, so if you’re trying to get the most bang for your buck, you could double it up as a cocktail or oyster fork.
7. Dessert Fork
Peaches are a very common dessert ingredient, and you may use this type of fork to eat them. This type of fork is shorter than a fruit and table fork, and it has a slimmer head. You’ll get three tines, and you’ll see it commonly used in fine restaurants where it gets positioned above the plate. This fork works well for use with desserts like tarts, pies, cakes, and other sweet dishes.
If you purchase a larger dinnerware set, you’ll usually get this type of fork included because they’re very common. If you’re serving at a normal dinner party, dessert forks are essential for the correct presentation.
A dessert fork is a smaller and very elegant fork that can help ensure that you take time to savor your dessert. Square Chocolate Cream cake with fork by Marco Verch Professional Photographer / CC BY 2.0
8. Dinner Fork
A dinner fork is a type of fork that you use to eat the main course of your meal, like meat dishes. They have a well-balanced, wide shape with four tines. Some people can assume that your dinner fork and a table fork are one in the same, there is actually a difference in the size.
A dinner fork is larger than a table fork, and you’ll typically find them used in fine dining restaurants. They are actually the largest of the most commonly used type of fork, and they are generally seven inches long.
9. Disposable Fork
A disposable fork is typically made out of plastic, and they’re very useful if you’re hosting a barbeque and want to be able to get rid of them at the end of the day. You’ll find them in pre-prepared salad boxes in the grocery store, but a lot of retailers are trying to get rid of them in an attempt to reduce how much single-use plastic is being manufactured. You’ll also commonly find this type of fork used at children’s birthday parties because they’re inexpensive and you can toss them out when you finish to make cleanup quicker.
10. Extendable Fork
An extendable form isn’t one that would go over well in a fine dining setting. It’s more of a novelty type of fork that people have to create a nice conversation starter. This fork comes with an extendable shaft that allows you to reach further than you would ever be able to with a regular fork. The general idea is that you use this fork to steal food from other plates at the table.
It’s easy to tell that this is meant to be a joke product, but someone with a good sense of humor could have fun owning one of these forks. If you want to buy your own unique silverware piece that will get a reaction out of people, this can be worth it. It’s obviously something that you won’t use to eat with regularly, but it could garner a few laughs or make someone smile.
11. Fish Fork
A fish fork looks like a standard table fork, but it has a tine on the far left of the fork that is much thicker or wider. This is to help you pull the flesh away from the fish’s bones. This type of fork gets designed to make eating fish a more effortless and easier experience, and you’ll find this fork at the table in more high-end seafood restaurants.
You could use this type of fork in your own home when you’re trying to impress guests during a fish course. However, if you plan on serving fish that you’ve already fileted, a regular table fork will work better.
12. Fondue Fork
There are a few types of fork that fit into this category, depending on the type of fondue you want to eat. If you plan on having cheese fondue, then the correct fork will have three tines on it. A broth or meat fondue will require a fork that has two tines. The tines should be metal so that they can withstand the high fondue temperatures. However, you can get plastic fondue forks for use with sets that use candles for melting instead of a burner.
You don’t want to confuse the two because a plastic fork will melt when it hits the heat the fondue generates. You can also use this type of fork to spear fruit to dip into a melted chocolate fondue. A fruit work would also work very well in this instance.
13. Fruit Fork
A fruit fork has a more squat, shorter shape, and you use them to pick fruit up in a very elegant manner. They’re much more common in Europe instead of in the United States, but you can find them in high-end restaurants in the United States if you pick a fruit salad instead of another dish.
You can also use this type of fork to slice the fruit into smaller pieces on your plate, like a melon, or you can use them to pick up and spear awkward pieces of fruit, like berries or grapes.
A fruit fork is another smaller type of fork that isn’t immensely popular in the United States, but it works well to discreetly cut larger chunks of fruit into bite-sized pieces. Fruit by Danny Plas / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
14. Granny Fork
Granny forks aren’t used much today, and there are many people who would have no idea what you’re talking about if you mentioned them. You may also have never come across this type of fork in a normal retail setting, but they do have their uses. A granny fork is a multi-purpose tool that can help you prepare pasta.
Your granny fork can help you stir your pasta. It’s also very common to use it to toss pasta, drain it, and to pierce it to judge if it has to cook longer. You could do all of this with a more traditional fork, but this is one type of fork that is specifically designed to be easy to use in this way. It’s very similar to a spoon in some ways, but it has tines that make it perfect for turning pasta.
15. Ice Cream Fork
Most people use a spoon to eat their ice cream, but an ice cream fork could be used with this type of dessert in a high-end restaurant. This type of fork has a shallow, wide, and rounded shape that is very similar to a traditional soup spoon. It also features cut out segments ato create a central tine, and this makes it look like a fork.
This fork type usually has very intricate designs on it, and they’re great to use on special occasions like weddings. The spoon portion of this fork gets used to scoop up and eat your ice cream, and you can use the fork part to spear and cut up more firm types of ice cream.
16. Lunch Fork
A lunch fork looks a lot like a smaller version of a dinner fork. It’s a very versatile type of fork that you can use to eat a variety of foods. The size is slightly smaller so it keeps a proportionate look with the smaller lunch plate when you compare it to a dinner plate.
In fine dining situations, you would never see a dinner fork at a lunch setting because the fork would look huge next to the lunch plate. This fork is usually around six inches long at a maximum.
17. Oyster Fork
An oyster fork comes with three tines on it, but it’s a lot narrower than other types of forks. You can use it to pull an oyster out of the shell, and it also works well to help you eat other types of seafood because the smaller size helps you get claw meat out of lobsters or pick up shrimp.
You get a very attractive and elegant look with this type of fork that can elevate how your dinner party feels. The seafood fork is the only fork that you should put to the right side of your place settings to keep in line with formal dining rules.
18. Pastry Fork
As you may have gathered from the name, this type of fork works well for eating pastry. They can have three or four tines, and the left-sided tine is flattened and larger with a beveled edge. This allows you to double it up as a type of a knife to slice your pastry into smaller portions.
You can also use this type of fork as a dessert or cake fork, but in very fine dining situations, a pastry fork is separate to a dessert or cake fork. These forks are typically quite small, and they’re intended to get held in your right hand while you use your left hand to hold your plate. This is why your fork’s edge is sharp and doubles as a knife so that you don’t need two hands to hold your utensils.
Pastry forks allow you to ensure you only have to have utensils in one hand when you eat your dessert and reduces the chances of you dropping anything. I forgot the name of this pastry by su-lin / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
19. Pickle Fork
A pickle fork helps you fish pickles out of jars. It has a thin and long handle on it that allows you to poke into different areas of the jar with ease. The two sharper tines at the end allow you to pierce your pickles and pick them up. If you eat pickles regularly, then this can be a very handy type of fork to have in your cutlery drawer because it makes getting the pickles out of the jars much more hygienic and easier.
This is a fork that is larger than a cocktail or seafood fork, but it’s smaller than a table fork. Using this fork prevents you from getting the pickle brine on your hands, and it also stops you from contaminating the brine by touching it with your hands.
If you’ve ever tried to use a table type of fork to get a pickle out of the jar, you’ll know that how large this fork is can be problematic. The slippery pickles also tend to slide right off the fork. A pickle fork comes with tines that are a lot sharper, and in some cases, the tines can have hooks on the end to make them more secure to move.
These forks are intended to serve pickles, and you should never eat pickles off of them. Because they are so sharp and can have hooks on the end, this can cause you to have a painful mouth injury. Instead, tap the fork against your plate to remove the pickle, or use a knife and apply slight pressure to remove it from the tines.
20. Salad Fork
Salad forks are easy to identify thanks to the fact that they’re slightly shorter in length than a dinner fork, and the tine on the left side comes with a flat edge that you can use to chop lettuce or other salad components into bite-sized pieces. When you prepare a place for a dinner party, your forks should get placed in order. The one you use first will be furthest from the plate.
So, your salad type of fork’s correct placement will vary depending on what point during the meal you plan to serve salad. If the salad is an appetizer, the fork should be the furthest on the left. If the salad comes after the main course, you should put it on the right of the dinner fork.
21. Serving Fork
Serving types of forks are bigger than dinner forks, and you’ll typically buy them in a pair with a matching serving spoon. These items are typically used together to dish out a larger plate of food that will sit front and center at your table, like a bowl of pasta or a side salad.
You can use serving forks by pressing them against the spoon and holding the food between the two utensils to move it from the larger bowl onto the dinner plate. You could also use it to stab food with the tines and move it to your own plate. Serving forks and serving spoons are nice things at a potluck because they allow everyone to serve themselves with ease. If you frequently host garden grills or dinner parties, you’ll use them often.
22. Snail Fork
Snail forks are very similar in design to cocktail forks, and they have a very dainty and small handle with two slender tines. The tines of this type of fork usually curve inwards. You use them when you eat snails, and this helps you pull the snail out of the shell. You can use them to eat appetizers or canapes.
23. Spaghetti Fork
Despite the name, this type of fork gets designed to use when you eat all types of longer pasts, like fettuccine, linguine, and tagliatelle. These forks usually come with three tines, and each tine has small ridges in it that allows them to grip onto the pasta much better when you wrap it around.
This type of fork isn’t commonly used at home, but you can find them in fine dining restaurants, or you may buy them if you find yourself eating pasta a lot. The way that a smoothly tined fork allows the pasta to slide off can get messy, so these forks make the whole process easier by holding the pasta in place.
A spork is a cross between a fork and a spoon. It has three or four tines, and it works well to stab and pick up food with, but the tines are rounded and work to form a cupped sponge-shape. The fact that this type of fork is two utensils in one reduces plastic consumption and saves space because sporks are typically made out of single-use plastic and available in takeaway.
Sporks can sometimes feature a reusable, stronger material that you take with you on camping trips. This saves you from having to pack several individual utensils but it allows them to also have several functions in one tool.
25. Table Fork
A table fork is an all-purpose type of fork that most people have in their homes, and you use it in a broad range of settings. Table forks are very common in dinnerware sets as a standard fork that many people use for the main course. They’re also popular for eating fish and salads. In fine dining, you won’t see table forks used. Instead, they offer specialist forks for different dishes.
26. Toasting Fork
Toasting forks get used for holding food over an open flame. They usually come with two tines, but you can get triple tined ones too. The tines will be very sharp so that the food you spear won’t fall off when you hold it over the flame and be wasted. The most important feature of this type of fork is the long handle that is usually metal with a wood cover where you grip it.
This handle stops you from getting too close to the flame, and it will help prevent burns and keep you safe. These types of forks are very commonly available to buy in homeware stores, and you can buy them as part of a grilling set. They work well for cooking barbecue meat over a flame or for toasting marshmallows.
We’ve outlined 26 types of forks for you, and you can see which ones you should add to your collection. With the correct fork, you can eat your meals much easier with less mess, and you can use them to enjoy a host of food types in the comfort of your own home.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.