Flatware, also known as silverware, cutlery or tableware, describes any hand-held implement used in the preparation, eating or serving of food. Flatware consists of utensils, including forks, spoons and knives. A variety of metals are used to make flatware, including sterling silver, stainless steel and silver-plated steel. Before buying your flatware, learn some of its uses, history and facts that will help you when it comes time to make a purchase.
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What to Look for When Purchasing Flatware
Sterling silver is the most durable type of flatware, but it is also the most costly. It has to be polished and can be cleaned in the dishwasher, although some experts recommend against doing so. Silver-plated is a less expensive alternative to sterling. Silver-plated flatware is constructed of a non-silver base and when the silver coating wears off the base will show through. Stainless steel is the most common, and by far the least expensive, type of flatware. It is durable and easy to care for. Before making your purchase, think about cost, ease of care, how you will use your tableware and how long you want it to last.
Spoons were designed for eating liquid and semi-liquid foods, such as soup, pudding and ice cream. Spoons play an important part in the preparation, cooking and serving of foods. For foods that consist of batters, like biscuits and cookies, a person will drop batter or dough from spoons on greased pans, casserole dishes and baking sheets. Other foods, such as chicken and dumplings and egg drop soups, also have batter or egg mixture spooned into soup bases.
A fork is an eating utensil that consists of a narrow handle with two, three or four tines at the other end. The first recorded use of the fork was by the Greeks in 1100 AD but it was not until the 1500s that the fork gained in popularity and use. Early forks resembled a pitchfork in design. The fork is used to hold meat or other foods while cutting or transferring food to the mouth from a plate. When eating with a fork, food can be speared or sit atop of the tines. Two- and three-tined forks are instrumental for holding large pieces of meat, such as turkey, hams and and roasts, while carving.
Since prehistoric times the knife has been used for protection, eating and as a cooking utensil. It was not until modern times that the knife became a utensil for eating at the table. During the Middle Ages, most people carried one with them when they traveled. In 1669, King Louis XIV outlawed all pointed knives. It was due to this that bread knives took their rounded shape or blunt edge. Used today at many breakfasts and luncheons, the butter knife has many uses, including spreading butters and other spreads, and for cutting meat that is not too thick.