Tips and Guides

Table Setting 101: Arranging Cutlery

From the different types to how you should place them on your dining table, we've got you covered

Photography: Toto Labrador (Main Photo)

When it comes to setting the table, the smallest details somehow separate the newbie from the truly refined host. Sometimes, it all boils down to the cutlery and serving tools you'll be using. Aside from bringing out your beautiful China or your finest crystals for wine and water, it's also vital to see to it that you are using the correct spoons, forks, and knives, too. To help you out, we've put together a simple guide that you can follow: 

  • A spoon, fork, and knife comprise your basic table set. This is perfect for everyday use, but it is best to start with six to eight sets if you're entertaining guests. Expand it by including a soup spoon, butter knife, steak knife, dessert fork, and coffee spoon. 
  • With serving tools, begin with the basics: a spoon for rice, a ladle for soups, a fork and spoon for fish, and a cake knife for dessert. 
  • Serving spoons come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Deep-seated items are used exclusively for soups while slotted pieces are for dishes with gravy or sauce. 
  • Forks can have two, three or four tines—feel free to use whichever you like. Use serving forks for dishes that require poking such as chicken or slabs of steak. 
  • As a general rule, it is best to serve pasta and salads with tongs. The sharp edges of these impelements are not just for biting ice, they are also good for grabbing noodles and mixed greens. 

Illustration by John Patrick Meneses, based on an original photo by Ocs Alvarez/ACME Visual Productions. 

This snippet originally appeared in the May 2004 issue of Real Living Magazine. Edits have been made by the editors. Download your digital copy of Real Living on the Real Living App. Log on to for more details.

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