Salad Fork vs Dinner Fork: They’re Actually Quite Different

If you’ve ever been to a nice dinner, you’ve probably seen a place setting with more than one fork. There are actually several different forks used in meal settings and each fork has a distinct role in the meal. Of these different fork types, dinner and salad forks are the most common, and they’re pretty different.

The main difference between salad forks and dinner forks is their size. Salad forks are shorter, about 6 inches long, but with a wider head and prongs. Dinner forks are around 7 inches long with longer and narrower prongs. Salad forks sometimes have a thicker prong on the left for cutting, unlike dinner forks which usually pair with a knife.

The differences between these forks also have a purpose, since these forks are used in different ways.

How Dinner and Salad Forks are Different

The differences between salad forks and dinner forks are intentional. These forks actually each serve a different purpose. At home, around the dinner table, we often use them interchangeably, but their design actually makes each one more useful for its main use.

In this video, we’ll show you these differences so you can really see what we’re talking about.

What Course to Use a Salad Fork In

In America, it is most common to have a salad as an appetizer. In most restaurants and diners, a salad will be served before the main course. The salad may be the first past of the dinner served. Though there may be instances of when the salad is served at the same time as the main course, it is most common for a salad to be served with other appetizers if they are being served as well.

If you have an appetizer and a salad, you will use the salad fork for the salad. If the restaurant or the place you are eating provides a second fork, use the other fork when you dig into the other appetizers. You might not even need a fork for the appetizers, but if it is necessary, you will use the dinner fork.

What Course to Use a Dinner Fork In

A dinner fork is most often used in the main course. This is the course where you will have anything from pasta to meat. It is a possibility to have a salad as the main course. In this specific instance, you will not use a dinner fork for your main course.

When eating food with a fork that is not a salad, it is expected you will use a dinner fork. A dinner fork will be paired with a knife to assist in cutting, so it is not necessary to have the sharp tine of the salad fork.

How a dinner fork is shaped allows a person to pick up their main course more easily. Though it seems like this will not be the case because it only has three tines compared to the four tines of a salad fork, only the three tines are needed to pick up the food you are eating.

Other Utensils

You might wonder the difference between other types of utensils, here is one of our articles about the Difference between Bouillion Spoons and Soup Spoons! Opens in a new tab.

The Difference Between Salad Fork Tines and Dinner Fork Tines

Forks did not always look the way we now know them to appear. For example, forks did not have tines (prongs). Forks were merely sharp objects to grab things with. We see the introduction of tines with the popularity of pasta in Italy. People found it was much easier to grab the pasta with a few tines as opposed to just a single point.

The standard 4 tined forks became common in the early 19th century.

Salad forks and dinner forks are different in the way they are pronged, though. Salad forks do not need to be accompanied by a knife because the left tine of the salad fork is thicker than a dinner fork. This allows for the fork to cut without the use of a knife. This also allows for them to easily use the fork to cut the greens of their salad if needs be.

Another two key differences in salad and dinner forks relate to the shaping of the forks. For example, a standard salad fork has 4 tines while a standard dinner fork has 3 tines.

Even though most dinner forks have three prongs, this does not mean all forks with four prongs are salad forks. I have a set of forks that has four prongs that are not salad forks. Though this applies to the majority, that does not mean it applies to every single dinner fork.

We can also see a difference in the length of both forks. Salad forks are shorter than dinner forks. An average salad fork is 6 inches long. An average dinner fork, however, is 7 inches long.

When to Use a Salad Fork vs. When to Use a Dinner Fork

The primary difference between dinner forks and salad fork is that they are used for different courses in a meal, however, there are many more differences than that. While dinner forks are used for the main course, they are always accompanied by a dinner knife. Salad forks, however, are never accompanied by a knife.

When eating in a fancy setting, there are general rules of etiquette to follow. Sitting in these place settings can be intimidating. It is almost as if there are utensils everywhere!

There is an easy way to know, however, which utensils to use first. The general rule is to work from the outside in. This relates to the order in which your meal will be served. The outermost utensils are used for the first course of the meal. As the meal continues, you will use the utensils in front of you from outside to inside. The utensils for the main course with be on either side of the plate.

When looking at the plate set in front of you, the forks will be on the left side. Forks are placed on the left side because most people are right-handed. Usually, the salad fork will be the farthest away from the plate, followed by the dinner fork because a salad will generally be served before the main course.

When eating in a true French restaurant, the dinner and salad forks will be in different places. In French restaurants, the salad fork is set the closest to the plate because the salad is served after the entrée.

Anna Silver

Anna Silver is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to new go-to original recipes. Inspired by her grandmother’s love of cooking, Anna has a passion for treating the people in her life to delicious homemade food and loves to share her family recipes with the rest of the world.

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