3 Prong Fork vs 4 Prong Fork – Uses, Similarities and Differences Explained

Written by The Kitchen Hand on . Posted in Cutlery

Over time, I have been amazed by the little debates people make about the differences between the 3 prong fork and 4 prong fork. Moreover, this topic has always been very controversial in nature as people have argued about the differences in use between the 3 prong and 4 prong forks.

Before we make a dive into the differences, let’s have a look at the meanings of these forks and how these forks came about.

A Brief History of Forks

Forks have one of the slowest movements to popularity. While other utensils such as kitchen knives and spoons made waves of movement in popularity, it took until the arrival of medieval Europe for fork usage to gain ground and find its place on a dining table. Some of the earliest usages of forks come from ancient Egypt, China, and Greece.

Forks were initially used during those times as a cooking utensil rather than a dining spoon. Over years, its production has shifted from the use of wood and animal bones to the use of bronze and silver.

By the 4th century BC, it began to gain access into the dinner table, basically for the high-class citizens. Then by the 9th century, it was used in Persia by those in the elite circle which called it by the name “Barjyn”.

The modern word for fork comes from the Latin word “Furca” meaning pitchfork. While many people from central and Western Europe used their hands to eat, the fork gained ground in use amongst the majority in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. However, a few royal courts across Europe designed forks for special purposes and meals.

From that moment, the popularity of forks came to be.

The fork has seen various designs in its look and usage. Early in time, forks had only two prongs but as things went on, it became 3 prong and modern day 4 prong forks used for scooping and piercing food. By the early 20th century, the invention of stainless steels enabled the fork to have numerous designs.

The Different Types of Fork

Most forks usually consist of 3 or 4 prongs used for different purposes depending on the event, and there are different varieties of these forks, used for different purposes.

Salad fork

The Salad fork is the short fork in the table setting usually used to eat the salad meal. It may be placed either to the left or right of the dinner fork depending on the method of service. The salad fork consists of 3 or 4 prongs, specifically used to eat the salad meal. It also has a curvy shape which helps to mix the salad. If you intend to eat a salad meal, then it is imperative to use the salad fork.

Toasting fork

Toasting forks are used to hold meats in places over a fire usually an open flame. Some persons also use the toasting fork to pick up hot meat cooking. The handles are most commonly narrow and long with even wooden handle at the handle tips to minimize heat conducting and risk of palm burn. Although some of these forks come with 2 prongs also. This should be what you should be used to hold a piece of meat over an open flame.

Dessert fork

The Dessert fork is the fork short fork specifically used to eat dessert such as cakes. They consist of only 3 prongs. The edges of the dessert fork are angled when designed to allow for cutting through what is to be eaten. Example of the dessert fork is the pastry fork. To ensure the smooth cut through a dessert, it is important you used a dessert fork. It gives a pleasant look to your meal as you cut through.

Seafood fork

Seafood fork includes forks used to eat seafood such as fish, crab etc. an example of these forks includes the fish fork, the crab fork. The fish fork is used to eat a fish course or meal and usually placed at the left of the dinner fork especially if the fish is to be served first. The fish fork is to be used first if the fish is to be served first while the crab fork which consists of 2 or 3 prongs is used to pick the meat from crab when eating a prepared crab as a meal.

It is sometimes referred to as pick fork. Picking up seafood with just any fork can be really difficult. Identifying and using this fork gives ease during meals.

Oyster fork

Oyster forks are 3 prong forks which are narrow in shape commonly referred to as cocktail forks. They are used for handling shellfish fish and for eating shrimps. This remains the only fork placed at the right side of a plate in a formal dinner setting. They are not commonly seen but are available at supermarkets.

Granny fork

Some persons do not even know about this kind of fork. Some people have not even come across one. Granny forks are not even curvy but straight at the fork head. They are not commonly used in the recent event. The main purpose of a granny fork is to stir cooking like pasta but more recently, other types of the fork can be used. If you intend to stir well, then this traditional utensil should be allowed to serve its purpose.

Dinner fork

The Dinner fork is the largest of all forks in the dinner table setting with 3 or 4 prongs used to eat the main meal in all formal and informal meals. It usually measures 7 inch in length but may differ from place to place. The dinner fork is placed on the left side of a plate in between two other forks, which are the fish fork and the salad fork.

Extendable fork

Extendable forks are not hugely different from the dinner fork. Extendable forks consist of 4 prongs just like the dinner fork. The only significant difference is in the fact that it can be extended. You will not necessarily find this fork in a dinner setting but some people just like to own it for fun.


Spork as the name says, is a utensil designed as a combination of a spoon and a fork. It contains 4 prongs and compression at the head that resembles a spoon. These 4 prongs are relatively very short. Instead of switching between utensils, the spork can serve as both a spoon and a fork.

They are not commonly seen in many homes but are available at stores. They come as plastics or stainless steels. Not many people fancy it but it can be really helpful in some scenario.

So, what are 3 prong forks?

3 prong forks are forks with three points that project at the head of the fork. These forks are created with the edge flatten, widened. Or blunt specifically designed for different meals. An idea of the different type of forks and identification of the design helps to note its uses. The 3 prongs are usually parallel to each other and are relatively short in size.

The 3 prong forks may be designed with its edges at an angle, making it a seafood fork and ice-cream fork.

For a formal dinner setting, 3 prong forks are usually short-tined with short spikes branching at the end of the fork. They can mainly be found at most classic restaurants and at formal dinner settings. Forks with 3 prongs are designed to serve specific purposes. The oyster, salad, and desert forks are examples of 3 prong forks.

4 Prong forks

4 prong forks are forks designed with four prongs that project at the head of the fork. It is the most common type of fork design available, most commonly seen and frequently used. Example of such a fork includes the dinner fork and other types of four prong fork design. Forks with these designs are usually flattened and allow a large portion of foods to be carried at once.

For a formal dinner setting, four prong forks are usually long tined fork with long spikes branching at the head of the fork. They serve multiple purposes. People often prefer to use them in eating all meals but they are specifically meant to be used to eat the main course only. Some designs come with extendable handles and other are entirely made of plastics making it disposal after use. The extendable fork and spork belong to this category.

What is the difference between a 3-prong fork and a 4 -prong fork?

Forks can come with either 3 prongs or 4 prongs depending on the design and the purpose it is to serve.

There is generally only a slight difference between the 3- prong fork and 4 prong fork designs.

  1. The 3 prong forks are consisting of three prongs and used as picking tools to pick meats from seafood such as crab and fish while, the 4 prong forks consisting of 4 prongs are used to carry and eat meals such as rice, salads etc.
  2. 3 prong forks are shorter compared to 4 prong forks and are less common in availability and uses.
  3. 3 prong forks are usually designed with an angled edge to allow for cutting through meals while 4 prong forks are flattened at the edges.
  4. 3 prong forks are used during dessert while, 4 prong forks are used during the main meal course

How and when do we use different types of forks?

Forks serve several purposes one of which includes the picking of meat from meals. The seafood fork is one of such forks. The different types of fork available include; Dinner fork, Salad fork, Dessert fork, Seafood fork, Carving fork, and many others. The forks are usually arranged with regards as to how the meals are to be served.

The forks are arranged to the left of the service plate with the dinner fork placed at the middle of the two other forks such as the salad and dessert fork. The forks are used in different meals and differ from place to place and from one restaurant to another. Some restaurants only serve one fork which is the dinner fork while others serve a dessert fork along-side the dinner fork or a combination of all three.

Forks should be used in relation to the meals being served. If a fish or crab meal is served, picking the fish or crab with a dinner fork might be a bit tedious. Hence, the appropriate kind of fork that allows for convenient should be used. If a salad meal is served first, a salad fork should be used because it is specifically designed to serve that purpose. Likewise, a dessert fork which permits cutting through a dessert like a cake.

Final Thoughts

It is undoubtedly important that we know the uses of the different types of the fork as part of learning proper table manners and with the information stated above it is quite obvious that there is a slight difference between the 3 prong vs 4 prong fork and these differences are embedded in its use and design.

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