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What is a fork with 2 prongs called?

Forks with only two prongs are commonly known as two-prong forks or simply two-prongs. They are a type of fork distinguished by having just two tines or prongs instead of the more usual three or four tines of most table forks. Two-prong forks have a long history and various uses, though they are less common at Western dining tables today than three or four prong forks.

What are Two-Prong Forks Used For?

Two-prong forks have traditionally been used for a variety of purposes:

  • Serving and eating seafood such as shrimp, lobster, crab, etc. The two thinner tines can more easily extract meat from shells.
  • Serving hors d’oeuvres and appetizers like olives, pickles, cherries, cubes of cheese, etc. The two tines can more precisely grasp small or slippery foods.
  • Escoffier forks – A type of two-prong fork used in professional kitchens for testing the doneness and tenderness of cooked meat.
  • Cocktail forks – Small two-prong forks used for spearing garnishes and snacks at cocktail parties.
  • Pastry forks – Have wider fork tines used for serving and eating pastries and cakes to prevent damage.
  • Sardine forks – A French or Continental fork used for eating sardines and other small fish.

In formal dining, two-prong forks may be part of a specialized table setting just for eating seafood or may be individually laid as needed outside a place setting for eating problematic foods.

History of the Two-Prong Fork

Two-prong forks evolved after the introduction of the table fork in Italy during the Middle Ages. Here is some history:

  • 200 AD – The earliest known table fork dates from the Eastern Roman Empire and had just two straight tines.
  • 1000 AD – Bronze and bone forks had gained some popularity in the Byzantine Empire and Middle East, spreading to Italy by the 11th century.
  • 1100s – Small two-tined forks were used in Italy as novelty dining implements and for certain foods.
  • 1500s – The fork had become more widely adopted in Italy. And three- and four-tined forks became more common, alongside two-tined versions.
  • 1600s – Spoon and fork combinations were popular in France, with two-tined fork ends.
  • 1700s – Formal table settings emerged across Europe, including specialized two-tined forks for certain courses.
  • 1800s – Four-tined forks dominated in the Western world. But two-tined versions remained part of formal table settings.

So while four tines became the standard in the 19th century, two-prong forks remained part of proper dining for specialized uses.

Advantages of Two-Prong Forks

Two-prong forks have some advantages over ones with multiple tines:

  • Precision – The two thinner tines give you more precision when picking up small or delicate foods.
  • Simplicity – Less tines can be less intimidating and easier for children to use.
  • Shellfish – Great for extracting meat from lobster shells or digging out oysters.
  • Less damage – Less tines do less damage to pastries, cakes, and other soft or crumbly foods.
  • Smaller Servings – Ideal for serving bite-sized hors d’oeuvres or pieces of sushi.
  • Decorative – Can be made from decorative materials like silver. Visually distinct on the table.

For elegance, delicacy, and practicality, two-tined forks still have a useful place at the table.

Types of Two-Prong Forks

Today two-prong forks come in a variety of styles suited to different eating needs:

Fork Type Description Common Uses
Oyster Fork Small fork with short, thick, and pointed tines Serving oysters and seafood
Lobster Fork Delicate short fork with long thin tines and slight curve Extracting lobster, crab, and shrimp meat
Sardine Fork Small, decorative fork with wide flat tines Serving sardines and other small fish
Cocktail Fork Mini two-prong fork Spearing cocktail garnishes
Pastry Fork Flat, wide tines Serving and eating cakes and pastries
Pick Fork Flat, decorative tines Picking up and eating items like olives

Buying Guide

Those wishing to purchase two-prong forks should consider the following:

  • Material – Silver plated, sterling silver, stainless steel, etc. Look at durability and aesthetics.
  • Size – Mini cocktail forks, standard flatware size, or elongated forks for shellfish.
  • Design – Decorative or plain. Straight or curved tines.
  • Quantity – Buy individually or in full table settings.
  • Use – Consider if for shellfish, appetizers, or just decorative touch.
  • Quality – Higher priced forks tend to have better materials, construction, and design.
  • Brand – Reputable brands like Reed & Barton, Tiffany & Co., etc.

Carefully selecting the right two-prong fork can add elegance and functionality to your dining experience.

How to Use a Two-Prong Fork

Using a two-prong fork takes a little practice:

  • Grip the fork like a normal utensil, with tines facing down towards the plate.
  • Aim the tines precisely to pierce individual small or delicate pieces of food.
  • Keep a light touch when spearing – don’t apply too much pressure.
  • Use a gentle sawing motion to pry open shells, extract meat, or section soft foods.
  • Bring the fork carefully to your mouth once loaded. Avoid dragging food off the tines.
  • For foods like lobster, break apart the shell with your hands first before using the fork.
  • Place the fork back on plate gently when not in use, parallel to the table edge.

Practice using a two-prong fork, and it can become an elegant and effective dining tool for certain foods.

Two-Prong Fork Etiquette

Observing proper etiquette is important when using a two-prong fork in formal dining:

  • Hold the fork tines-down, switching hands American style (tines-up for Continental style).
  • Don’t wave fork around or gesticulate with it in hand.
  • Spear one piece of food at a time; never pile or load up the fork.
  • Don’t use the fork to cut or saw at food – only to anchor it.
  • No scraping or shoveling food onto fork. Load by discrete piercing only.
  • Don’t lick or suck food remnants off tines.
  • Place used fork on plate or plate rim, not table. Tines facing left.
  • Keep unused fork on table outside place setting, angled onto plate’s edge.
  • Use proper two-prong style for informal dining and restaurants too.

Mastering two-prong fork etiquette demonstrates manners and polish at the table.


In conclusion, two-prong forks go by names like two-tine and cocktail forks. While not as common today, they still serve specialized culinary purposes. With a long history and proper etiquette, the two-prong fork can elegantly spear snacks, seafood, and other small foods. With practice, these minimalist forks can become a distinctive dining experience.