Butter Knife vs. Dinner Knife: What’s the Difference?

Last Updated on June 6, 2024 | 0 Comments
butter knife vs dinner knife
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Have you ever found yourself staring at a fancy place setting wondering how to tell the difference between a butter knife vs. a dinner knife? It seems like the nicer the restaurant or event, the more pieces of flatware you’ll find on the table, just waiting to confuse you. This is especially true when it comes to knowing the traits of different types of knives.

Knowing a few simple differences between the butter knife vs. dinner knife will help you be a more confident guest, and it will help you set the table for your next dinner party with ease. This guide to butter knives vs. dinner knives will teach you how to differentiate between these two common pieces of flatware. Both serve an important role at the dinner table, and knowing the telltale differences between them is all part of knowing about the best knives and the best kitchen knives.


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What Is a Butter Knife?

A butter knife is a short knife with a dull blade that is not meant for cutting foods other than butter, jam, jellies or similar spreads. You’ll often find these shorter knives in a cutlery set, but they certainly wouldn’t be good for cutting your meal during dinner, which is one of the main differences between the butter knife vs. dinner knife. 

Some fancier cutlery sets and dining establishments will even differentiate further between a butter knife and a butter spreader. A butter knife has a slightly more pointed edge than the butter spreader, and is designed to slice the butter and then transfer it from the butter dish to your dinner plate. A butter spreader has a round edge and is designed specifically for smoothing butter, jam or jelly across your bread. 

But don’t let that further distinction confuse you more in the butter knife vs. dinner knife debate. You can rest assured that the butter knife you have at home, with its shorter handle and dull edge, is perfect for both slicing butter and spreading it on a warm roll or biscuit. 

butter knife vs dinner knife
via Canva

What Is a Dinner Knife?

A dinner knife, unlike a butter knife, is longer and has a slightly serrated edge that makes it perfect for cutting most cooked foods like vegetables and meat. Of course, you may also see the more serrated steak knife at your place setting for cutting through steaks, but a dinner knife is typically the most basic multipurpose cutting tool of your cutlery set. 

Dinner knives come in two standard sizes, American and European. The European (continental-size) dinner knife is typically 9 ¾ inches long, while the American (place-size) dinner knife is slightly shorter at 9 ¼ inches. Whether you choose European- or American-sized dinner knives, they are all suitable for use with a typical place setting of other flatware. 

In the butter knife vs. dinner knife debate, dinner knives are truly the most versatile knife in your cutlery set. A set like the Oneida Flight Stainless Steel 18/10 Dinner Knives - Set of 6 will last you for decades to come and serve you through a countless variety of meals.

Oneida Flight Stainless Steel Dinner Knives Set of 6
via Oneida

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Uses for a Dinner Knife

The versatility of a dinner knife comes from its slightly pointed tip and serrated edge. These qualities make a dinner knife perfect for cutting vegetables, meat, or even used in conjunction with a fork to help eat grains like rice and quinoa. You certainly don’t need the skills of a seasoned chef to use a simple dinner knife. 

The same traits that make a dinner knife useful for cutting meat and vegetables are what make a dinner knife unsuitable for spreading butter. The serrated edge is not good for smoothing jams or jellies. Instead, be sure to set the table with dinner knives and butter knives to be sure that your guests can choose the cutlery that best fits their needs. 

butter knife vs dinner knife
via Canva

Butter Knife vs. Dinner Knife: Are They Interchangeable?

No knife guide would be complete without answering this common question. The short answer is no, butter knives and dinner knives are not interchangeable. While you might be inclined to think that all knives function interchangeably, that isn’t true. Both butter knives and dinner knives are designed to serve a specific function. The differences between them might seem small (length, slight serration, etc.), but these differences really do affect the function of the knife.

Try to spread butter with a serrated dinner knife and you might end up ripping apart your roll. Try to cut your asparagus with a butter knife and you might find it rolling across the plate away from you! For the best results in the kitchen, be sure to use each utensil according to its proper function. 

cutting an omelette with a dinner knife
via Canva

It can sometimes seem like there are simply too many types of kitchen knives to choose from. That’s why we’ve created guides to different types of knives and even different types of knife cuts. We hope this guide to butter knives vs. dinner knives has been helpful as you learn to navigate the volume of cutlery options available to you. 

The key takeaway here is that when it comes to spreading butter, a butter knife vs. a dinner knife is the best tool for you given its shorter length and dull edge. Dinner knives, on the other hand, work best for slicing through cooked food thanks to their slightly serrated edges and sharper points. 

For even more ways to elevate your kitchen, check out chef-recommended cutlery in the Cozymeal Shop.