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Do You Really Need a Mother-of-Pearl Spoon to Eat Caviar or Roe?

Experts say you can’t use a metal spoon to eat caviar. Is this just a marketing scam?
By Published Oct. 6, 2021

Everywhere you buy caviar or roe, you’re likely to receive the same warning: Never eat your caviar off a metal spoon. At first, we dismissed this as a gimmicky way for retailers to get consumers to buy their special mother-of-pearl spoons. But we were curious enough to see whether the material of the spoon really mattered. So we tried eating white sturgeon caviar from plastic, mother-of-pearl, silver, and stainless-steel spoons.

The results were surprising. Caviar eaten off the plastic, mother-of-pearl, and stainless-steel spoons tasted perfectly good. But caviar eaten off the silver spoon tasted terrible—acrid, metallic, and acidic.

plate with two spoons of caviar on it
Use a spoon made from a neutral material, such as mother-of-pearl (top), to eat your caviar or roe. Silver (bottom) can give your caviar or roe off-flavors.

To find out what was going on, we talked with Paul Adams, our science research editor. When silver touches the tongue, it can create a mild electrical current, which we perceive as a coppery, metallic taste. In the presence of salt, the current flows much more readily—hence the overwhelming unpleasantness of the caviar we tasted off the silver spoon.

So while you don’t need to avoid metal altogether, we do recommend using a spoon made of a more neutral material, whether it be plastic, stainless steel, or even mother-of-pearl, to eat your caviar.

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