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Disposable Utensil Sets
After putting these single-use utensils to the test at a backyard barbecue, we found two sets worth considering.
What You Need To Know
I’m standing at an outdoor gathering, holding a paper plate in one hand and a disposable fork in the other. I poke at the salad on my plate, and my fork comes back empty. I direct my fork back into the salad with more force, but still nothing sticks. Most of us have experienced this scenario. Disposable utensils can be an asset when hosting guests, when having a picnic, and when things at home are especially busy, but dull or flimsy disposable utensils aren’t particularly convenient.
Given those garden-party disappointments, my colleagues and I wondered if any utensil sets (consisting of forks, knives, and spoons) are worth purchasing. First, we identified the top-selling, nationally available utensil brands based on sales data from IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm, and purchased each brand’s best-selling set. All the utensils in these sets were made from plastic, but when doing our research, we learned of a few single-use utensil sets made from plant-based materials and marketed as being eco-friendly. We were curious to see how they would compare with plastic versions, so we included three: one made from bamboo and two made from crystallized polylactic acid (CPLA), a commercially compostable material derived from corn, sugarcane, potatoes, tapioca, or soy protein. (See “Are Compostable Utensils Really Better for the Environment?” for more information about how to compost plant-based utensils.)
The seven utensil sets in our lineup were priced from about $0.05 to about $0.30 per utensil. Two sets came with an equal number of forks, spoons, and knives, while the other five sets contained more forks or more forks and spoons than knives because knives are the least used utensil. We used utensils from each set to eat Oven-Roasted Chicken Thighs, Bibb and Arugula Salad with Pear and Goat Cheese, Italian Pasta Salad, and ice cream. We served the foods on both ceramic and disposable plates, and we ate the foods while sitting down and while standing. Throughout, we considered how well the forks and spoons picked up food, how well the knives cut foods, how sturdy each utensil was, and how comfortable each utensil was to use.
Knives and Forks Must Be Sharp
When we used the knives and forks from each set to cut and then eat the roasted chicken thighs, we noticed that most of the knives had small, sharp serrations that allowed them to easily navigate around bones and cut through meat. The bamboo knife’s blade, however, was thick and had square serrations that were dull and ineffective, so cutting with it required more effort. We essentially sawed off shaggy bites of chicken instead of easily and cleanly slicing through the meat....
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