Talk:Tablespoon

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SI tablespoon[edit]

I've never heard of an "SI Tablespoon" before. I really doubt that this is an accepted SI unit. And it makes no sense that an "SI Tablespoon" would be 15 mL in Canada but 20 mL in Australia.--Ryan Stone 04:35, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)

US metric spoons[edit]

I've found that U.S. law (21CFR101.9(b)(5)(viii)) defines the tablespoon as 15 mL.

Excerpt:

For nutrition labeling purposes, a teaspoon means 5 milliliters (mL),
a tablespoon means 15 mL, a cup means 240 mL, 1 fl oz means 30 mL,
and 1 oz in weight means 28 g.

Should/could this be added into the article? ~ Storpilot

US law mentions metric units? Inconceivable! JIP | Talk 05:01, 25 September 2007 (UTC)

21CFR101.9(b)(5)(viii) applies to nutrition labeling and does not imply a formal definition. In fact it's obviously not a formal definition, because it also defines the cup as 240 ml. Appendix C of NIST Handbook 44 calls the tablespoon an "imprecise" measurement, and says it's equal to 1/2 fluid ounce exactly, or 15 ml (with no "exactly" qualifier). The NIST Guide for the International System of Units defines the tablespoon as 1.478676 ml. I can find no formal definition. My conclusion is that there is no formal definition. I'm going to remove the part about 15 ml being the official definition in the US. Rees11 (talk) 00:47, 25 March 2009 (UTC).

"Scant" tablespoon[edit]

What is a scant tablespoon, as in this recipe: [1]. Is it just a level tablespoon or does it have a specific technical meaning? Richard W.M. Jones 12:57, 13 November 2006 (UTC)

Comment added by 18.243.6.65[edit]

This is ridiculous; a flattened tablespoon can hardly hold 2ml of volume... Something seems wrong with this entire notion that a tablespoon could even remotely hope to actually hold a "tablespoon = 15ml" worth of liquid. Someone should test this. --Ninjagecko —Preceding unsigned comment added by 18.243.6.65 (talkcontribs)

I think you may be confusing a tablespoon with a teaspoon. I just checked my tablespoons and they hold around 15ml with no problems at all. Unclejimbo83 13:51, 25 June 2007 (UTC)

UK traditional tablespoon[edit]

Imperial units are basically obsolete and never used in the UK so I've removed the section on the traditional tablespoon measurement. DunKhan (talk) 10:43, 12 September 2008 (UTC)

Just to clarify, I meant specifically for cookery (with the exception of the pint) - not for everything. DunKhan (talk) 10:44, 12 September 2008 (UTC)
DunKhan - Imperial units may be obsolete in labs and manufacturing as you say - but to state that they are never used is rubbish, have you not noticed that supermarkets use both imperial and metric measures - or that the EU has just made the continued use of both systems legal? (seehere. You should try and bear in mind that the tablespoon is a real world measure, that is convenient in a kitchen alongside 'pinches' of salt, 'bunches' of herbs, yolks of eggs and 'drops' of cochineal. Your sentiments are laudably scientific, but of absolutely no help.81.107.147.216 (talk) 12:42, 30 August 2009 (UTC)

Agreed, tablespoons are (should be) obsolete, but that is no reason to remove the text, though I agree it could be improved on. Many UK cookbooks use these units, so the correct approach would be to document the situation. Groogle (talk) 00:12, 1 July 2009 (UTC)

The issue of whether a measure is obsolete or not shouldn't influence its being included on this page - the tablespoon measure has been used in cookbooks as a measure until very recently and recipes dont become obsolete - anybody consulting wikipedia to help them use an old recipe, perhaps even a victorian recipe, is not helped by witholding information that though obsolete, still exists.81.107.147.216 (talk) 12:21, 30 August 2009 (UTC)

The teaspoonful (plural teaspoonsful), along with the dessertpoonful, tablespoonful, wineglassful, teacupful, and tumblerful are British Imperial (1824-1971) units of culinary measure. They have very precise definitions, as they all related to the imperial gallon. Zyxwv99 (talk) 16:04, 5 December 2011 (UTC)
... but not, I think, related to metric units in the way claimed in the table at Imperial units where equivalents seem about 35% too low. Dbfirs 19:55, 5 December 2011 (UTC)
I think you are right. I am reverting my own edits relating to imperial culinary measures. Zyxwv99 (talk) 14:40, 6 December 2011 (UTC)
I liked your table, and I'm puzzled about why it doesn't seem to work out. I remember seeing a similar table about fifty years ago, but I can't remember the relationship of the tablespoon to the fluid ounce. I haven't time to do real research at present, and the nearest reference library is sixteen miles away. I think your table based on the gallon applied to medical usage rather than culinary. Google Books isn't much use for old books because it refuses to show me the relevant texts, but Chemist & Druggist, Volume 28 from 1888 mentions "one and a half tablespoonfuls to the fluid ounce", and The American practitioner: Volumes 11-12 from 1891 says: "The tablespoon used held exactly one fluid ounce. This case suggests the unadvisability of dispensing Easton's syrup and similar potent medicines in undiluted form, and also the danger arising from the use of domestic measures of such ...". In 1873, Barnard Simpson Proctor wrote in Lectures on practical pharmacy: "Ordinary silver tablespoons of the present day usually hold about one fluid ounce."
I think your source was correct in that the relationships in your table were often quoted in Victorian times, but in practice there was a wide variation in what was meant by a tablespoon. Robert Farquharson, M.D. of Edinburgh wrote in 1877: "all domestic measures are most absurdly variable ... " and the best advice was given in A manual for hospital nurses by Edward James Domville in 1881: "As the spoons in common use vary considerably as to the quantity which they contain, it is advisable on all occasions, if possible, to use a graduated measure glass." Dbfirs 19:24, 6 December 2011 (UTC)
The units I posted may have been Apothecaries' Wine Measures, which apparently came in a US version and an imperial version. In the 19th century a number of units were dropped from the imperial system (troy pound in 1878 for example). Eventually Apothecaries' Wine Measures were renamed Apothecary Liquid Measures.
see A treasise on arithmetic, Philadelphia 1855 — Preceding unsigned comment added by Zyxwv99 (talkcontribs) 00:51, 7 December 2011 (UTC)

Australian Tablespoon[edit]

I am Australian, and have never seen a 20 mL tablespoon... —Preceding unsigned comment added by 124.176.77.111 (talk) 01:28, 20 December 2008 (UTC)

There's no such thing as a 20 ml tablespoon, I suspect. But Australian authorities have defined "tablespoon" to be 20 ml. I have many documents (cookbooks, for example) which all agree on this volume. Take a look at [2] for one example. If somebody can find an official reference, it should be added to the article. Groogle (talk) 00:07, 1 July 2009 (UTC)

Is there any history behind the usage of a 20ml tablespoon? —Preceding unsigned comment added by 86.131.75.122 (talk) 16:39, 6 October 2009 (UTC)

It is probably the old British tablespoon that seems to have shrunk recently! I'll try to find some references. Dbfirs 10:28, 15 February 2010 (UTC)
This size of tablespoon was also explained for American usage in "Three hundred new prescriptions: with a comprehensive dose table and an account of the metric system of weights and measures, Americanized and simplified." by Oscar Oldberg in 1882: "An average teaspoon holds 5 fGm ; a dessertspoon, 10 fGm ; a tablespoon, 20 fGm ; and a wineglass, 75 fGm" [A fluid gram was the same as a millilitre]. Dbfirs 20:05, 6 December 2011 (UTC)
According to my compact edition of the OED, tablespoon can mean one of two things: a utensil for taking soup, or a larger variety as a serving utensil. The term first appears in the 1700s (confirmed by a search on Google Books). Zyxwv99 (talk) 15:43, 8 December 2011 (UTC)
I wonder why the compact version mentions soup. The big OED gives no suggestion that a tablespoon was ever designed for soup, though a couple of cites are ambiguous because they mention soup. The first cite is from 1741. The definition just says: "A large spoon (larger than a dessertspoon) for serving food. Also occas.: a (smaller) spoon used for eating.". I agree that the term is and has been used for various different sizes and purposes of utensil. Dbfirs 23:42, 8 December 2011 (UTC)
The compact edition is a reprint of the OED1. If you have a larger version in 12 volumes, it's also OED1. If it's in 20 volumes, it's OED2. I just looked it up again, and it definitely says that a "table-spoon" is "for taking soup," Zyxwv99 (talk) 02:27, 9 December 2011 (UTC)
I've just dug out my copy of the compact edition (little-used now because I need the magnifying glass to read it) and it does indeed have the two senses that you mention. The OED must have removed the soup association when they revised the entries for OED2. They also reversed the order of the senses, putting the serving-spoon first. Collins Millennium Edition has three senses: "1. A spoon, larger than a dessertspoon, used for serving food etc. 2. the amount contained in such a spoon. 3. a unit of capacity used in cooking, medicine etc., equal to half a fluid ounce or three teaspoons.". If the OED is unsure, then we have little hope of agreeing on one single definition. Dbfirs 08:43, 9 December 2011 (UTC)
There can be more than one definition. In pharmacology, a tablespoon is 1/2 fluid ounce, and 4 teaspoons make a tablespoon. In the culinary arts, a teaspoon is 1/3 of a tablespoon. That's why pharmacists are better off sticking with the original Latin "cochleare majus" and "cochleare minus." Looking at photos of old silver, I find American-style tablespoons are still available in England. You just need to ask for Hanoverian pattern or George III style. Page 44 of the book Spoons 1650-2000 (2005, ISBN 9780747806400) suggests that the American definition of tablespoon is the original English definition. Zyxwv99 (talk) 16:26, 9 December 2011 (UTC)
Yes, I'm happy with multiple definitions. What I didn't like was the impression given in some previous versions of the article that the tablespoon(ful) had always been a clearly defined volume. I have some old(ish) Edwardian tablespoons and they hold 25 ml (level). I've seen even bigger tablespoons from Victorian times, but they were clearly smaller in pre-Victorian times. I think the American sense is the oldest British sense that has largely been replaced here by a slightly smaller dessert spoon. Dbfirs 18:03, 9 December 2011 (UTC)

Dessert spoon[edit]

Let's not forget the Dessert spoon which, as I remember it to be, is somewhere between a teaspoon and a tablespoon. JohnClarknew (talk) 21:39, 8 February 2009 (UTC)


JohnClarknew has made a very good point here - and has perhaps uncovered the problem with this page - at least as far as the UK tablespoon measure is concerned. I think that some people are not familiar with what exactly a UK tablespoon is and are making the incorrect assumption that a tablespoon is the type of spoon that you commonly see on a table, next to the knife and fork - (as it is in the US).

A tablespoon is a very large spoon that is never used in a place setting, it is sometimes used on the table as a serving spoon. The spoon that accompanies a knife and fork in the place setting is a desert spoon, it is in proportion with the fork. a teaspoon is a small spoon, the type used for adding sugar to tea most commonly.

Part of the confusion lies in the fact that in the US the term tablespoon has always applied to what in the uk would be recognised as a desertspoon. This fact used to be common knowledge amongst British cooks who would make allowances depending on the source of the recipe (for a US cookbook a desertspoon would be used - for a UK cookbook a tablespoon would be used) - with the increasing blurring between our cultures many conversion charts intended for sale in the US are now sold here in the UK with little attention to the different terminology for the given spoons.

I have just measured 3 spoons with water

A Teaspoon = 5ml

A Desert spoon = 3 teaspoons = 15ml

A Tablespoon = 7 teaspoons = 35ml 81.107.147.216 (talk) 13:13, 30 August 2009 (UTC)—Preceding unsigned comment added by 81.107.147.216 (talk) 13:09, 30 August 2009 (UTC)

I see no reason to suppose that the article is not talking about the large spoon I use to serve food with here in the UK. Surely a desert spoon is more like 10 ml? 35 ml sounds more like a large serving spoon such as people use in catering: we have a couple of slotted spoons this size. However, I do take issue with the uncited assertion in the article:

When used for solids, such as granulated sugar, it should be measured to the flattened level of the spoon—level spoonful versus a heaping spoonful or heaped tablespoon, which is as much as can be held in the spoon, or a rounded spoonful, which is twice a level spoonful, the solids above the level roughly mirroring those in the bowl.

In my experience, a rounded tablespoon is the standard amount for solids in a recipe. Hence why the article notes that an actual tablespoon holds slightly less than 15ml: it holds 15ml of solids in a rounded spoonful. If a recipe wants level tbsp it will say "level tbsp". If it wants heaped tbsp it will say "heaped tbsp". Otherwise, you use rounded. Obviously, liquids end up shorter. And this is different to measuring scoops, which have a carefully measured height to fill to. 86.176.191.243 (talk) 00:33, 24 December 2009 (UTC)


Right. Delia agree with me that 2 teaspoons make a dessertspoon and says 2 dessertspoons make a tablespoon, making a tablespoon roughly 20 ml. Sad as I am, I just got a 30 year old British tablespoon and measured the mass of room temperature water that fitted on it. I got 12 g on, making 12 ml. This fits with a rounded tablespoon giving the standard 15 ml of solid. 86.176.191.243 (talk) 00:42, 24 December 2009 (UTC)
I remember UK-tablespoons from when I was a child - they were far bigger than a dessert-spoon. I think Delia is underestimating the size of a UK-tablespoon compared with a UK-dessrt-spoon. People do not seem to use the traditional set of cutlery in the UK much anymore, perhaps due to the styles cooking changing. Nobody uses fishknives anymore either. 78.146.200.137 (talk) 10:58, 24 December 2009 (UTC)
Delia isn't estimating. As you can find in her website, if you don't already know, Delia is notorious for treating cookery as a science, and strongly emphasising the importance of accurately measuring ingredients. If everyone else in the UK says 'tablespoon' to refer to the 15 ml spoons, and 'dessertspoon' to refer to the 10 ml spoons, maybe it's just your family which used enormous spoons as part of the normal cutlery, and called them 'tablespoons'? Certainly, there's no reason to use a 35 ml spoon in cooking: 2 tbsp gives you about that, and for more you're really into using scales or a measuring jug. For example, Delia says to add 3 tbsp of brandy to the fruit for the Christmas cake. If tablespoons were really 35 ml (enormous!), that would be 105 ml. In that case, it would make much more sense to say "add 100 ml of brandy". But actually, she wants you to add about 35 ml. That would be 1 tbsp if you used enormous things. But why would you?
If you want to article to talk about people calling enormous serving spoons tablespoons, please provide a reliable source which mentions this. 86.176.191.243 (talk) 22:23, 24 December 2009 (UTC)
Further reference: both the 40th and 35th edition of the Be-Ro book use tablespoon = 15 ml. That's going back to the 80s, I think. The 6th, 12th and 16th editions don't specify, although it seems unlikely "4 tablespoonfuls of milk" would feature so often if it were really about 1/4 pint (as it would be with a 35 ml spoon). The 28th edition of "Basic Baking with McDougals" doesn't specify, but it does feature both "4 tablespoonfuls of milk" and "1/4 pint milk" as ingredients in separate recipes. I mention these as being very British and fairly old. 86.176.191.243 (talk) 22:44, 24 December 2009 (UTC)
I've just measured one of the 100-year-old tablespoons that I use every day. It holds 25ml of water (more of dry measure if "rounded"). I think we have to admit that the word tablespoon means different things to different people, and that the modern tablespoon, even in the UK, is smaller than my 100-year-old spoons. I'm still looking for some old definitions, but everything on the internet seems to be recent (i.e. in the last 30 years, for obvious reasons). Dbfirs 07:55, 20 February 2010 (UTC)

US "tablespoon" = UK "dessert spoon"[edit]

I agree with the previous person - this article appears to be about what I in the UK would call a dessert spoon. A tablespoon in the UK is much bigger, as the above person notes. 78.149.147.198 (talk) 23:41, 23 December 2009 (UTC)

OK. Google's internal calculator says 1 Imperial tablespoon = 17.7581714 millilitres. Wolfram Alpha, on the other hand, says 1 tablespoon = 14.79 mL = 3 teaspoons, 1 imperial tablespoon = 14.21 mL = 3 imperial teaspoons = 2.2882 teaspoons, and 1 metric tablespoon = 15 mL = 3 metric teaspoons. = 3.042 teaspoons. Marvelous.
Now, with regard to 5 A Day ... a cup is at least 240 mL (assuming Japan isn't involved); that gives us a 60mL tablespoon. Maybe if a tablespoon is 17.75 mL and you heap dried fruit up in it, you can get up to 25 mL. So the 5-a-day dried fruit measure is distinctly different in the US and the UK, though perhaps only by a factor of between 2 and 3, not 8. Felis cheshiri (talk) 03:22, 24 December 2009 (UTC)
I think you are forgetting that a US-english "tablespoon" would be a UK-english "dessert spoon". A UK-english "tablespoon" is something much bigger. Since only the US officially uses Imperial measures any more, information about an "Imperial tablespoon" that you find on the internet is likely to refer to what we in the UK would call a dessert-spoon. As the UK is flooded with US cultural products of all kinds including recipe books, some people in the UK may also confuse the two. 78.146.200.137 (talk) 10:53, 24 December 2009 (UTC)
Pleasing though it is to think about these big old tablespoons of yore (which by the way I think my friends and relatives always termed "serving spoons"), I have to say that I think the 5 A Day recommendation in the UK is based on 15ml tablespoons as stated in the Leatherhead report. Felis cheshiri (talk) 14:17, 24 December 2009 (UTC)
This is nuts!! Why do Americans keep vehemently insisting that American cultural conventions apply in the UK, when they don't - at least not in this case? I doubt that most of them have even been to the UK. 92.29.62.115 (talk) 14:15, 14 February 2010 (UTC)
Americans (and modern British) like to standardise everything, but this is just not possible with tablespoons. The old British tablespoon (a serving spoon) was probably similar to the Australian tablespoon (20 ml), but This site says 17 ml, and various sizes are possible depending on where you look. I was taught that a tablespoon was equivalent to two dessert spoons (i.e. about 20 ml or more because older teaspoons were larger). We need to record the fact that the older tablespoon was larger in the UK and elsewhere, and that only recently has the American standard been adopted (if it has?) Dbfirs 11:17, 15 February 2010 (UTC)

Regulations?[edit]

Could someone, please, clarify in the article whether the actual manufacturing of tablespoons is regulated to the said measurements? Or is the word "tablespoon" simply borrowed to use as a measurement unit? —Preceding unsigned comment added by 173.32.129.241 (talk) 02:22, 29 March 2010 (UTC)

Good point! Tablespoons are manufactured to a variety of non-standard sizes, and our article ought to explain this first. The attempt at standardisation was fairly recent, and modern tablespoons are closer to the theoretical standard size, but the issue is complicated by the fact that the word has different meanings in different countries. The table spoon in the UK was never part of a place setting as it seems to be in America. Is there a dessert spoon in America? Dbfirs 07:24, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
In agreeing with the above comments, I think the article needs to clarify that the term Tablespoon refers to two things a) an item of cutlery (a large sppon used for serving at the table) and b) a somewhat standardised unit of measure used in cooking (derived from meaning a) at some time in the past). It also needs to clarify that, for both meanings, there are geographic variations. See here http://www.ad-promotion-gift.com/promotional-gifts/2377/23811/arthur-price-international-canteen-of-cutlery_48039.html to see a fairly traditional (British?) canteen of cutlery, It comprises 44 pieces - 6 7-piece settings plus two Tablespoons - see centre, lower section. BTW I also own a plastic measuring spoon, purchased in Australia, which is marked 1 Tablespoon 20 ml Standard! 122.107.58.27 (talk) 06:26, 4 June 2010 (UTC)

What is the capacity of an actual (cutlery) tablespoon?[edit]

Even though the article purports to answer the question, I'm not seeing any references to back it up. Zyxwv99 (talk) 03:30, 25 June 2012 (UTC)

Yes, I agree we could use some references, but they are difficult to find. Reference tend to show recent standardisations, not the actual cutlery size. The problem is partly that the word "tablespoon" has meant different things at different times and in different countries. Dbfirs 06:08, 25 June 2012 (UTC)
Last light I did some Original Research in the kitchen. In complete violation of WP:MOS I poured water into tablespoons, and from there into various measuring cups. As far as I can tell, the capacity of spoon varies with its price. Cheap dollar-store made-in-China spoons are nearly flat and hold only about 7 mL. As you go from cheap stainless steel to expensive stainless steel to silver, the bowls keep getting deeper and capacity increases. As far as I can tell 7 to 14 mL looks about right. Zyxwv99 (talk) 19:31, 25 June 2012 (UTC)
More OR: I have a number of old British tablespoons dating from the 20s to the 50s, all mid market EPNS. As has been said previously, these would have been used primarily to allow diners to help themselves to vegetables at the table. All hold 20-25ml of liquid. This accords with the Australian 20ml definition, which makes sense - Australia used Imperial measures and followed British dining practices until the 60s. Tablespoons are now used much less often than they once were in the UK and modern cutlery sets often don't contain them. --Ef80 (talk) 22:21, 12 January 2015 (UTC)
Yes, the spoons measured by Zyxwv99 are called dessert spoons in the UK. I have some Edwardian tablespoons (still used) and they hold at least 25ml. I recall being taught here in the UK in the 1950s that a tablespoon was four teaspoons, but I can't find this definition on the web except in Australia. Dbfirs 23:52, 12 January 2015 (UTC)
Is there, or has there ever been, a spoon the same size as a British tablespoon used in American dining? If so, what is it called? This would be useful info for the article. --Ef80 (talk) 00:17, 13 January 2015 (UTC)