Does cutlery affect the flavour of food?

Different spoons paired with different flavours can affect the taste of food. Image: Shutterstock

Some food for thought when preparing your next dinner party.


There are many factors that can influence the flavour of a dish, including the chemical composition of the ingredients, their temperature and their aroma. Dr Zoe Laughlin and Professor Mark Miodownik, co-directors of the Institute of Making at University College London, suggest that the type of material cutlery is made of can affect the flavour of food as well.

After three years of conducting experiments on volunteers, Laughlin and Miodownik found that people could distinguish the flavours of different metals in their spoons. The subjects sucked the spoons, paired them with simply-flavoured creams, and found that the metals affected the perceived bitterness, sweetness and pleasantness of the creams. Their results suggest that gold and chrome spoons are the least metallic, least bitter and least strong tasting.

The British researchers and their colleagues held a spoon tasting dinner at Quilon, a Michelin starred restaurant in London. Before eating, the 15 guests — including scientists, psychologists and culinary luminaries — began the meal of delicately spiced Indian food by sucking on the different spoons. Each spoon was engraved with the periodic table symbol corresponding to the element it was plated with: zinc, tin, copper, silver, gold, chrome or stainless steel.

When the spoons were paired with food, the researchers found that some flavours complimented each other, while others became unpleasant. For instance, the flavour of a lovely baked black cod was ruined when paired with a spoon coated in zinc, but copper spoons harmonised perfectly with mango chutney.

Renowned English chef Heston Blumenthal, who attended the dinner, told The Financial Times: “I’ve always been sensitive to metallic tastes and had thought of the cutlery as interfering with the food; but here, the metallic note can, with some flavours, be more enjoyable than otherwise.”

Source: Flavour Journal

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  1. It’s interesting to read about research on Food Flavours like this! Who’d of thought that cutlery could of effected the taste!

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