The "Butter Knife" You Use Is Probably Not A Butter Knife
Chances are, you've used one of these to spread butter on bread growing up and maybe you still do
Many of us have probably been calling it a butter knife all this time. But turns out, it's not actually a butter knife.
The definition of 'butter knife' refers to any non-serrated (straight edge) knife with a dull edge and a rounded point
A real butter knife actually looks something like this:
This is called a butter knife or master butter knife, but master butter knives are not used to spread the butter onto bread, they are for serving pats of butter from the main butter dish onto an individual's plate.
According to The Art Of Cooking And Serving by Sarah Field Splint, master butter knives are not used to spread the butter directly onto bread, as this would contaminate the butter remaining in the butter dish when the next pat of butter is served.
Individual butter knives are then provided to apply that single portion of butter from your plate onto your bread.
Okay so if that's the real butter knife. What's this?
This is technically a dinner knife. It has a slightly serrated edge and moderate sharpness for cutting cooked food.
On the other hand, a steak knife is only set on the table when there is tough meat being served that requires something sharper than a dinner knife.
People would usually offer either a dinner knife or a steak knife, as most settings wouldn't require two cutting tools.
In saying that though, if a butter knife was not available, a dinner knife could be a replacement for it
Commonsense Etiquette: A Guide to Gracious, Simple Manners for the Twenty-First Century by Marjabelle Young Stewart and Elizabeth Lawrence explains that if there are no butter spreaders or butter knives, a dinner knife can be used as an alternative.
A dinner knife just has multiple uses. So, we've technically been using it correctly all this time!