Ladle Types (Which To Have In Your Kitchen)

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With several varieties of ladles in the market, it is easy for one to get confused between the best type of ladle for your particular use. 

What are the best ladle types? For an average kitchen user, there are three ladle designs that every kitchen must have: the soup ladle, the sauce ladle, and a slotted ladle. While there are many other designs, these three will prove to be the best in almost every use case.

Read below to learn more about ladles, how to use them, which ones are the best and how to decide the best one for your needs!

Types Of Ladles

Ladles come in many different shapes and sizes but have a few fixed characteristics that make them easy to spot. 

The first is their elongated design. Most ladles are longer than 5 inches but you can even find some that are much smaller. The length and shape of the ladle also depend on its use. 

Here are three commonly used ladles:

1. Soup Ladle


  1. KitchenAid Classic Soup Ladle – Excellent build quality and appropriately sized ladle. 
  2. All-Clad Stainless Steel Large Ladle – Larger ladle size, stainless-steel body, great for regular use. 

The soup ladle is perhaps the best-known kitchen tool in history. This design has been used for centuries and has helped serve soups, sauces, and more. The soup ladle can be used as a multi-purpose tool too. However, it has a few limitations.

While this ladle is great for serving liquid-based broths and gravies, it may fall short when serving thick sauces or gravies with meat and vegetables. 

For one, the soup ladle is designed to hold the maximum amount of liquid possible. It has a semi-cylindrical design and is usually 2-3 inches in diameter.

This allows the bowl-like container at the bottom of the ladle to hold large quantities of any type of liquid. 

But if you want to serve something with bones, meat, and julienne-cut vegetables, then we recommend that you pick a different ladle.

2. Sauce Ladle


  1. Gourmac Mini Melamine Ladle – Great serving ladle. High-quality build and perfectly sized. 
  2. Towle Living Basic Sauce Ladle – Stainless-steel cooking ladle, great for gravies and sauces.

The sauce ladle is an equally impressive and useful tool in the kitchen. Visually, this ladle is designed to be a large tablespoon but with a semi-oval vessel at the bottom.

This design is geared toward picking up meat, veggies, and thick sauces, but it can also be used for thinner gravies too.

Sauce ladles are popular in every cuisine and can be found virtually everywhere in the world. They are an important tool to have in the kitchen and can play a huge role in everyday cooking too. 

The sauce ladle makes for an excellent decorative serving spoon for parties. This is why you may find this type of ladle with a lot of printed designs! 

There are several sub-varieties of the humble sauce ladle. Some have fork-like protrusions that allow food to be shoveled, like rice or noodles.

Others have rounded edges that are specifically designed to gather meat, veggies, and sauces in one quick swoop!

3. Slotted Ladle


  1. Farberware Slotted Ladle – Perfect for adding presentation points and serving food at the dinner table.  
  2. RSVP International Straining Ladle – High-quality build and elongated design. Can be used for cooking purposes too! 

Finally, the slotted ladle is designed to serve food that is usually submerged but is eaten without liquid. 

For example, a slotted ladle is the gold standard serving spoon for pickles and poached eggs. Plus, it can also be used to pick up and drain fried food.

This ladle offers a lot of utility but it does have a very obvious limitation: it can’t be used for soups and sauces at all. However, this particular tool will prove its worth with every other type of food in the kitchen! 

The best use case for a slotted ladle is when making poached eggs. While you may use any type of ladle for this, the best way to get the egg out of the water without liquid is to use a slotted ladle.

This tool will help you gently pick up the egg from the water without damaging its delicate structure.

Another great example of using a slotted ladle is when you want to pick up fried food.

While a spider or sieve is a fitting alternative, you can use the slotted ladle as a serving spoon at the dinner table. If not, then you can just use it to pick up and drain the food as it fries too. 

Steel Vs. Plastic

Ladles are usually made from two types of materials: high-quality plastics and stainless steel.

As you might have guessed, the plastic variety is usually reserved for decorative and serving purposes.

Plastic ladles have a huge advantage over stainless steel ladles because they can be decorated and are usually sold with printed designs

This makes them excellent tools for serving all types of food at the dinner table for parties! While some are also rated for cooking purposes, we recommend reserving the plastic ladles for serving food only. 

Plastic and heat don’t go well together and as you can imagine. Exposing plastic to heat for extended periods may cause the material to leak chemicals.

However, when in doubt, always refer to the brand or manual of the ladle for more information. 

Stainless steel ladles on the other hand can be used for any purpose. They are usually reserved for kitchen work and are used while making food.

Stainless steel ladles are by far the most reliable tool as they can withstand breakage and high heat.

Also, while most stainless-steel ladles are strictly designed for cooking purposes, you may be able to find some nice-looking ladles that can join the dinner table too

Finally, ladles can also be made using ceramics. These ladles are designed to be used for serving purposes only and are an excellent alternative to plastic ladles.

They are attractive thanks to their printed designs and are super useful too. However, their biggest disadvantage is that they are easy to break.

Which Ladle Is The Best?

The best ladle depends on your needs. If you are looking for full coverage then we highly recommend that you purchase all the three main ladles mentioned above. 

Each ladle has an important purpose and can be indispensable in the kitchen. But if you don’t want to purchase additional equipment or clutter your kitchen then you can go ahead with a simple soup ladle. 

The soup ladle is ideal because it can do everything a sauce ladle can, except that you may run into a little trouble when using this ladle with bone broth and meat dishes

The slotted ladle is considered to be a niche tool since many different types of slotted spoons can do the same job. Of course, you would be sacrificing scooping quantity by not going with a dedicated slotted ladle.

If you do have the space, then we can’t recommend purchasing all three ladles enough. They can add a lot of presentation to the dinner table and can potentially help you become more efficient when it comes to everyday cooking.

These tools can be stored away in a drawer or they can also be hung! Hanging the ladles is a great way to declutter and add a level of sophistication to your kitchen. 

Other Types Of Ladles

Here are some lesser-known but equally useful niche ladles that you can use for everyday cooking. 

Tea/Water Ladle

Water ladles are great for liquid-based food and are an excellent choice for making and serving tea too.

These ladles are used to aerate the tea and are traditionally made from wood. Water ladles are common in Japanese culture but can also be found elsewhere in the world.

You can also find stainless steel or plastic water ladles too! Furthermore, the soup ladle can easily substitute water ladles but due to their smaller size, water ladles are the preferred choice for specialty tea enthusiasts.

Hook Handle Portion Ladle

Serving ladles are designed for small serving sizes and are an excellent option for stirring or adding chutneys or gravies over food.

They are usually used on the dinner table rather than in the kitchen due to their smaller size and limited utility

Melamine or hard plastic ladles are common and if you have a small family of 2-3 people, then investing in this type of ladle may prove to be useful! 

Spout Ladles

For more professional use, we recommend purchasing a spout ladle. These ladles have a lip on either one or each side, making it easier for you to direct liquid precisely where it belongs.

This type of ladle comes in handy when you want to add condiments in exact proportions. 

The difference between using a spouted and normal ladle is that with a spouted ladle, you can easily pour liquid into any container without spilling a drop.

Many of you know that this is a difficult feat to accomplish when using a regular ladle!

Furthermore, this ladle can be indispensable when you want to add a condiment in specific quantities in several bowls. It can speed up the process and is the ladle of choice for restaurant chefs and professionals. 

Mini Serving Ladle

We have already discussed mini ladles and portion ladles. However, a serving ladle can be akin to a large tablespoon. This ladle is basically like a sauce and gravy ladle but with a slightly less oval vessel at the end.  

The mini serving ladle is an excellent tool for everyday cooking and can be used exclusively to serve food to guests. It adds a level of sophistication and is a great tool for serving chili, gravies, stews, and more! 

Perhaps the best thing about using this ladle is that it can easily replace any boring tablespoon. For the best experience, we recommend using this ladle for serving main courses or condiments. 

Punch Bowl Ladle

This ladle can be considered to be an essential tool, especially if you are in the habit of hosting a lot of parties. The punch bowl ladle is an extremely common but niche ladle that is primarily used to serve beverages. 

Made from high-quality plastic, this is perhaps the quintessential ladle that every college-goer or party host is familiar with.

While this ladle has limited use outside of the punch bowl, investing in one can be extremely worthwhile for all types of events. 

Long Handle Ladle

The long handle ladle is best for kitchen use, especially if you run a commercial kitchen. This ladle is designed to transfer liquid, flavorings, broths, and more from one container to the other without exerting a lot of effort.

It is best used by caterers to quickly add ingredients by extending the ladle from one pot to the other.

The long handle is especially useful for cooking food in deep pots – and even though this type of ladle is best used for commercial kitchens, you can use it at home when cooking up several large meals too.  

Ceramic Ladle

Ceramic ladles fulfill most of the purposes that we have discussed up till now. However, these special ladles are only reserved for special occasions and can be a great addition to your arsenal of pottery kitchenware

You can find several different shapes and sizes for ceramic ladles but please keep in mind that these ladles are generally not used for cooking purposes because of their inherent fragility.

This is why we recommend storing them away in your China cabinet and only taking them out during special events.  

Forked Ladles

These ladles have a very niche use but are indispensable when cooking pasta. They have forked edges that can quickly pick up a large serving of noodles

The main disadvantage of owning this type of ladle is that it can only be used for pasta which means that you should only invest in this tool if you truly love pasta or are accustomed to serving large servings of noodles at home. 

Related Questions

Having just three types of ladles is more than enough for regular kitchen use! Now that you know the types of ladles and some niche varieties, here are some related questions!

Can a tablespoon replace a ladle?

No. A common tablespoon will hardly provide the same utility as a dedicated ladle but if you don’t have a ladle at home then yes, you may painstakingly use a tablespoon to replace it

A better alternative would be to just use a cup with a larger handle, especially when you want to move liquid from one pot to the other. 

Can a sauce ladle be used to serve noodles?

Some forked and slotted ladles can be used to serve large servings of noodles. You may even see these special ladles in buffets or professional kitchens.

However, using a regular ladle for noodles may prove to be counterintuitive. 

If you don’t want to spend money on buying a niche ladle, then you can instead use two sauce ladles with narrow vessels to pick up a hefty scoop of noodles from a container.  

Are plastic ladles safe to cook food with?

Plastic ladles are generally considered to be safe in the case of short-term heat exposure. These ladles are usually designed to be used for serving food and can be seen in restaurants and even typical kitchens. 

However, cooking with these ladles may prove to be dangerous, especially if you are using a low-quality ladle with poor materials and build quality.

Avoid exposing plastic ladles to hot liquids for extended periods and refer to the manual for how to use and clean them for a safer experience. 

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