Eating with heavier stainless steel cutlery makes food taste better, with researchers for the first time finding a direct link between the weight of eating utensils and people's enjoyment of food.
An experiment with more than 130 diners at a hotel restaurant in Edinburgh showed that simply using high-quality cutlery, normally reserved for banquets, resulted in customers willing to pay 15 percent more for their food compared to people eating the same meal with lower-quality utensils.
The research, carried out by a team from Oxford University, also showed people eating with heavier cutlery thought food was more artistically plated and tasted better. "It is likely that the positive or negative values that we attribute to the cutlery gets implicitly 'transferred' to our judgments of the food -- a phenomenon that is often called 'sensation transference'" Charles Michel, who led the research.
Michel, who is chef in residence at Oxford University's Cross-modal Research Laboratory, also speculates that eating with heavier cutlery may capture the attention of diners more, increasing their awareness and enjoyment of what they are eating.
The 130 diners taking part in the experiment were served identical meals of trout with mashed potatoes, spinach and capers and brown shrimp butter, the only difference being the cutlery they ate it with. Half the diners used heavy cutlery normally reserved for banquets while the other half ate with cheap cutlery that weighed three times less. "It's interesting to think that the heavier weight of cutlery could be making us more mindful, without us realising it," he explains. A link between weight and our perception of quality in objects has been clear for some time, but Michel says this was the first time it had been linked to the enjoyment of food.
Research into so-called "gastrophysics" is a growing field. Similar experiments have shown that background music played in restaurants can influence how sweet, salty or sour something tastes, an effect known as "sonic seasoning".
Another experiment showed eating from a bowl with a rounded bottom made people feel full on less food -- and Michel believes the same might be true of heavier cutlery, but has not been tested.
As well as increasing our understanding of the various influences on our enjoyment of food and satiation, Michel also hopes the research could make us healthier.
Although there are cutlery on tables all over the world, we rarely think that it will affect the taste.