What Size Should A Ladle Be?

If you ever have tried to scoop hot soup with a mug or cup, you definitely know the mess that can happen when you don't have the right utensils for your kitchen. To easily and safely serve hot and cold liquids, a good ladle is a great addition to any kitchen. With a variety of handle lengths and bowl sizes available, you may be wondering what size your ladle should be. We have thoroughly researched this question and found some answers for you!

Ladles come in a nearly endless list of lengths and bowl sizes. A typical ladle is 10-15 inches long and has a 1/2 cup capacity. The size of the ladle should suit what you are serving and the pot or bowl height you are serving out of. We suggest having the following sizes in your kitchen:

  • 10-14 inches with a 1/2 cup bowl size for soups and purees
  • 11-15 inches with a 1 cup bowl size for stew, chowder, and chili
  • 5-10 inches with a 1 to 2 oz bowl for condiments and sauces
  • 12-15 inches with a 5- to 7-inch diameter for straining and frying

We know that's quite a list! We'll break down each size, its uses and discuss different ladle types. Keep reading as we uncover other unique uses for this kitchen tool.

Ladles and other cookware hanging in a restaurant kitchen, What Size Should A Ladle Be?

How Big Should A Ladle Be?

A ladle is used to transfer mainly liquids without spilling from pot or pan to bowl or cup. Its typical bowl shape and long handle make it especially ideal for handling hot items. A typical ladle is usually 10-15 inches long.

Hanging ladles in the kitchen

When considering the size of your ladle, some consumers also consider the decorative aspect of a ladle. Some decorative ladles may come with a smaller bowl but will provide real elegance to your dish or beverage. When serving a sophisticated punch, consider using long-handled stainless steel or blown glass ladle.

See this elegant 12-inch ladle on Amazon.

See this Barski blown glass ladle on Amazon.

How Many Ounces Are In A Ladle?

A typical ladle holds 1/2 cup of liquid or about 4 oz. For more on the different ladle capacities, read our article discussing how much a ladle can hold.

Click here to see an example of a standard 4oz ladle on Amazon.

10-14 Inches With A 1/2 Cup Bowl Size For Soups And Purees

When serving hot liquids, you want a longer handle and a deeper bowl. For most soups, a 1/2 cup serving is a good start. This size easily lends itself to portion control. Its smaller but deep size also is better for runny liquids as larger amounts may be difficult to handle.

Use a 1/2 cup bowl for purees and dishes such as mashed potatoes. Easily portion your starches. One to two  ladles this size are a typical serving for these types of foods. This 4 oz ladle is great for thicker, heavier items.

See this product on Amazon.

11-15 Inches With A 1 Cup Bowl Size For Stew, Chowder, And Chili

To make sure you are serving liquid with bulkier items such as thick stews, chowders, and chunky chilis, use a 1 cup bowl. This will enable you to get all the delicious ingredients plus the liquid together in one serving. These items are also typically served in 1 cup increments.

Choose the longest handle possible for these types since they usually stay hot longer and you don't want the heat traveling up to your hands.

See this sturdy one-cup ladle for stews and chili on Amazon.

How Big Is A Small Ladle?

A small ladle is considered to have a 1 to 2 oz. bowl size. They differ in length from 5 to 12 inches. Shorter stems are more ideal and common for these mini ladles. Use a longer stem for adding items to hot oil like you would in a wok or frying pan.

See this long-handled 1 oz ladle on Amazon.

A shorter stem small ladle is used by some cultures as a soup spoon. These tiny ladles are used for consuming Japanese-style soups and broths such as miso soup.

Click here to see these ladles for eating soup.

5-10 Inches With A 1 to 2 oz Bowl For Condiments And Sauces

Small, short ladles are great for entertaining! Provide guests and family members alike with mess-free access to condiments or toppings for everything from a hotdog bar to ice cream socials. They are great for portion control of finer items such as crushed nuts or soft cheeses.

Use these small ladles for serving sauces or for measuring oil to add to your dishes. These ladles come as a set of 4. At 7 inches long with a 2 oz bowl, they are a perfect size for your next party.

Click here to see this condiment ladle on Amazon.

12-15 Inches With A 5 To 7-inch Diameter For Straining And Frying

In the ladle family, there are also strainer ladles that are used for removing pasta, stir-frying, and taking deep-fried items from oil. Due to the high heat nature of these foods, these come with reinforced handles with a basket-like mesh bowl. These unique ladles are measured by the length of the handle and the diameter of the bowl.

Click here to see this fry ladle on Amazon.

How Many Ladles Are In A Bowl Of Soup?

If you ask for a bowl of soup in a restaurant, the typical American size is 1 1/2 cups or 12 oz. This would translate to three 1/2 cup ladles.

See these 12 oz soup bowls on Amazon.

How Many Ladles Are In A Cup?

Use 2 half-cup ladles or 1 cup ladle for a cup. Sometimes a ladle will come in between sizes and hold 6 oz. You would need to estimate for this size. A cup would hold just a little over 1 ladle for this size. Keep in mind that a cup of soup can mean anything from 4 oz to 8 oz. This would mean that a traditional cup of soup is 1 to 2 half-cup ladles.

See an example of these soup cups on Amazon.

What Can You Use A Ladle For?

Aside from the normal uses like soup, condiments, and sauces, are there other uses for a ladle? You may be pleasantly surprised to find that there are!

Use A Ladle To Poach An Egg

Poached eggs can sometimes be lacking in visual appeal. Many home cooks already use a slotted ladle to retrieve a poached egg. Serve a near perfectly rounded egg next time by using a ladle. This does take more time than regular poached eggs since you are not just introducing to water and waiting for it to cook. For another method and discussion on poaching eggs with a ladle, read our article here!

Use a 1/2 cup ladle for 1 egg or 1 cup ladle for 2 eggs. Choose a silicone or nonstick ladle for best results. If using stainless steel, spray with cooking spray or brush on olive oil to avoid sticking. If you have them, use multiple ladles for cooking more eggs at once.

  1. Bring water to a rapid boil.
  2. With your raw egg in a ladle, place it in the water till the water is just under the sides. Do not submerge it.
  3. Hold your egg in the water until the bottom and sides are white and the top is no longer translucent.
  4. Drop the ladle completely into the water and allow the egg to cook to your desired consistency.
  5. Use a small spoon or spatula to transfer the egg to a plate.

Try using this unique ladle the next time you poach an egg. It will even stand up in the water!

Click here to see this Nessie ladle on Amazon.

Use A Ladle for Pancake Batter

The age-old question of turning out beautiful pancakes is how to avoid messy drips in the pan and on your counter. Use a ladle! A 1/2 cup ladle is a perfect portion for a large pancake, or use a condiment ladle to turn out perfect mini pancakes. For best results, choose a ladle with a pouring lip.

See this ladle designed to reduce spills on Amazon.

What Is A Wok Ladle?

Cooking in wok has become very popular in recent years as a tasteful healthy way to prepare food. To cook traditional Chinese food, many chefs recommend using a wok ladle. Ladles used for cooking are usually shallower than those used for serving. Their curved bowl enables food and sauce to be tossed together to ensure even cooking.

Click here to see this cooking duo for woks on Amazon.

To cook with a wok ladle you would work the food by pushing into it with the bowl face down at first. The curved area allows the ingredients to form an arc off the wall of the wok and back over the ladle back into the wok again. This video demonstrates how this ladle can be used with a wok for the perfect dish:

A Well-Stocked Kitchen Should Have A Ladle

Now that you know what size ladle you need to serve and cook various foods, choose the sizes that will fit your cooking and entertaining style. Whether dainty condiment ladles or large stew ladles, every home chef should have one, or four!

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