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Most people don't think about flatware until they need it, but a good flatware set is just as important as a decent set of dishes or glassware. If this is your first time buying a flatware set, it might seem a somewhat daunting task. Navigating the realms of soup spoons, hostess sets, and nickel content can be baffling to the uninitiated. If you're feeling like you might just pack it all in and eat with your hands from now on, BestReviews is here to help!
We at BestReviews are dedicated to helping you find the best products. We test items in our labs, consult existing customers, talk with experts, and do extensive research. What we never do is accept freebies from manufacturers — we always buy straight from the shelves, just like you. The result: fair, thorough, and unbiased reviews that will see you through even the toughest of purchasing decisions. Read on for our full guide to all things flatware. Then, when you're ready to buy, you'll find our top five favorite flatware sets in the product matrix, above.
A traditional flatware set contained seven pieces for each place setting, but modern sets tend to contain five or fewer.
Here's what you'd get in a traditional flatware set:
Of these seven, most modern flatware sets only contain the dinner knife, dinner fork, salad fork, soup spoon, and teaspoon. Some modern flatware sets only contain three or four pieces per place setting, abandoning the salad fork and/or the soup spoon.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Lenox Portola 65-Piece Flatware Set
Contents and Quality
The Lenox Portola 65-Piece Flatware Set contains 12 sets of standard dinner flatware, each of which includes a tea spoon, soup spoon, dinner knife, salad fork, and dinner fork. Although we have received some reports to the contrary, there is also a five-piece hostess set included in the original package. We appreciate Lenox's use of 18/10 stainless steel, which is both rust-resistant and durable. Each dinner knife is stamped from one piece of stainless steel.
This guide focuses on stainless steel flatware, since it's by far the most popular contemporary choice. However, we'll take a quick look at the options available.
While much less common today, mostly because of its price, silver flatware (or "silverware") is an elegant choice for formal dining.
Silverplate flatware looks similar to silver, but is significantly cheaper, since there's only a thin layer of silver coating over a cheaper metal, such as nickel.
Some flatware sets also include a hostess set for serving, but often you need to purchase serving flatware separately.
Pewter was a common choice for flatware in colonial America, due to its strength and durability. Although little used today, some collectors love it due to its attractive patina.
The majority of modern flatware is made from stainless steel, but not all stainless steel flatware is created equal. It should be marked either 18/10, 18/8, or 18/0. The first number is the percentage of chromium in the flatware, and the second is the percentage of nickel. The greater the percentage of nickel, the more resistant the flatware is to corrosion.
While 18/10 stainless steel flatware sets are the most resistant to corrosion, that doesn't mean you can't find some quality 18/8 or 18/0 sets.
Weight is a great divider in the world of flatware. Some people love a heavy, sturdy construction to their flatware, whereas others favor lightweight pieces.
If you're unsure about your preference, it's worth trying out some different options before you buy.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
J.A. HENCKELS INTERNATIONAL 65-Piece Alcea Flatware Set
Size and Storage
The J.A. HENCKELS INTERNATIONAL 65-Piece Alcea Flatware Set contains 12 complete place settings. The five-piece hostess set contains the standard serving pieces, from a meat fork to a butter serving knife. The set is European size, which means the utensils can be up to a ¾” longer than standard American flatware. This information is not readily available in many product descriptions, but it is important for buyers to understand because of potential storage issues.
Place settings equate to the number of each different piece of flatware included in the set.
Most sets either contain four, eight, or twelve place settings. How many place settings you need depends on your individual circumstances.
A one- or two-person household might be happy with four place settings, while a family of six would need at least eight, unless they want to eat dinner in two sittings!
Think about about how many place settings you need in your flatware set. Sets with more place settings cost more, but if you regularly entertain large numbers of people, you should probably opt for a set with 12 place settings.
Some flatware is forged, which means it's made from a single piece of metal, heated, then hammered into shape (usually by a machine, though traditionally this would have been done by hand).
Other pieces are stamped, which means they're cut from a sheet of metal, a bit like how you cut a cookie with a cookie cutter.
Finally, you can find flatware with hollowed handles, made using a three-piece design.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Farberware Poppy Mirror/Pebble 20-Piece Flatware Set, 18/0 Stainless Steel
Design and Finish
There is some debate over whether or not nickel-free 18/0 flatware belongs in the same grade classification as 18/8 and 18/10 flatware sets. This is a consideration when purchasing an entry-level package like the Farberware Poppy Mirror/Pebble 20-Piece Flatware Set. The mirror finish of each piece is created by the chromium content, but because there is no nickel content, the flatware sometimes has issues with tarnish and rust. Still, its elegant design and bargain price make it a great value for those who only need four place settings.
Consider what kind of finish you'd like your flatware set to have.
Some flatware have a high-shine, mirrored finish, some are completely matte, and the rest fall somewhere in between the two.
Again, this is a choice that rests largely on personal preference, so choose whichever you like best.
While you might like the look of highly mirrored flatware, consider that it will show smudges and watermarks much more clearly, so will probably need a quick polish if you're having company.
Flatware sets are available in a range of designs, ranging from rustic or traditional to sleek and modern.
Some flatware has decorative banding or other types of engraved patterns on the handles, whereas other pieces are more plain.
With flatware sets that have engraved patterns on the handle of each piece, bear in mind that dirt can get trapped in the grooves if you're not thorough when doing the dishes.
The price of a flatware set can vary widely, depending on factors such as the material and how many place settings are included.
$15 to $30 will get you a basic, stainless steel flatware set with four place settings.
$30 to $50 can purchase anything from a single place setting of high-end, 18/10 flatware to a basic, 18/0 flatware set with 12 place settings and a hostess set.
$50 to $100 gets you a good quality flatware set with 8 to 12 place settings. You might not find designer brands, but you do get sturdy, long-lasting pieces.
$100 to $500 buys a high-end, 18/10 or 18/8 flatware set with 12 place settings and, usually, a hostess set. At the top of this price range you find options from designer homeware brands, so the cost is more to do with the manufacturer than a marked increase in quality.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Oneida Mooncrest 45-Piece Flatware Set, Service for 8
Match and Functionality
The Oneida Mooncrest 45-Piece Flatware Set includes a five-piece hostess set; matching steak knives can be ordered separately. We do have some quality control concerns that stem from Oneida's use of multiple manufacturing plants, but the pieces contained within the set are generally well-matched to each other. It is important to note that the Mooncrest set contains eight place settings instead of twelve. Customers who are shopping for everyday place settings for themselves may be satisfied with an eight-set collection, but those who plan on entertaining guests will probably want to invest in a larger set or purchase additional pieces separately.
As a general rule, the higher the nickel content, the shinier your flatware will be — so an 18/10 set will be much shinier than an 18/0 set.
Don't leave your flatware soaking in water for long periods of time, as this can cause corrosion over the years.
Acidic foods and liquids can gradually corrode your flatware. This doesn't mean you should avoid vinegar and tomatoes, just try not to leave dirty flatware sitting for days, covered in food.
To avoid streaks and water marks, dry your flatware as soon as possible after washing it.
If you want your serving utensils to match your flatware set, think about which utensils you want — choices include pie servers, soup ladles, cheese knives, and serving forks — and check whether matching pieces are available for the model of flatware you’ve chosen.
If you want matching serving utensils, it's best to look for a flatware set that comes with a hostess set included.
If you like weighty flatware, forged pieces tend to be the heaviest, followed by stamped, and finally those with hollowed handles.
Q. What is a hostess set?
A. A hostess set is the name given to a collection of serving flatware that sometimes comes with a flatware set. A five-piece hostess set usually includes a tablespoon, a slotted tablespoon, a butter knife, a serving fork, and a sugar spoon, although this can vary.
Q. What's the correct positioning for flatware on a dinner table?
A. Once you've got a decent set of flatware, display it by positioning the utensils correctly on the dinner table, particularly if you're having guests. With a standard five-piece flatware service, the dinner fork goes to the left of the plate, the salad fork goes to left of the dinner fork, the dinner knife goes to the right of the plate, the soup spoon goes to the right of the dinner fork, and (where applicable) the teaspoon goes to the right of the cup and saucer.
Q. Is stainless steel flatware dishwasher safe?
A. Yes, stainless steel flatware is dishwasher safe, though it's recommended that you don't use citrus-based detergents.
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At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.