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Updated May 2022
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Buying guide for Best flatware sets

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. We can help you learn the basics so you'll get that flatware set that will work best for your household.

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Different flatware sets contain different items of flatware, so make sure the one you choose offers everything you need.

What's included in a flatware set?

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:

  • Dinner knife

  • Dinner fork

  • Soup spoon

  • Salad/dessert fork

  • Salad/dessert knife

  • Dessert spoon

  • Teaspoon

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.

Expert Tip
When laying a place setting, make sure your knife is facing with the blade toward the plate. An old-school tradition, it's both safe and polite.
BestReviews Cooking and Baking Expert

Flatware set materials

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.

Silver

While much less common today, mostly because of its price, silver flatware (or "silverware") is an elegant choice for formal dining.

Silverplate

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.

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Expert Tip
If you want your serveware to match your flatware, make sure the pieces you need are available in the same pattern. Serveware can include large solid spoons, slotted spoons, a large fork, salad serving spoon/fork set, nut spoons, sugar spoons, long-handled spoons, a carving knife, a pie server, and more.
BestReviews Cooking and Baking Expert

Pewter

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.

Stainless steel

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.

Considerations for selecting a flatware set

Weight

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.

Number of place settings

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.

Construction

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.

Finish

Consider what kind of finish you'd like your flatware set to have.

Some flatware has 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.

Expert Tip
Specialty finishes like gold, brass, black, or even iridescent metals generally require hand-washing. Make sure you’re committed to maintaining your flatware before you buy.
BestReviews Cooking and Baking Expert

Design

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.

Flatware set prices

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.

Tips

  • 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 specialty pieces to match your flatware set, like grapefruit spoons, demitasse spoons, or crab forks, you will need to purchase these separately. Most flatware patterns don't offer these specialty pieces, so check to see what is available before purchasing the base set.

  • 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.

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When using flatware at the dinner table, you generally start with the utensils on the outside for the first course and work your way inward for subsequent courses.

FAQ

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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