When it comes to eating, there is one item that you are going to need to have on hand, and that’s flatware. Flatware is the formal name used to describe eating utensils, which includes knives, forks and spoons, though it can also include other utensils, such as cheese knives. Whether you are buying a flatware set for yourself or you are searching for the perfect wedding or housewarming gift for a family member or friend, you are going to find that there are a lot of options to choose from. With so many options available, it can be difficult to determine which type of flatware will best suit you particular needs. In order to help you on your quest for finding the best flatware, we have put together this handy buyer’s guide. In this guide, which highlights the different types of flatware, the factors to consider when choosing flatware, the features it can offer and the best flatware brands, you will be able to find the best option to suit your specific needs.
Types of Flatware
In order to find the best flatware for your specific needs, you first need to understand what types of flatware are available. There are three main types of flatware, which includes:
- Sterling silver flatware
- Silver plated flatware
- Stainless steel flatware
Each of these three types of flatware offers different benefits, as well as some disadvantages. For these reasons, it is important to have a thorough understanding of each of these types so that you can make the best choice for your particular needs.
To learn more about these three types of flatware, here is a breakdown of each type.
Sterling Silver Flatware
As the name suggests, this type of flatware is made of sterling silver. It is a classically elegant option and offers both durability and weight. Because sterling silver is so durable, flatware made of this material will last you a long time, if taken proper care of. In order to properly maintain sterling silver flatware, you should opt to wash it by hand instead of washing it in the dishwasher; however, the material is dishwasher safe, so long as you don’t wash it with other types of metal (but, for best results, hand washing is recommended.) You should also dry it with a soft, clean towel instead of letting it air dry. Also, to retain the luster of the sterling silver, you are going to want to polish it regularly. Another point to mention is that sterling silver flatware should never be soaked, as it can cause the material to pit and discolor. Sterling silver flatware can last a long time, but it is usually the most expensive of all three types.
Silver Plated Flatware
Silver plated flatware is lighter in weight than sterling silver, which is a good thing, if you don’t want to eat with cumbersome utensils. However, the lighter weight means that it is also less durable. Silver plated flatware has a metal base, which is either nickel, copper or zinc, and the metal base is then covered over with a silver finish. Silver plated flatware is dishwasher safe, as long as you don’t wash it with other metals; however, if you want to get the best results, you should skip putting it in the dishwasher and instead wash and dry this type of flatware by hand. It should also be polished regularly to retain its luster. Another point to mention is that silver plated flatware should not be soaked, as it can lead to pitting and discoloration, just like sterling silver flatware.
Stainless Steel Flatware
If you are looking for flatware for everyday use, stainless steel is the way to go. Stainless steel flatware is very durable and lightweight. It comes in three different options:
The first number, 18, represents the amount of chromium, or rust resistance, that the stainless steel offers, while the second numbers tells you how much nickel is present. The amount of nickel impacts the luster of the flatware. The higher the amount of nickel, the brighter the sheen will be. Stainless steel flatware is dishwasher safe and can be washed with other types of metals. You should avoid using detergents that contain lemon, as they can cause discoloration. If you want to enhance the sheen, polish your stainless steel flatware before using.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Flatware
There are a number of factors that you should take into consideration when you are shopping for flatware. By taking these factors into consideration, you will be able to choose the best flatware that meets your needs, or the needs of the person you are buying it for. Some of the most important factors to consider include the design, the finish, the feel and the price, among other things. To learn more about the factors that we consider to be the most important when shopping for flatware, keep on reading.
What design are you looking for?
Flatware comes in a variety of designs, so it is important to consider the type of look you want to create and your taste when shopping. If you aren’t sure what design will work best for you, keep these tips in mind:
- Flatware that offers a simple design is best paired with casual dinnerware
- More intricately designed flatware sets pair well with formal dining ware and dress up a table
Modern designs offer a sleek look, and classic patterns are more traditional.
What type of finish do you want?
The type of finish will impact the look of the flatware as much as the design will. You can find flatware with a bright, mirrored finish, or flatware that offers a matte finish. There are also sets that combine both finishes, creating a very unique look.
How does it feel?
You are going to be spending a lot of time using your flatware, which means that you want to make sure that it feels good in your hands. If you are looking for a heftier feel, opt for stamped sets that are created from a single piece of metal. If lightweight is what you are after, choose a set that has hollowed handles and have a three piece construction. This design makes the flatware lighter and easier to lift; however, do be careful how light weight you opt for, because if the flatware is too thin, it can bend or break.
How many place settings are needed?
Think about how many place settings you will need when you are buying a flatware set. Obviously, if your family is larger, you are going to need a larger set; however, even if you have a small family, if you love to entertain, you are going to want to have enough utensils on hand. It is a wise idea to purchase a few more settings than you think you will need, as this will ensure there will be plenty available, even if some pieces are dirty.
How easy is it to maintain?
If you don’t like the idea of high maintenance, than you should opt for flatware that is constructed of stainless steel, as it is, by far, the easiest material to care for.
How long do you want to own it?
When choosing flatware, you should consider how long you want to own it. Some patterns are timeless and will be available for a lifetime, which means that if you lose a piece or one becomes damaged and you need to replace it, you will be able to do so. However, many patterns do come and go, which means that if a piece becomes lost or damaged, it can be difficult to find a replacement piece. Keep this in mind when choosing a pattern.
What type of foods do you serve?
You are also going to want to consider the types of food that will be serving with your flatware. If you enjoy serving specialty or international cuisines, you may want to consider purchasing an open stock set with available accessories, which will allow you to enjoy the foods that you serve with ease.
What size do you need?
Flatware comes in various sizes, too, and this is something that you are definitely going to want to take into consideration. The most popular size, and the smallest, is the place size. Place size flatware sets have knives that are around 9 inches long. Dinner size flatware is a little bit bigger, while continental size is the largest size available, with knives that are greater than 10 inches long.
What is your budget?
You should also consider how much you want to spend when you are shopping for flatware. Flatware can vary widely in price. Generally, sterling silver is the most expensive, followed by silver plated. Also, the more intricate the design, the more place settings and the more features the flatware offers, the more expensive it will be. Make sure you know how much you want to spend before you start shopping so that you don’t overextend your budget.
Features Flatware Sets can Offer
Flatware seems pretty straightforward and to the point, so you may assume that there really aren’t any features; however, you will be surprised to find that there actually are features available for flatware. These features are intended to make using your flatware more enjoyable and easier. However, do note that the more features your flatware offers, the more expensive it will be. With that said, you do want to make sure that you understand the benefits of these features so that you can determine whether you want or need them, and if the additional cost is worth your while.
Here is a look at some of the common features that flatware can offer.
A Storage Case
If you are purchasing a flatware set, you may want to consider purchasing one that comes with its very own storage case. A case can be constructed a variety of different types of woods, and the interior is usually lined with a soft material that will prevent scratches and stains, such as crushed velvet. A storage case will ensure that you have a designated and secure location to store your flatware when you aren’t using it.
In regard to accessories, we mean different types of utensils in addition to the standard forks, spoons and knives. Many types of flatware come with various types of flatware, such as chopsticks, oyster forks, lobster claw crackers, cheese knives, olive forks, demitasse spoons and even holders for corn cobs. When determining what type of extra utensils you may want or need, consider the type of foods that you serve so that you can ensure that you have the right items to best serve you and your guests.
Some flatware sets even come complete with their own cleaning accessories. This usually includes a silver polishing cloth, which you can use to easily polish your silver and wipe away and tarnishing with ease.
The Best Flatware Brands
There are several manufacturers that produce flatware, which can make it difficult to determine which brand is the best for your needs. We have looked at dozens of user reviews and have tested out flatware from several brands. Our assessment has determined that the following brands of flatware are the best of the best.
Royal Stainless Steel
Royal Stainless Steel produces stainless steel flatware in a variety of patterns and sizes. Their flatware is well constructed, durable and will last a long time.
If high quality is what you are looking for, you can’t go wrong with JA Henckels. This company has been producing some of the highest quality flatware for generations. They offers various designs and sizes, and they also make flatware in all three types of materials.
Lenox is another producer of top of the line flatware. This company is known the world over for manufacturing exquisite flatware in the most durable and high quality materials. Lenox offers various designs and sizes, so you can be sure to find the type that will best meet your needs.
We also really liked Oneida flatware. This company is highly regarded in the home goods department, and their flatware features exceptional craftsmanship and comes in a variety of designs.