- Good flatware should last you for several years; a high-quality set made from stainless steel will give you the most bang for your buck.
- We researched the best flatware materials and spoke with two designers and a metal worker to choose our top picks.
- The Olivia & Oliver Madison 20-Piece Flatware Set is our best overall pick because it's durable, affordable, and features a timeless design.
When it came time to pick items for my wedding registry, I knew exactly what I needed and wanted for the most part. However, choosing flatware was a little overwhelming. After all, flatware isn't something you replace frequently, so I wanted to pick a set that was timeless, durable, corrosion-free, affordable, and would last me for years to come. I found the flatware set that was right for my household after many hours of research, but I know many other people shopping for flatware are asking the same questions I did when looking.
As a product reviewer who has tested hundreds of home products, I turned that same discerning eye to researching flatware for this guide. While individual tastes and styles vary, there are several universal traits that make for good flatware. I spoke with Courtney Whitmore, cookbook author and party hosting expert; Marian Parsons, interior designer and artist; and Jefferson Mack, a flatware and metal product designer.
After interviewing experts and many hours of research, we've rounded up our top picks based on expert recommendations, brand reputation, reported durability from consumer reviews, visual aesthetic, ease of use and care according to manufacturer directions, and affordability. We also included information about shopping for flatware, including deciding between sets versus open stock pieces, choosing the best metals, properly setting a table, and caring for flatware.
Here are our top picks for the best flatware
- Best overall: Olivia & Oliver Madison 20-Piece Flatware Set
- Best high-end: Laguiole 24-Piece Flatware Set
- Best on a budget: J.A. Henckels International Lani 65-Piece Flatware Set
- Best open stock: Oneida Chef's Table Everyday Flatware
- Best for special occasions: Mikasa 65-Piece Gold Regent Bead Flatware Set
Prices and links are accurate as of 12/16/2020. We overhauled this guide, adding expert interviews, thoroughly researched and vetted picks, and guidance on shopping for flatware.
The best flatware overall
If you're looking for flatware for everyday use, the Olivia & Oliver Madison 20-Piece Flatware Set is durable, moderately-priced, and fits seamlessly with any table setting design.
Pros: Made from 18/10 stainless steel that's durable for everyday use, timeless yet contemporary design, comes in three finishes, reputable brand, 25-year manufacturer's warranty
Cons: Doesn't have a matching serveware set, handles are thinner and may be harder to grasp for some
Price per piece: $7.00
When it comes to everyday flatware, you'll want something that's durable, dishwasher-safe, and relatively affordable, with a timeless design — the Olivia & Oliver flatware set checks all those boxes and comes recommended by one of our experts. "I really like Olivia & Oliver for high-quality flatware that you can use for years," said Whitmore. Each box comes with utensils for service for four including salad forks, dinner forks, dinner knives, soup spoons, and teaspoons.
The set comes in three different finishes to suit your decor: silver, gold, or matte black. I particularly like the mirrored silver finish, which combined with the elegantly tapered handles and curvy design provides a timeless look that works well for tablescape designs both rustic and modern. It's made from 18/10 stainless steel, so it's durable enough for everyday use, dishwasher-safe, and doesn't require any polishing. It also comes with a 25-year manufacturer's warranty. Many buyers mentioned it looks and feels well-made, has a moderate weight, and doesn't spot after washing. With 20 pieces per box, this set comes out to $7.00 per piece and makes a moderately-priced option.
The set doesn't come with matching serveware, so if you want a cohesive look throughout your tablescape, you may want to look elsewhere. A few customer reviews also mentioned the handles feel a tad small in bigger hands.
The best high-end flatware
Each piece in the Laguiole 24-piece stainless steel flatware set is assembled by hand, affixed with a Napoleonic bee, and modeled after the high-quality knives made famous in the French town of Laguiole.
Pros: Unique and timeless design, handcrafted, durable, reputable brand, can purchase matching serveware separately
Cons: Doesn't come with salad forks or a serveware set, hand-wash only
Price per piece: $16.63
Handcrafted in Thiers, France, the Laguiole 24-piece flatware set is durable, visually appealing, and will last you for years to come. The utensils are phthalate-, BPA-, and latex-free, and made from durable stainless steel with resin handles and a polished finish for a one-of-a-kind look. You can choose from ivory or black handles to fit your aesthetic.
The set serves six people, and each serving comes with a dinner fork, dinner knife, soup spoon, and dessert spoon. The set is designed after the high-quality knives that have been produced in the French town Laguiole since the 19th century. Each piece is debossed with "Laguiole Inox France" and finished with Laguiole's Napoleonic bee trademark at the top of the handle. (The Napoleonic imperial symbol was granted by Emperor Napoleon I in recognition of the local soldiers' courage.) The utensils arrive in an elegant, hinged-lid box made from pine, which features brass hardware; it's a conversation piece that will also bring a sophisticated look to your dinner table.
The pieces are hand-wash only, so may not be a feasible option if you want a set for everyday use. This set also doesn't come with salad forks, though you can purchase serveware like ladles, meat forks, carving sets, and cheese knives in the same style to create an elegant, cohesive look.
The best flatware on a budget
The J.A. Henckels International Lani 65-Piece Flatware Set comes with everything you need for 12 people; it's made with durable 18/10 stainless steel for everyday use, and each piece is only about $1.50.
Pros: Made from 18/10 stainless steel, comes with all essential pieces for 12 people, dishwasher-safe, reputable brand, comes with serveware, limited lifetime warranty
Cons: Some consumer reviews mentioned the handles are too slender
Price per piece: $1.53
Founded in 1731, J.A. Henckels is one of the oldest and largest manufacturers of kitchen flatware, knives, and cookware. Its 65-piece Lani flatware set comes with 12 dinner forks, salad forks, dinner knives, soup spoons, and dessert spoons, plus a serveware set that includes solid and slotted serving spoons, a serving fork, a butter knife, and a sugar spoon — everything you could possibly need for dinner for up to 12 people.
The pieces are made from durable 18/10 stainless steel and feature simple slender handles with a curve for an eye-catching and timeless look. The forged 18/10 stainless steel knife blades provide easy, precise cutting. Many customer reviews stated that the utensils are heavy and well-made, and at just about $1.50 per piece, we think this set is a great buy if you want quality on a budget. Plus, the pieces are dishwasher-safe and come with a limited lifetime warranty.
However, like with our best overall pick, some buyers mentioned the slender handles are difficult for those with larger hands to hold.
The best open stock flatware
The Oneida Chef's Table Everyday Flatware is affordable, reliable, and features open stock pieces so you can buy exactly what you need; no more, no less.
Pros: Open stock allows you to buy exactly the number and type of pieces you need, simple design, dishwasher-safe, reputable brand, limited lifetime warranty
Cons: Made from less durable 18/0 stainless steel
Price per piece: $2.99
There are many circumstances where you'd opt for open stock flatware, which allows you to pick and buy only the individual utensils you need. Open stock is a great option if you're living alone and just need kitchen staples for one person, if you're a college student looking for a few basics, if you need to replace a few lost or broken utensils, or if you're looking to outfit a rental property with inexpensive, easily replaceable pieces.
Chef's Table is a reputable product line from trusted flatware manufacturer Oneida that offers individual pieces and replacements. The utensil design is simple and will fit seamlessly with virtually any flatware you already own. At $2.99 a piece, you can stock your kitchen with what you need at a fraction of the price of most box sets.
The utensils in the collection are made from 18/0 stainless steel, meaning there is no nickel in the stainless steel. Nickel's presence usually helps prevents rust and corrosion. However, reviewers haven't reported any issues with rust, and many mentioned they like the shape and durability of the pieces.
The best flatware for special occasions
The Mikasa 65-Piece Regent Bead Flatware Set features an elegant design with 24-karat beaded gold accents and every utensil you'll need for service for 12.
Pros: Timeless design, made from durable 18/10 stainless steel, comes with serveware, reputable brand
Cons: Hand-wash only
Price per piece: $4.60
Not only is the Mikasa Regent Bead Flatware Set made of durable 18/10 stainless steel, but it also features 24-karat beaded gold accents that have more of a traditional feel and will elevate your tablescape. The dual silver and gold coloring blends well with any table setting or showpiece dinnerware, and comes with matching serveware to make your next occasion truly special.
The set contains flatware service for 12 with dinner forks, salad forks, dinner knives, soup spoons, and teaspoons. The serveware set includes solid and slotted serving spoons, a meat fork, a butter knife, and a sugar spoon, so you can keep a sophisticated and cohesive look throughout your tablescape.
Mikasa offers many sets in stainless steel with gold accents, so you can also mix and match this set with others for added visual appeal that still has a cohesive design. The only downside to this set is it's hand-wash only.
How to shop for flatware
While we've outlined top picks above that hopefully make shopping for flatware effortless, here is some guidance from experts about what to look for when you're on the hunt for flatware, along with what we considered when choosing our top picks.
Narrow down your options before shopping
With so many options out there, it helps to start by deciding how many pieces you need and what your budget is. You should expect to pay upwards of $300 to outfit your home with a high-quality set with many pieces, but you can go as low as $30 if you're selective about the number and type of utensils you need.
No matter your budget, Whitmore recommends looking for products that contain the core five utensils used most often. "When shopping for flatware, you want to be sure each set comes with a dinner knife, dinner fork, salad fork, dinner spoon, and teaspoon; this will cover everything you'll need," said Whitmore. "I prefer to plan for large gatherings, so I like to buy sets of at least eight but often 10 or 12. It's never a bad idea to have extra because items like spoons are used more often (for cereal, coffee, etc)."
Next, decide if you want to buy individual pieces (also known as open stock), pieces by the place setting, or a box set that typically comes with service for four, six, eight, or 12 people. Here is some more information about each type:
Open stock: Buying individual pieces, also known as open stock, is great if you're missing only a couple utensils, if you're a college student, or if you live alone and only need a few pieces. It's also a great option if you're looking for a temporary or easily replaceable flatware, like if you need to stock a rental property you own or if you have extra mouths to feed for a special occasion. However, many open stock items aren't the most durable, so they may not last as long, especially if you're using them every day.
By the place setting: If you buy flatware by the place setting, each box usually comes with five pieces: a dinner fork, salad fork, a dessert spoon, a soup spoon, and a dinner knife. This is a great option if you want to choose the number of place settings to suit your household (since box sets usually come in set quantities), if you want to replace missing or damaged flatware, or would like a few extra place settings for backup when hosting guests. A quality setting typically runs between $30 to $50 per setting.
Box sets: You'll get more bang for your buck if you invest in a box set. A box set comes in services from four to up to 12 people (some retailers even have service for up to 16 people), and features the same five pieces found in individual place settings. A box set with service for four typically has 20 total pieces, a set for service for eight typically has 40 pieces, and so on. The sets for service for 12 or more also usually come with a "hostess set" — extra serveware like solid and slotted serving spoons, a meat fork, and soup ladle that match the design of the flatware. A box set is especially useful if you have a family of at least four people or often host dinner for a large number of guests.
Select a reputable company
Regardless of whether you opt for open stock or box sets, experts said you'll get best results by selecting products from a known brand. "When shopping for flatware, always buy from a reputable flatware company," said Jefferson Mack, flatware and metal product designer with mackmetal.com. "You want to make sure you can buy replacements 10 years down the road." These companies are also usually forthcoming about materials and manufacturing methods, offer longer warranties, and have robust customer service. All the picks in our guide are vetted by experts, come with at least a 25-year warranty, or are produced by a well-known flatware brand that has been in business at least 50 years.
Shop in person, if you can
To get a good feel for flatware, it's best if you can check out sets in person to see if the pieces are comfortable to hold and fit your aesthetic. "I have found that many modern patterns can have huge dinner forks and spoons," said Marian Parsons, artist and founder of Mustard Seed Interiors. "If possible, see a complete place setting in person to make sure the size feels right to you." If you do decide to shop online, make sure you buy from a reputable retailer that has a robust return policy, since you won't be able to evaluate the comfort and weight of your flatware until you try it out.
Different types of flatware metals
Flatware comes in a variety of materials including stainless steel, sterling silver, and metals combined with other materials like resin, wood, and plastic.
For everyday use, look for stainless steel flatware. Stainless steel flatware is primarily made from chromium and nickel, which are both durable and resistant to corrosion. When shopping for stainless steel flatware, you'll notice a number like 18/10, 18/8, or 18/0, which represents the percentage of chromium (the first number) and nickel (the second number) in the metal.
Many experts recommend opting for 18/10 stainless steel since the nickel content boosts durability and adds a soft, silver-like luster to flatware. It's also what makes flatware more expensive.
This number isn't everything, however, said Mack; most reputable manufacturers sell flatware that is durable and rust-resistant, regardless of the type of stainless steel used. If you are looking for something durable at a great value, 18/0 is still a good option; you just won't get the high-polish finish and superior rust-resistance nickel provides.
Stamped vs. forged stainless steel
You may also notice the product description mention whether the flatware is stamped or forged. Stamped stainless is cut out like a cookie cutter from a big piece of stainless steel, while forged flatware is made from a heated block of steel that's pounded into shape. Because of the heating process, forged flatware is much more durable than stamped. If the product description doesn't include if it's stamped or forged, compare the knife blade to the handle. If they're similar in thickness and if it's lightweight, it's most likely stamped, which won't hold up as well as forged for everyday use.
Sterling silver is also durable, but is more expensive than stainless steel and requires polishing since it can tarnish, developing a dark-colored coat when exposed to gases in the air for a long time. We think stainless steel is the best bet for most people, but if you're a collector or like a vintage aesthetic, you may opt for sterling silver. With the right care, a sterling silver set can last you for years, increase in value, and become a family heirloom you can pass down from generation to generation.
"I think there are far too many beautiful sets of silver flatware sitting in a box or drawer unused," Parsons said. "If silver is stored properly or used daily, it requires very little polishing."
How to set a table
If you're setting the table for a formal dinner with the family using your new flatware, knowing where to place everything will elevate the dining experience. We've outlined a full step-by-step guide to setting the table here, but these are the basics:
The general rule while dining is to start with flatware on the outside and work your way in with each course. The flatware for the first course (or salad course) sits farthest away from the plate while the flatware for the main course is closest to the plate. To set the table, first place the flatware for the main course on either side of the dinner plate — the dinner fork sits to the left while the dinner knife sits to the right with the blade facing towards the plate.
Next, place the salad fork to the left of the dinner fork and the salad knife (if you have one) to the right of the dinner knife. Then, place the teaspoon to the right of the salad knife followed by a soup spoon. If you're having a dessert course, place the dessert spoon horizontally above the dinner plate with the handle pointing to the right.
How to care for stainless steel flatware
The best way to care for flatware is to hand-wash and dry it. "If a flatware set isn't dishwasher-safe, it's because of the high temperature of the water mixed with the dishwasher detergent," Mack said. "The dishwasher has an electric heating element at the bottom that heats up to almost boiling. That, along with dishwasher detergent, which is a high-temperature caustic detergent (stronger than dish detergent), gets rid of food and debris without having to scrub. The high temperature and detergent will get rid of the natural patina of the flatware and will discolor it."
Handwashing isn't realistic for many people, though. You can do a few things to make sure your flatware stays in the best shape possible even if you're using the dishwasher. Oneida, a flatware brand, offers a few tips on loading your flatware in a dishwasher:
- Load forks and spoons with the handles down and tines and bowls up.
- Place knives in a separate basket with the sharp side down to avoid potential scratching
- Remove flatware after the last rinse cycle and hand dry, since hot air can cause corrosion over time.
- If your flatware has any discolorations from hard water, use and follow the instructions on a high-quality stainless polish.
According to Oneida, you shouldn't soak flatware in water for long periods of time, and avoid prolonged contact with tea, coffee, eggs, mayo, vinegar, and salt, since acids and proteins in these foods can erode the flatware. Avoid using heavy-duty cleaners, especially ones with citrus-scented additives, and don't pour detergent directly onto the flatware. Following these steps can help prolong the life of your flatware.
Check out our other buying guides to complete your table setting
The best knife sets
Where to buy tableware and dishes online
How to set the table properly for casual and formal meals
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