We recommend getting the Crate and Barrel Caesar Flatware, by Robert Welch Designs, if you want heavier utensils that are still well-balanced. The fork’s long, narrowly set tines give it an elegant look and make holding food on the back of the utensil easier for those who dine European style.
The spoons are shallower and have a pointier tip, which means they don’t hold as much liquid, but they put less metal in your mouth, a more delicate sensation that some people prefer. We’re not huge fans of the curvy handles, which are so dramatically arched at the neck that they look almost bent out of shape.
We think our picks will appeal to a wide range of people, but we also realize that choosing flatware is a very personal decision. If none of our other picks are to your liking, we’ve created a buying guide to help you confidently shop for a great set of utensils.
To understand the difference between various grades of stainless steel, I interviewed Scott Mixture, PhD, a professor at the Enamor School of Engineering at Alfred University, who has a background in metallurgy. I also went to stores such as Bed Bath & Beyond, Crate and Barrel, Macy’s, Pottery Barn, and Williams Sonoma to look at sets in person.
Prior to joining Wire cutter, I was an editor at the International Culinary Center in New York City, and I worked in various facets of the food and restaurant industry for over a decade. I can often be found hunting for vintage flatware and other treasures at thrift stores and estate sales in my free time.
Photo: Sarah KobosWith myriad patterns to choose from, shopping for a set of utensils can be an overwhelming undertaking. We avoided colored utensils and those with resin, wood, or riveted handles, opting instead for classic, timeless patterns with clean, simple lines.
Teaspoons from each of our flatware picks (from left to right): Cambridge Silversmiths Julie Satin, Liberty Tabletop Betsy Ross, Crate and Barrel Caesar, and Gourmet Settings Winder mere. Salad forks from each of our flatware picks (from left to right): Cambridge Silversmiths Julie Satin, Liberty Tabletop Betsy Ross, Crate and Barrel Caesar, and Gourmet Settings Winder mere.
Dinner knives from each of our flatware picks (from left to right): Cambridge Silversmiths Julie Satin, Liberty Tabletop Betsy Ross, Crate and Barrel Caesar, and Gourmet Settings Winder mere. Teaspoons from each of our flatware picks (from left to right): Cambridge Silversmiths Julie Satin, Liberty Tabletop Betsy Ross, Crate and Barrel Caesar, and Gourmet Settings Winder mere.
Finally, we tried to find flatware patterns that have been around for a while, which increases the likelihood they’ll remain in stock down the road. Eventually, we settled on 40 five-piece place settings (if you’re counting, that’s 200 separate utensils in all) and invited 13 Wire cutter staff members to evaluate them in our New York City test kitchen.
To assess quality and durability, we took a close look at each piece of flatware to check for any unfinished or rough areas. We also washed all the flatware several times and let it sit in a moist and humid dishwasher for two days to see if any of the utensils discolored or developed rust spots, which was a surprisingly revealing test.
Photo: Sarah Hobos Why it’s great: The Cambridge Silversmiths Julie Satin Flatware was a unanimous favorite in our tests. One of our staffers summed it up perfectly: “This set is a nice compromise between modern and classic.” Even the finish offers the best of both worlds, with the satin handles gradually giving way to a mirror polish on the utensil heads.
Our testers were surprised to find how much they liked that contrast: “The satin and mirror mix looks so cool,” said one. Photo: Sarah Loose love the medium weight of this flatware, which feels balanced and sturdy enough that it won’t bend under pressure.
One tester praised the utensils for their “excellent neck thickness,” meaning they were a nice medium width. The sloped angle of the handle on the soup spoon also makes it easier to eat from deep, narrow bowls.
The branding on the underside of the utensils is more noticeable on this set than on some of our other picks, but since it’s not laser engraved, it will fade over time. Photo: Sarah Hobos Flaws but not deal breakers: The branding on the back of the forks and spoons is larger and more noticeable on this Cambridge Silversmiths set compared with the others we recommend.
According to a customer service representative we spoke to at Bed Bath & Beyond, the Julie flatware has been sold in stores since March 2016. Cambridge Silversmiths is a trusted flatware brand that began in the ’90s, and it sells many patterns that have been around for years, so we don’t think this set will suddenly disappear (though we’ll keep an eye on it).
Photo: Sarah Hobos Why it’s great: Crate and Barrel’s Caesar Flatware is an elegant set that’s heavier than our main pick and available in both satin and mirror finishes. We like its smooth, round edges and its slight flare at the base of the handle, which one of our testers said “feels nice in the hand.” Another staffer said this set “has a good substantial feel and pleasing heft.” The fork tines are long, thin, and spaced narrowly apart, a design that many people find more elegant than wide-set tines.
The forged knife is a pleasure to hold, and the fine serrations on the blade cut cleanly through food. Like our main pick, the Caesar set has deep soup spoons that hold a generous amount of liquid.
Photo: Sarah Kiboshes collection was created by Robert Welch Designs exclusively for Crate and Barrel, and it has an excellent rating on the store’s website, with reviews dating back three years. A sales associate we spoke with at Crate and Barrel told us the Caesar flatware was one of the store’s most popular patterns.
The maker’s marking is laser engraved on the handles of the forks and spoons and printed on the back of the knife blades. Photo: Sarah Hobos Flaws but not deal breakers: If you like lightweight utensils, most of the pieces in the Caesar set may be too heavy for you.
Why it’s great: If you prefer balanced, lightweight hollow-handle knives, we recommend getting the Liberty Tabletop Betsy Ross flatware. This collection is appropriately named since it’s made by Sherrill Manufacturing, the last remaining domestic maker of flatware in the United States (which also makes utensils for Cuzco, Farmhouse Pottery, and Heath Ceramics).
One of our testers gushed over the Betsy Ross knife, saying it was “perfectly balanced and lovely to hold.” The thin necks and gently curved handles create an elegant silhouette. We also like the shape of the forged knife blade and bolster, which is reminiscent of the knives found in finer, more traditional sterling silver flatware sets.
The fork tines are long, thin, and spaced slightly farther apart than on our main pick, an aesthetic that some people may prefer. The soup spoon bowls aren’t exceptionally deep but still hold a good amount of liquid.
However, many hollow-handle knives have this seam because they’re made from three separate pieces of metal (the blade, and two half shells that are soldered together to make a hollow handle), which is the same construction technique used for expensive sterling silver flatware. This flatware is sold open stock, which means it’s also great for college students who need only a few utensils and not complete five-piece place settings.
The tines are also appropriately tapered, unlike the blunt tips on the forks of some other cheap flatware sets we tested. We also like that the Winder mere collection has such a large selection of additional serving pieces (which are sold separately depending on the utensil).
Photo: Sarah Hobos Flaws but not deal breakers: The biggest drawback to the Winder mere set is the dramatic, somewhat awkward curve of the handles, which led one of our testers to dub it “the pin-up collection.” The forks and teaspoon are thinner than those of our other picks and lightweight, which means they’ll bend with some force. One of our testers said the shape of the knife blade reminded them of a mezzanine, and found that its extreme curve made cutting awkward.
Properly cared for, 18/10 stainless steel flatware should last for decades (whereas 18/0 may corrode), but it will develop some patina over time. However, you can reduce the amount of surface scratching by not cramming the flatware into a dishwasher cutlery basket or tossing it carelessly into a utensil drawer.
Dishwashers equipped with a flat utensil rack are best for preventing flatware from banging around during the wash cycle, which helps reduce surface damage. Hand washing is really the best method for keeping your flatware looking pristine, but we realize that's not realistic for most people.
You can remove minor discoloration from flatware by using distilled white vinegar or a slurry of baking soda and water applied with a soft cloth or a nonabrasive sponge. Several of our testers liked the rounded handles of the Artiste Rain II flatware, but some found the curve of the knife to be awkward to hold.
We also used to recommend Fuji Cutlery pieces as a budget choice, but to be on the safe side, we decided not to include any steel labeled 18/8 for our 2018 update. We really liked the size, shape, and weight of the MEPA Lucca flatware, but the pewter finish was polarizing for our testers.
We liked the hollow-handle knife in the Towel Boston Antique flatware set, but we weren’t fans of the seam on the underside of the handles. Although the Liberty Tabletop Chandra flatware was beloved by some of our testers, the vast majority thought the shape of this collection was too old-fashioned.
Our testers found the bulbous handle tips on the Gibson Home Classic Manchester set dated and unappealing. We used to recommend the gold version of the Amoco Flatware, but we’ve excluded colored utensils from our 2018 update.
Navigating the realms of soup spoons, hostess sets, and nickel content can be baffling to the uninitiated. We test items in our labs, consult existing customers, talk with experts, and do extensive research.
The result: fair, thorough, and unbiased reviews that will see you through even the toughest of purchasing decisions. Then, when you're ready to buy, you'll find our top five favorite flatware sets in the product list, above.
This guide focuses on stainless steel flatware, since it's by far the most popular contemporary choice. While much less common today, mostly because of its price, silver flatware (or “silverware”) is an elegant choice for formal dining.
Pewter was a common choice for flatware in colonial America, due to its strength and durability. Some people love a heavy, sturdy construction to their flatware, whereas others favor lightweight pieces.
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! 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).
Finally, you can find flatware with hollowed handles, made using a three-piece design. Some flatware has a high-shine, mirrored finish, some are completely matte, and the rest fall somewhere in between the two.
Some flatware has decorative banding or other types of engraved patterns on the handles, whereas other pieces are more plain. At the top of this price range you find options from designer homeward brands, so the cost is more to do with the manufacturer than a marked increase in quality.
Don't leave your flatware soaking in water for long periods of time, as this can cause corrosion over the years. This doesn't mean you should avoid vinegar and tomatoes, just try not to leave dirty flatware sitting for days, covered in food.
If you like weighty flatware, forged pieces tend to be the heaviest, followed by stamped, and finally those with hollowed handles. 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.