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.
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. We also appreciate the small maker’s etching, which is discreetly placed on the necks of the forks and spoons and on the blade of the knife.
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.
With thousands of patterns to choose from, purchasing a set of flatware is a daunting task if you don’t know what to look for. That’s why we spent over a hundred hours researching what makes great flatware, including taking a tour of Sherrill Manufacturing, interviewing a professor of material science and engineering, and handling hundreds of different utensil designs, to help you make a more informed decision in your quest for the perfect cutlery.
It includes a basic overview of construction techniques, design, and materials, so you’ll have a better understanding of what’s worth paying for. Many stores have sample sets available to handle, which will tell you a lot about the weight of individual utensils and how comfortable they are to hold.
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. If you want to pick and choose the flatware you need, many retailers, such as Bed Bath & Beyond, Crate and Barrel, or IKEA, sell individual pieces of cutlery open stock for around $2 to $6.
This is an affordable option for college students, or for holidays or other times when your guest list may swell and you need some extra flatware in a jiffy. But we think the sweet spot for a decent, good-quality stainless steel place setting is between $20 and $45, which is the price range where you’ll begin to see better-quality materials and improved craftsmanship.
Another drawback to box sets is that it can be difficult to replace lost or damaged flatware, as the individual utensils aren’t usually sold open stock. Also, the overwhelming amount of flatware sets from big-box stores like Target and Walmart are made of 18/0 stainless steel, so tread lightly if you’re considering this option.
A selection of flatware made with various materials (from left to right): stainless steel, resin, PVD coating, wood, plastic, and silver plating. Photo: Sarah Kiboshing a basic understanding of what to look for before you start shopping will make it easier to find a set of flatware you’ll love.
Utensils can be made from a variety of alloys (combinations of metals) and can have additional coatings or other components, such as wood or resin handles. Sterling silver flatware is an elegant choice for formal occasions, but it’s very expensive and requires more maintenance.
Stainless steel is an alloy (meaning it consists of multiple metals) and is available in various grades, or compositional ranges. Both metals add to the strength of the steel, but nickel improves the corrosion resistance and luster of the alloy.
Sterling silver is beautiful, but you need to polish it regularly to avoid tarnishing and store it carefully to prevent scratching. The easiest way to tell is by looking at the underside of each piece to see if it’s stamped with a hallmark that indicates the quality of the precious metal tested by a country’s assay office.
Check out Jeffrey Herman’s website for additional resources if you’re interested in selling your sterling flatware or having it appraised. Flatware can also be electroplated, which means the pieces went through a process of chemically bonding one metal onto the surface of another by way of an electric current.
Most people are familiar with silver-plated flatware, which is made from a base metal of copper, brass, nickel, or stainless steel electroplated with silver. Plated flatware can be quite pricey depending on the metal, but unlike solid sterling silver, it holds no intrinsic value.
It can be difficult to tell if flatware is electroplated or PVD coated unless it’s indicated on the box, so always check with the manufacturer before purchasing if you’re uncertain. Just as with electroplated finishes, the base metal will begin to show through if the PVD coating wears thin.
We’ve read some flatware owner reviews that say mirror finishes scratch more than satin finishes, but as Sherrill Manufacturing’s Matthew A. Roberts told us, “chafing and scratching is a function of utensils rubbing against each other regardless of the finish.” Roberts continued, “They’re the same steel hardness.” We’ve seen plenty of satin flatware scratch over time, but in our experience, it seems less noticeable than on flatware that’s highly polished. Photo: Sarah KobosBefore you purchase a set of flatware, check that the finish is even all over the utensils.
Cheaper flatware often includes forks with rough, unfinished areas between the tines, indicating that the manufacturer skimped on polishing the entire piece. A worker at Sherrill Manufacturing uses a grinding wheel to smooth out rough edges on the handles of flatware.
Photo: Lesley Stockton As you examine the finish, also pay attention to the placement of the manufacturer branding on the utensils. For instance, the Cambridge Silversmiths Province Mirror Flatware has “Robert Welch,” the designer’s name, printed on the side of the knife blade that would lie face up on the table.
Some flatware also has markings located on the back of spoons, or on forks just below the tines, which can be glaringly obvious while you’re eating. Photo: Sarah Hobos When choosing flatware, you need to consider the weight, balance, length, and shape of each utensil.
Photo: Sarah Kerosene of the most important reasons to look at flatware in person is to determine how it actually feels in your hands. Forged knives tend to be heavier, but we recommend looking for those that are relatively balanced and not so hefty that they’ll fall off the edge of a plate or make eating feel cumbersome.
Many of the testers for our guide to the best flatware set were put off by flatware that had sharp angles on the underside of the handles because it dug into their fingers. Some knives with handles that curved to one side, such as those in the Leno Chester brook Flatware Set, were awkward to hold while cutting, especially for lefties.
Photo: Sarah KobosYou may have noticed that Americans generally eat differently than Europeans do. Eating “American style” with the knife on the plate and the fork in the right hand, tines facing up.
Eating “American style” with the knife on the plate and the fork in the right hand, tines facing up. Deciding on the length of your flatware is a personal choice, but we recommend finding something that will be comfortable to hold and the appropriate size for your eating habits.
Knowing your design preferences before you start searching for flatware in stores or online will make the process far less overwhelming. Sherrill Manufacturing periodically uses a wooden bending block to ensure that the angle and shape of the flatware is consistent.
Since finding a comfortable weight is such an essential part of selecting flatware, it’s important to understand how knives are made so you know what to look for. Some knives are also constructed with hollow handles, which makes them lighter and more balanced than those made from a solid piece of metal.
Photo: Sarah KobosStamped knives, as the name suggests, are cut or stamped from large sheets of steel, in a process called “blanking.” Roberts explained that after the knives are punched out, the blades are rolled or “work hardened” to strengthen them before further refinement and polishing. Photo: Lesley Stockton forged knife is made from a single piece of steel, called a rod, which the maker heats to an extremely high temperature and then pounds into shape using a high-pressure hammer.
When purchasing flatware, be sure to check that it’s evenly polished and free of rough spots that could make the utensils more susceptible to corrosion. “The hollow handle is significantly more expensive because of all the process steps you have to go through to make it, versus one solid piece of metal,” Roberts told us.
“So you won’t find a lot of hollow handles in the market.” Most of the testers for our guide to the best flatware who preferred heavier utensils were not fans of the hollow-handle knives because they felt too light. Photo: Sarah Kiboshed you’re choosing a flatware pattern, it’s important to stay true to your personal style, but we recommend leaning toward something timeless and classic.
We define that as stainless steel utensils with clean lines, free of any embellishments or decorative details. Roberts told us that most people buy flatware only about three times in their lifetime, so don’t be tempted to choose something trendy that you may fall out of love with in just a couple of years.
Photo: Lesley StocktonChoosing a flatware pattern that has been around for a while increases the likelihood that it will remain in production for years to come, should you need to replace utensils or grow your set. We recommend calling the flatware manufacturer directly or going to a store in person to speak with a sales associate.
If the set is sold online, you can sometimes approximate how old it is based on how many years back the owner reviews are dated. Photo: Sarah KobosStainless steel is an alloy, meaning it’s made from a combination of metals.
In the book Consider the Fork, Bee Wilson notes that Harry Rarely “invented stainless steel in 1913 as a way of improving gun barrels.” The corrosion-resistant quality of the steel made it an excellent choice for flatware too, as The New York Times wrote in this 1915 article (PDF). Iron is the base metal in stainless steel, but when it comes to flatware, the chromium and nickel content are the biggest variables.
Matthew A. Roberts, co-founder and president of Sherrill Manufacturing, said he doesn’t even entertain the thought of making anything out of 18/0 at his company because it’s a huge downgrade. After years of long-term testing flatware, we’ve seen firsthand how some 18/0 stainless steel is prone to rust spots, so we didn’t include any sets made from that alloy in our guide.
Photo: Sarah KobosEven if a set of cutlery is advertised only as 18/10, the blades are almost always made from 13/0 because it’s better at maintaining a sharp edge. It’s difficult to say why some 13/0 blades develop rust spots and others don’t, as the issue can be caused by a number of factors.
That said, we specifically tested all of our flatware for this problem and eliminated any sets that discolored or rusted in the dishwasher. Only five out of more than 40 sets had this issue, so we don’t think you should be too worried, though it doesn’t hurt to dry your knives thoroughly after washing them.