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Choosing a flatware or silverware set can be tricky. On top of choosing between the variety of flatware designs and types of steel on the market, you're also tasked with figuring out aesthetics, budget, and the number of place settings you will need.
When it comes to stainless steel flatware, there are three varieties: 18/10, 18/8, and 18/0. The “18” refers to the fact that it is made of 18 percent chromium, while the second number is the percentage of nickel. More nickel means added shine and sturdiness, which is why sterling silver sets typically have a heavier price tag and require extra care.
Whether you're looking for a durable flatware set for everyday use or a high-end set for special occasions, we've researched and tested the best flatware and silverware sets to help you dine in style.
Best Overall: Lenox Portola 65-Piece Flatware Set
Sleek and sophisticated design
Service for 12 plus hostess set
Appropriate for casual and formal dining
Possible issues with corrosion
Only one finish option
This Lenox flatware set is made of 18/10 stainless steel, which means it has at an 18 percent chrome content and a 10 percent nickel content. Nickel is what keeps stainless steel shiny meal after meal and dishwasher run after dishwasher run. (Yep, this set is dishwasher safe.)
The set comes with enough five-piece settings for 12 people, plus five serving utensils. The pieces are ergonomically designed to be comfortable to hold while eating, and the beaded channel design at the base is subtle. Our product reviewer appreciates the flatware's high-quality feel and minimalist but beautiful detailing. She also awarded the set points for being dishwasher safe and tarnish-resistant, but notes the importance of keeping the utensils dry to prevent rust.
"This set is dishwasher safe and tarnish-resistant, but the utensils do require a little manual care." — Elizabeth Rago, Product Tester
Best Budget: LIANYU 20-Piece Silverware Flatware Cutlery Set
Easy to clean
Whether you’re just starting out or want extra flatware for an upcoming dinner, you can’t go wrong with this affordable set. You'll get enough pieces for four people to each have a salad fork, a dinner fork, a soup spoon, a teaspoon, and a dinner knife. The set comes in five different colors, in case you're looking for something with a little more personality than basic stainless steel.
While reviewers do note that the stainless steel utensils are lightweight, many also mention that the pieces are durable and hold up well after multiple rounds in the dishwasher. No dishwasher? The simple design makes these easy and quick to hand wash. Be careful when you do so—this knife is sharper than one might expect from a butter knife.
Best High-End: Knork 18/10 Stainless Steel 20-Piece Flatware Set, Matte Silver
High-end artisan appearance
Beveled fork edge makes one-hand cutting easy
Only serves four
Knork flatware's lauded design was the invention of the brand’s founder Michael D. Miller who, while struggling to eat a slice of pizza with a fork, was inspired to create a fork that’s more like a pizza slicer. He went on to design the Knork’s signature fork (part knife-part fork) with beveled outer tines that can be used to eat left- or right-handed and are sharp enough to cut many foods with, though safe enough for kids to use.
This set comes with enough utensils to set a full five-piece serving for four people. They are dishwasher safe. Our product tester likes that each utensil is ergonomically designed with noticeably balanced weight. Plus, the utensils feature a wide, flat finger platform for comfort and are designed to fit the contours of your hand. Each piece is hand-forged according to a 26-step process and is made of 18/10 stainless steel.
"Knork’s branding seamlessly blends into the flatware’s design. ... You won’t find any bold brand etchings on your knife handles." — Elizabeth Rago, Product Tester
Best Simple: Oneida Mooncrest 45-Piece Flatware Set
Outstanding price point
Rounded edges on handles
Good for small hands
Only one finish option
If your style is no-fuss, no-muss, you’ll appreciate the sleek and simple lines of this flatware. It's 18/0, which means it has 18 percent chrome to prevent rusting and wear and tear over time. Reviewers note that the flatware feels sturdy, so you won't have to worry about it warping with continued use.
The set comes with a few serving pieces and enough forks, knives, and spoons for up to eight dinner settings. One thing to note: Oneida no longer sells this pattern on their website, so if you fall in love with it, you may want to buy two sets just in case.
"If you’re simply looking for an affordable starter collection, the Oneida Mooncrest 45-Piece Flatware Set has much to offer. The set checks many boxes, from affordability to design." — Elizabeth Rago, Product Tester
Best Classic: Robert Welch Westbury Mirror Flatware Set
Comfortable to hold
Easy to clean
This timeless and elegant flatware is perfect for anyone who prefers a minimalist approach to their tablescape. As some reviewers note, this pattern is sure to feel as contemporary and classic 10 years from now as it will when you buy it—and the quality means you'll still be able to use it every day. Its longevity is thanks to its 18/10 stainless steel and quality forging process.
This flatware is available in sets of five pieces, 20 pieces, 42 pieces, and 50 pieces, so you can get the exact number of settings you need for your home. The larger setting sizes also include steak knives and serving pieces so that everything on your table matches.
"This flatware set is perfect for anyone that prefers a more classic look to their tablescape, and we really appreciated the versatility of the set." — Sage McHugh, Product Tester
Best Gold: Mint Pantry HamLake 20-Piece Flatware Set
Modern, minimalist design
Knife blade is stainless steel
Gold color is eye-catching
Gold color may come off in dishwasher
If you’re looking for a set of gold-colored flatware, you can’t do better than this set from Mint Pantry. The slender, minimalist pieces feel modern, and the matte metallic will add a pop of glamour to any tablescape. Reviewers note that they like that the knife blade is the same stainless steel as the handle—a rarity when it comes to colored flatware. The 20-piece set has enough dinner settings for four people.
One word of caution: While this set is undeniably eye-catching, many reviewers say the gold color washes off in the dishwasher. In order to preserve the color, consider hand-washing these instead.
Best Portable: HOMMALY Plastic Disposable Flatware
Comes in fun colors
Washable, waterproof carrying case
Case has no loops or straps to hold silverware in place
Those who care about the environment likely cringe when they have to eat their takeout salad with a disposable plastic fork, but who wants to carry around their regular flatware with them everywhere they go? Enter this portable, reusable stainless steel set. It comes with everything you could need to enjoy that lunch at your desk—even a set of chopsticks for those days when you order sushi—plus two metal straws.
Best of all, the utensils come packaged in a waterproof and washable bag that’s as easy to clean as the utensils. Several reviewers give this set high marks because it's available in a few different, fun colors, including rainbow chrome, adding personality to their desk lunches.
Best Modern: Crate & Barrel Jett 5-Piece Flatware Set
Modern, eye-catching design
Finish is tarnish-resistant
Cannot use citrus dish soap on them
You’ll need to apologize to the chef when you set your table with this dramatic matte black set—guests will be so wowed by it, they might not even notice the food. In fact, several reviewers rave about how many compliments they get on the set's elegant, unique design. The 18/10 stainless steel has a heat-treated black satin PVD finish that won’t flake or tarnish. The set comes with five pieces—exactly what you'll need for one setting, so you can customize how many settings you have in your utensil drawer.
A note on washing this dramatic flatware: While you can toss these utensils in the dishwasher, you’ll need to avoid citrus-scented detergents, and when hand-washing, don't use a scouring pad or metal polish.
We chose the Lenox Portola 65-Piece Flatware Set for the top spot because of its sleek design that can work for both casual and fine dining. Plus, considering how many utensils are included, it's reasonably priced. Got more money to spare? Try the high-end Knork 20-Piece Flatware Set for your formal dinners.
What to Look for When Buying Flatware
Silver: Flatware is often called “silverware” for good reason: Traditionally, it was silver! The rich showed off their wealth with elaborate table settings (hence the oyster fork) while the poorer classes made do with pewter or even wood cutlery. The invention of stainless steel, which is resistant to rust and corrosion, in the early 1900s changed all that. These days, you can find stainless steel in the finest restaurants and homes, but sterling silver flatware is still very much around. A single flatware setting can run from around $50 to hundreds of dollars. That means a full table setting of sterling silver flatware can easily be thousands of dollars. They also require a lot of upkeep and polishing.
Silver-plated: Silver-plated flatware is another option, but it can feel like a “worst of both worlds” scenarios. Sterling silver flatware remains valuable for years to come because the material is valuable; silver-plated flatware has no such intrinsic value. You’ll have to care for it like it was sterling silver but without any opportunity for resale. If you like the antique look of sterling silver flatware but don’t have the thousands to spend, partial sets or individual pieces can often be purchased at antique stores for a fraction of the price. Even secondhand sterling silver, if all the pieces are included, can be incredibly expensive.
Other plated silverware includes titanium, gold, and copper. Again, this is about looks rather than quality, so most will have a stainless steel core. Plated flatware can chip and wear over time and requires greater care than stainless steel.
Stainless steel: Stainless steel flatware is able to have the shine of silverware at a fraction of the price. Today, our flatware still owes something to those more formal silver settings of yore; you can find designs on even the most humble flatware handles that are meant to hearken back to actual silverware.
While stainless steel makes bright, shiny cutlery more affordable, it is also far easier to care for than silver. This type of flatware can just be thrown in the dishwasher, dried off, and put away, over and over again.
Stainless Steel Grades
You can’t just grab any flatware that boasts the stainless steel logo, though. Good stainless steel will show a grade on the packaging or product page that looks like a fraction: usually 18/10, 18/8, and 18/0. 18/10 means the flatware is 18 percent chromium and 10 percent nickel, and so on. 18/10 flatware is the highest-quality: it will feel a bit more weighted in the hand, and the 10 percent nickel gives it more shine and more protection from corrosion. If no grade is listed, it’s best to assume it is of a lower grade, or may not even be stainless steel at all. In general, it’s easy to find a wide variety of styles and designs in 18/10 stainless steel, but lower grades are still a good option if you need to save money.
Typically, higher-quality stainless steel with an 18/10 grade is going to be shinier because of the higher quantity of nickel. The bright shine of 18/10 stainless steel is usually called a “mirror finish.” Lower nickel amounts typically mean a satin finish, sometimes called a “butler finish” because it has the look of hand-polished silver. But there are exceptions to keep your eye out for. You can get 18/10 flatware with a “tumbled finish," which reduces shine and sometimes even gives it a textured look. Tumbled finishes can give your flatware an heirloom, hand-me-down quality, or a more hand-forged look.
Stamped vs. Forged
Today, most flatware you’ll find is stamped, meaning it’s been stamped from a larger piece of steel. Forged flatware, which is forged by hand, tends to be more expensive. Traditionally, forged flatware has been seen as the longer-lasting option, but technology in stamped flatware has continued to improve. The main difference between a high-quality forged flatware set and a high-quality stamped set is going to be weight: forged flatware is heavier. Whether that’s a positive or a negative may come down to taste, but odds are you are used to using stamped silverware for your everyday use.
Most flatware sets come with five pieces for table settings: dinner knife, dinner fork, salad fork, tablespoon, and teaspoon, which should be more than enough for day-to-day use. Some larger sets will also include steak knives and serving utensils for those who like everything to match. But unless you anticipate regularly needing an oyster fork or dessert spoon, you also don’t need to worry about investing in a giant collection of flatware.
Box sets: Settings are typically sold in a single pack (one of each) and sets of four, eight, 12, and so on. A flatware set with five settings will, for example, have 20 pieces. Also known as box sets, these packs are also commonly available in 45- and 65-piece sets (both come with the addition of serving utensils, with the former containing enough place settings for eight and the latter serving 12).
How big a set you buy is totally personal and can be informed by your kitchen size, number of housemates or family members, and how often you run the dishwasher. Flatware stores flat (of course), so it’s better to err on the side of a slightly larger number of settings than a slightly smaller one—there’s nothing worse than reaching for a cereal spoon and finding only forks.
Open stock: If you’re worried about getting too few, you can also check to see if the flatware set is sold in individual settings or individual cutlery. This is also referred to as open stock because retailers keep them in stock so that you can always buy more forks or settings later as the need arises. If the flatware only comes in a 20-piece set, you may just have to buy an entire second set one day as your needs grow.
Traditionally embellished flatware tends to have a more classic feel to it to mimic silverware. More modern sets typically pare down details with a more streamlined appearance: a straight, thin handle with no major elements. Because we are so used to design elements in our flatware, these more modern sets are often, paradoxically, more unique and interesting than a more ornate set. Many contemporary options also straddle these two worlds: subtle shaping at the end of the handle, for example, will give it a traditional feel without other elements.
Your choice comes down purely to taste: both traditional and modern styles are made from stainless steel. The only major consideration is if you want stainless steel flatware in a different color. Black and gold flatware have become increasingly popular in recent years, largely because they're such a striking contrast to the bright silver cutlery we use almost everywhere, every day. These sets are typically made from stainless steel with another color added on top. While some are nearly as easy to care for as regular stainless steel, others may require more careful treatment to keep the coating from peeling off.
Sometimes you’ll see handles made from another material, like wood or plastic. This is reminiscent of a tradition even older than silverware: handles for knives made from materials like bone. The look can be impressive but has some drawbacks: a separate handle can loosen over time, especially if you’re tossing it in the dishwasher. Less expensive flatware is going to show wear and tear along the handle the quickest, and grime and food can settle into cracks. More expensive flatware with resin or wood handles will age better but tend to be expensive and require more care than a simpler, all-stainless steel piece.
Ease of Use
You probably don’t think much about the forks and knives you use every day, but shopping for a new set brings new considerations come: do you want a heavier, high-quality 18/10 stainless steel, or something lighter? Is the handle comfortable? While most basic sets are ergonomically designed to be comfortably held and used, fancier and more design-forward sets may offer more to think about: is a giant soup spoon, as striking as it is on your setting, something you (or your kids) will want to reach for? Do you prefer utensils with skinny stems, or perhaps longer fork tines for more European-style dining?
Even though most flatware sets are stainless steel, there's still a considerable price range. Design and stainless steel grades have the biggest effects on price, with 18/10 being the highest quality and most expensive. But even an inexpensive set, with proper care, can last a long time. A basic set of stainless steel flatware can run as low as $20 for a set of six table settings and go up from there; unique finishes and designs can cause the price to jump to several hundred dollars for a table setting for six. But you can still pick up an investment-worthy setting for six for around $60 to $100.
Pricier silverware is rarely sold in open stock: You’ll have to purchase additional full settings if you realize you need more spoons or forks. But because of that, open stock tends to be affordable—usually around $2 apiece.
Types of Flatware Sets
Flatware is typically sold in settings with between three to five pieces per person. A typical table setting will usually have at least one fork, one spoon, and one knife. Five-piece settings, which are the most common, have a dinner and salad fork, a table spoon and teaspoon, and a dinner knife. Place settings can be sold individually or in sets of four, six, or eight.
Disposable flatware is ubiquitous these days and offers one advantage: convenience. The typical takeout set isn’t great at piercing, cutting, or ladling food. Then, once it’s done, the plastic goes into the trash and into a landfill. There are eco-friendly alternatives, however, like biodegradable birchwood utensils.
These days, the eco-conscious can find alternatives to disposable utensils that can still travel with you. Portable sets can be made of lightweight stainless steel, bamboo, or reusable plastic. If you want to get a travel set, look for one that comes with a carrying case; you’re more likely to actually take it with you if it’s easy and convenient to do so.
Lenox is perhaps best known for its china, and for good reason: the brand has made dinnerware for the White House and the Met Gala. Lenox flatware is just as high-quality, and a set is definitely an investment. But don’t be fooled by its storied past; these days, Lenox also sells unfussy, modern flatware and dinnerware.
Like Lenox, American flatware company Oneida has well over a century of experience, but its backstory is fairly unique. It was originally founded as a way to fund a utopian community in Oneida, New York. Started in the 1840s, stories you’ll read from the commune sound like they’re out of the 1960s. The commune eventually dissolved, but the silverware production remained and eventually switched to stainless steel. You’ll never look at an Oneida fork the same way again!
While most high-quality flatware is stamped from a single piece of stainless steel, there’s one exception: Laguiole. Made in France since 1829, these knives (and later spoons and forks) have a distinctive handle made from materials like wood, bone, or colorful resin. This statement-making flatware is often imitated, though knock-offs won’t have the same quality as a real Laguiole set.
There are a few simple rules for taking care of stainless steel, and most are pretty intuitive. Most stainless steel flatware can be hand-washed or placed in a dishwasher. Avoid steel wool or steel brushes, since those can nick the surface and cause corrosion or even rusting. If food dries on your silverware and can’t be gently scrubbed away, let it soak for a bit or try the more abrasive side of a soft sponge. If you have a color-plated flatware set, like matte black or gold, you’ll want to be extra careful about abrasive cleaners or sponges, as it could strip the finish.
“Stainless steel” can also feel like a misnomer because it can show some stains: namely, water stains from hard (mineral-rich) water. If your stainless steel starts to lose its luster, and to reduce mineral spotting, try drying it as soon as it’s out of the sink or dishwasher. Finally, don’t use bleach, which can stain stainless steel.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Anne Fritz is a writer for The Spruce Eats. When she's not covering kitchen gadgets and home accessories for us, she loves cooking up new recipes for her family, so she knows the value of finding the right flatware set to dine in comfort and style.