How to buy flatware
A flatware buying guide
There is more to buying flatware than simply picking out a pattern you like. Flatware consists of utensils that are used for dining, but it may also include serving pieces, too. When you consider how to buy flatware, think about your lifestyle and the type of kitchen and dining products you enjoy. Here are some tips to help you make the right decision the next time you shop for flatware.
>> Choose the right material
The construction of the flatware is of prime importance because of its durability and sheen. Flatware is available in stainless steel, silver plated or sterling silver. If you are wondering about how to buy flatware, consider these features for each option:
Stainless steel is known for being less likely to stain and is often considered the best flatware for everyday use. The different grades of stainless steel flatware affect the durability and look of the product. Stainless steel is designated by numbers that indicate the amount of chrome and nickel used in the flatware styles.
Chrome is used in flatware to give it durability. Chrome also resists rust. Nickel affects the shine of the utensils and makes them look similar to real silver. Stainless steel is graded in a two-number format. For example, 18/10 means is the flatware is made of 18 percent chrome and 10 percent nickel. Common percentages are 18/8 and 18/0. The highest quality is 18/10, which is often the best flatware to buy.
Another option when considering how to buy flatware is silver plating. This has a construction of brass, nickel or stainless steel and it also features a plating of silver to give it an extra sheen. It looks more elegant than stainless steel flatware. The plating thickness can vary, which is why some silver-plated flatware looks shinier than others.
Sterling silver is considered the best flatware to buy for formal events, but it is adaptable to everyday use because of its durability and resistance to scratching. It is made up of more than 90 percent silver.
>> Consider how the flatware is constructed
When figuring out how to buy flatware, think about the weight of the utensil and how it feels in your hand. Try out different flatware styles to see which one you prefer.
There are three different types of flatware styles. Hollow handled flatware is lightweight and made in three different pieces that are joined together. A stamped utensil feels heavier than other types of flatware because it has a pattern stamped onto the handle, adding extra material and weight. Forged flatware is heavier than the hollow handled type of flatware. It is made by being heated and then struck to create flatware designs. It has a pattern, but the lines are simple and clean. It is made of a single piece.
>> Consider flatware size
There are three different types of flatware sizes. The continental size is larger than the other two and resembles what is used in a hotel setting. It is often used in more formal settings. The place size is the smallest and lightest in weight of the three sizes. Dinner flatware falls in the middle of the sizes but it is only a half-inch larger than place size flatware.
>> Consider flatware pieces
A basic flatware set includes five pieces: dinner fork, salad fork, dinner spoon, teaspoon and dinner knife. In addition to these pieces, you can find other utensils for specific purposes. Some are found in specialty sets such as knife or spoon sets, whereas you can purchase others individually. This chart describes different types of flatware and their common uses.
Type of flatware
|Purchased in a set or separately |
|Steak knife ||To cut meat ||Often purchased in a set of steak knives |
|Soup spoon ||To use with soups and stews ||Often purchased in larger place setting sets |
|Dessert spoon ||To use with puddings and other soft desserts ||Often purchased separately |
|Dessert fork ||To use with cakes and frozen desserts ||Often purchased separately |
|Cocktail fork ||To use with appetizers and cocktail foods ||Often purchased separately |
>> Determine your needs for flatware
When considering how to buy flatware, think about how many people you are likely to entertain. The basic five-piece set often comes in four or eight place setting sets. If you like to serve dinners with large numbers of people, you may need to purchase multiple sets. You can also find child-sized place settings of some flatware designs.
Another option when you shop for flatware is to purchase a hostess or completer set along with the place setting. These sets include utensils designed for serving the meal, such as meat forks, butter knives and slotted serving spoons. Other flatware styles that can be purchased in a set or individually include a sugar spoon, gravy ladle and pie or cake server. Because you can shop for flatware items designed for serving separately, you can pick out as many serving utensils and sets as you need. Many people prefer to buy tablespoons in multiples. Grill utensils are specialty items to purchase if you enjoy barbecuing or outdoor cooking.
>> Consider flatware care, cleaning and storing
Flatware sets are easy to care for and do not usually require special cleaning products. All three types of material are dishwasher safe. It is important to read the specific care guide that comes with the flatware you buy because some may include decorative elements that require hand washing. To keep the flatware looking shiny, towel drying is recommended when you remove it from the dishwasher. This will reduce spots that can dull the sheen.
Sterling silver and silver-plated flatware do need an occasional polishing if you want them to look shiny. Purchase silver polish and use a clean, cotton-free cloth for the job. Although flatware doesn't usually scratch, you may want to store it in a lined case specially designed for this purpose. In such a case, each type of utensil has its own space to keep it looking like new. Flatware constructed with silver needs extra protection because it can tarnish, which is something to consider when determining how to buy flatware for your home.