One of the important elements in any dining set up is the flatware. Together with the tableware and stemware, the right flatware makes for a memorable dining experience.
A set of flatware may include the following:
- Soup spoon
- Dinner spoon
- Dessert spoon
- Salad fork
- Dinner fork
- Dessert fork
- Dinner knife
- Other utensils – fish fork, cocktail fork, butter knife, steak knife, serving spoon, serving fork, slotted serving spoon, sugar spoon and more
For everyday dining, you can go with stainless steel flatware instead of the more expensive Sterling Silver sets. Stainless steel is an alloy of steel, nickel and chromium. Nickel provides the luster while chromium provides protection from heat, corrosion and stains. Stainless steel flatware is durable and retains its luster for many years. Stainless steel does not require any polishing and is dishwasher safe.
- Grade. 18/0, 18/8 and 18/10 are numbers you will encounter when buying flatware made of stainless steel. The first number represents the chromium content while the second is the nickel composition. 18/0 has no nickel in it and will most likely bend when forced to scoop hardened ice cream. The higher the nickel content the more durable the pieces and the shinier the finish. When you are looking for high quality stainless steel, always go for an 18/8 combination. This means that it is 18% chromium to 8% nickel. An 18/10 combination is good for less formal, more everyday use. Make sure to check the workmanship of the stainless steel flatware. Go for a set with smooth, buffed edges.
- Design or Pattern. Choose a design or pattern that matches your tableware, your dining room or your personality. There are many different patterns from a host of flatware manufacturers to choose from. From beaded to floral, traditional to contemporary, there is one pattern that will surely catch your fancy.
- Size. You should also compare the stainless steel flatware based on their size. Place size is commonly used in the US and is smaller than Dinner size flatware. The dinner knife and fork are larger in Dinner size flatware when compared against Place size flatware. Continental flatware, which is commonly used in countries in Europe, has the largest pieces.
- Settings. Five-piece place settings are the most common set of flatware. It may also include serving spoons and forks, butter knives, a carving knife, sugar spoons and a cake server. Compare the place settings of different sets of flatware so you can decide which one will suit your dining needs. Twelve place settings is a good number to start with. For larger families or if you entertain often, purchase larger place settings.
- Budget. Apart from the grade, the cost of the flatware is determined by the design, the number of pieces in the set as well as the manufacturer. Some of the top brands are Oneida, Gorham, Lenox, Wallace and Rogers. Compare different sets of flatware based on what these factors. Then purchase one that is within your budget.
Stainless steel flatware, when cared for properly, can last a long time. Choose a set based on the grade, pattern, size and number of settings that is within your budget. Hold the pieces in your hand to get a feel for it. Your flatware should be comfortable to hold, not too heavy and not too bulky. It should enhance your dining experience and complement all the other elements on the dinner table.