How to shop for flatware
While we’ve outlined top picks above that hopefully make shopping for flatware effortless, here is some guidance from experts about what to look for when you’re on the hunt for flatware, along with what we considered when choosing our top picks.
Narrow down your options before shopping
With so many options out there, it helps to start by deciding how many pieces you need and what your budget is. You should expect to pay upwards of $300 to outfit your home with a high-quality set with many pieces, but you can go as low as $30 if you’re selective about the number and type of utensils you need.
No matter your budget, Whitmore recommends looking for products that contain the core five utensils. “When shopping for flatware, you want to be sure each set comes with a dinner knife, dinner fork, salad fork, dinner spoon, and teaspoon; this will cover everything you’ll need,” said Whitmore. “I prefer to plan for large gatherings, so I like to buy sets of at least eight but often 10 or 12. It’s never a bad idea to have extra because items like spoons are used more often (for cereal, coffee, etc).”
Next, decide if you want to buy individual pieces (also known as open stock), pieces by the place setting, or a box set that typically comes with service for four, six, eight, or 12 people. Here is some more information about each type:
Open stock: Buying individual pieces, also known as open stock, is great if you’re missing only a couple of utensils, if you’re a college student, or if you live alone and only need a few pieces. It’s also a great option if you’re looking for a temporary or easily replaceable flatware, like if you need to stock a rental property you own or if you have extra mouths to feed for a special occasion. However, many open stock items aren’t the most durable, so they may not last as long, especially if you’re using them every day.
By the place setting: If you buy flatware by the place setting, each box usually comes with five pieces: a dinner fork, salad fork, a dessert spoon, a soup spoon, and a dinner knife. This is a great option if you want to choose the number of place settings to suit your household (since box sets usually come in set quantities), if you want to replace missing or damaged flatware, or would like a few extra place settings for backup when hosting guests. A quality product typically runs between $30 to $50 per setting.
Box sets: You’ll get more bang for your buck if you invest in a box set. A box set comes in services from four to up to 12 people (some retailers even have service for up to 16 people), and features the same five pieces found in individual place settings. A box set with service for four typically has 20 total pieces, a set for service for eight typically has 40 pieces, and so on. The sets for service for 12 or more also usually come with a “hostess set” — extra serveware like solid and slotted serving spoons, a meat fork, and soup ladle that match the design of the flatware. A box set is especially useful if you have a family of at least four people or often host dinner for a large number of guests.
Select a reputable company
Regardless of whether you opt for open stock or box sets, experts said you’ll get the best results by selecting products from a known brand. “When shopping for flatware, always buy from a reputable flatware company,” said Jefferson Mack, flatware and metal product designer with mackmetal.com. “You want to make sure you can buy replacements 10 years down the road.” These companies are also usually forthcoming about materials and manufacturing methods, offer longer warranties, and have robust customer service. All the picks in our guide are vetted by experts, come with at least a 25-year warranty, or are produced by a well-known flatware brand that has been in business for at least 50 years.
Shop in person, if you can
To get a good feel for flatware, it’s best if you can check out sets in person to see if the pieces are comfortable to hold and fit your aesthetic. “I have found that many modern patterns can have huge dinner forks and spoons,” said Marian Parsons, artist and founder of Mustard Seed Interiors. “If possible, see a complete place setting in person to make sure the size feels right to you.” If you do decide to shop online, make sure you buy from a reputable retailer that has a robust return policy, since you won’t be able to evaluate the comfort and weight of your flatware until you try it out.