We Tracked Down the Best Flatware Sets So All You Have to Do Is Plan the Menu
Our budget buy is just $20 for 20 pieces.
Updated Dec 20, 2022 10:30 AM
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It’s true that if your forks can poke and your spoons can scoop, they are technically getting the job done. But there comes a moment in every person’s life when the hodgepodge of mismatched utensils from college, Target, and that roommate who moved out has to go. Whether you’re eating a four-course feast or a morning egg, there’s so much more to the dining experience than just the mechanics: The way a great set of flatware looks on your table and feels in your hand might just be the secret ingredient your meals have been missing.
With seemingly endless options and often no way to see or touch pieces before buying, shopping for chic cutlery online is is like blindly choosing a restaurant to eat at in a town you’ve never been to. That’s why we’ve scoured the market, chatted with experts, and narrowed our list down to the seven best flatware sets for several styles and price points. All that’s left for you to do is pick one, find a recipe, and set the table in style.
The Best Flatware Sets
- Best overall: Crate & Barrel Uptown Flatware Set
- Best deal: IKEA Dragon Flatware Set
- Best vintage: Pottery Barn Vintage Hotel Flatware Set
- Best bistro: Sabre Bistrot Flatware
- Best gold: Schoolhouse Elevated Flatware
- Best black: CB2 Essence Brushed Black Flatware Set
- Best multicolored: Mepra Fantasia Flatware Set
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Crate & Barrel Uptown Flatware Set
Neither too modern nor too ornate, this set charmed our style editor so much that she brought it home herself. Subtly tapered, slender handles complement contemporary faces, and a mirror finish elevates the versatile look. Solidly made with 18/10 stainless steel, these are dishwasher safe and relatively durable (just avoid citrus-scented detergents, the brand notes). The 20-piece set provides everything you need for five full place settings. “We originally bought our eight place settings of Uptown flatware seven years ago. Even after countless runs through the dishwasher, each piece continues to shine as beautifully as when we first began to use it,” one commenter notes. “We have just added four more place settings to accommodate additional guests. The style transitions easily from casual to elegant.”
Best Deal: IKEA Dragon Flatware Set
Anyone whose knee-jerk reaction is to label IKEA flatware as cheap has likely never picked up the Dragon set. There’s a reason it’s been a part of the Scandinavian home retailer’s repertoire for 30-plus years—multiple reviewers confirm their personal set has lasted a decade or more, surviving everything from first apartment moves to years of dinner party guests. Tap this inexpensive troupe for casual, daily occasions—the streamlined design won’t clutter your kitchen drawers or feel too heavy in hand. In fact, numerous reviewers are delighted about how lightweight yet sturdy the utensils are (i.e., they don’t feel cheap, even though each amounts to a buck of the $20 total).
Best Vintage: Pottery Barn Vintage Hotel Flatware Set
If you’re committed to antiquated cutlery, but not so much the search for it, this eclectic set from Pottery Barn delivers heirloom quality straight from western Europe. Each shipment of this five-piece set is different, amounting in an accumulation of artful odds and ends that still complement one another. The only consistency is in what you get: one silver-plated knife, dinner fork, salad fork, soup spoon, and dessert spoon. We’d anticipate looking forward to ornate handle patterns, brushed polishes, and unique silhouettes.
Best Bistro: Sabre Bistrot Flatware
Sabre is an editor favorite—we adore the unpretentious charm of this classic bistro-style flatware. Made in France, the utensils feature an unexpected brushed stainless steel finish and durable riveted handles made with your choice of dishwasher-safe acrylic or teak. Go with black or ivory if you’re feeling timeless, or tortoise for a look that’s très éclectique; no matter which you choose, all promise to effortlessly pair with a casual meal or fancy setting. Yes, the price tag is undeniably steep, but this splurge-worthy set is what dinnerware dreams are made of.
Best Gold: Schoolhouse Elevated Flatware
Mining the Internet for glamorous (but not gaudy) gold flatware could be a time-consuming task, but this made-in-Portugal set is an easy buy. The perfectly warm metallic hue in a matte finish is paired up with a tastefully simple shape that we’re confident will make every bite feel all the more rich. That brassy appearance is actually 18/10 stainless steel coated in ceramic, which helps reduce the appearance of abrasions—they’ll last just as long as your heirloom dinner plates, especially if you store them in the linen, fabric-lined box they’re packaged in (very giftable, too, in our opinion).
Best Black: CB2 Essence Brushed Black Flatware Set
This CB2 exclusive set gets its edgy vibes from textural handles and an onyx colorway. Add in the weighty 18/10 stainless steel construction and we wholeheartedly agree with the commenter who proclaims it’s simply “the best black silverware set” they found. Another gushes, “They wash beautifully and are seamless with no cracks or crevices. I love that the knives are really almost sharp enough to be used as steak knives. The set is just super-comfortable to handle and looks great.” We’re also into how it contrasts a brushed look with glossy heads, which adds a bit of reflective flair.
Best Multicolored: Mepra Fantasia Flatware Set
Why settle for one bold hue when you can have a whole pastel color palette at your disposal? Break from tradition with these lively sets by Italian flatware stalwart Mepra. Colorful resin handles cover stainless steel frames that taper at the neck, and one commenter describes them as “joyful dining” companions. Another writes, “I love this set of sleek and beautiful flatware. I got the assorted sea colors and they harmonize beautifully. They have definitely updated the look of my place settings. In times of woe, it’s little things like this that lift your day.” Food52 sells the Fantasia collection in sets of 5, 20, 30, 40, and 60, so pick your favorite, or mix and match warm, cool, and neutral tones depending on what’s for dinner.
Our Shopping Checklist
Stainless steel was discovered in 1913 and has been the go-to for everyday dining ever since, thanks to its durability, stain resistance, and dishwasher-safe unfussiness. Traditional silverware is made from sterling silver, the same material used to fashion jewelry; it’s usually a much pricier investment than silver-plated flatware, which typically consists of a copper core coated in sterling silver. Both are known to tarnish and require polishing, but actually can be dishwasher safe. Just be sure to rinse thoroughly and avoid washing with other metals and detergents that contain citrus or lemon scents. The acidity can cause a chemical reaction with sterling or stainless steel, damaging and tarnishing the pieces.
Flatware is usually sold by place setting—that is, all the utensils one person needs for their spot at the table. A single five-piece setting typically includes a salad fork, dinner fork, knife, tablespoon, and teaspoon. A box set, which bundles multiple place settings, can be a more affordable option; the most common is 20 pieces, which covers a table for four.
While there is such a thing as classic etiquette, there’s something to be said for personal style. “There are no rules when it comes to setting a table,” say Silvana Cure and Valerie Ortega, cofounders of modern tablescape rental service Pleit. “Use your creativity and play with what you have at home.”
But if you’re looking for a few guidelines, they recommend asking yourself what mood you want your table to convey. Do you prefer elegant affairs? Go with a classic stainless steel design. Are you a frequent pizza partyer? Be casual by adding color or acrylic handles. Then match the color and materials of your flatware to the serveware (bowls, dishes, trays) it will be keeping company with. This visual consistency will leave room for you to mix things up with accessories like tablecloths, napkins, and florals.
Q: How do you set flatware on a table?
Forks go to the left of your plate; knives and spoons sit on the right. Place each piece in the order it will be used, starting from the outside and moving in. (P.S. All our other tips on how to set a table are right this way.)
Q: What’s the best quality of stainless steel flatware?
Stainless steel is an alloy, or blend of multiple metals. When it comes to flatware, the grades 18/10, 18/8, and 18/0 refer to the percentage of chromium and nickel present in the steel. The higher the percentage of nickel (the second number in the fraction), the better. Why? Nickel improves the shine, weight, and resistance to corrosion. Thus 18/10 stainless steel is the best-quality flatware to invest in. But according to Cure and Ortega, “Other ratios are not bad, they are just more susceptible to oxidation and rust if they are not handled and washed correctly.”