For years, when it came to setting an elegant dining table, sterling silver or silver-plated flatware was all that was used. Most people get their fine dining utensils at the time of marriage, or through an inheritance from a loved one. All those sterling or silver-plated pieces can be / are quite beautiful, but beside being expensive, you have to periodically clean them, as they have a tendency to tarnish.
When we were kids, my mother used her set of Rogers silver-plate flatware for eight, that was a wedding gift. It came out of its felt lined mahogany box 3 times a year, right before dining. All the knives, forks and spoons had to be polished because while not in use they had all blackened. I remember, after a certain age, taking the silver polish and a cloth and running over it, so the Rogers would be gleaming at dinner time.
Years late, when I had started hosting dinners for family and friends, the idea of getting a proper set of flatware was a must. Being a busy person, and not wanting the maintenance of cleaning flatware to serve 12, instead of looking at silver-plate or sterling silver (and sterling now costs a fortune), I looked into high quality polished stainless steel.
Before making any kind of purchase I made the rounds; I looked through many stores that sold tableware products in my area (the Capital District of Albany, NY) and also venturing down to New York City to see what they had to offer.
I am a person who likes to self-educate, so I asked a lot of questions, the same questions over and over, everywhere I went, to see if different people gave me the same, or different responses. If I find a similarity of answers, I’m more prone to believe what they are saying.
I looked at flatware in all price points from the medium to extremely high. What I had found was that in both the medium and high-end stores, when it pertained to polished stainless steel cutlery, both were offering flatware called 18/10.
The numbers 18/10 refer to the amount of Chromium (first number) and Nickel (second number) used in the metal that makes up that piece of flatware. Chromium is a hard metallic substance that increases product hardness and durability, provides brilliant luster and ease of maintenance. Nickel is a silvery metallic element that resists corrosion.
Stainless steel flatware comes in three numeric categories: 18/10, 18/8 and 18-0. 18/10 has the most shine and durability, whereas 18/0 has the least shine, zero nickel content, has an inexpensive price point and is subject to staining.
When buying flatware, don’t order it on-line, from catalogs, or through home shopping on TV unless you know its exact name and have looked at, and handled it in true life.
Flatware comes in two sizes: Standard and European model sizes. European flatware is generally bigger and heavier than standard silverware.
When buying flatware, you want to pick it up to see if it is balanced and feels comfortable in your hand. Look for it to be evenly weighted from one end to another. You don’t want a spoon with a heavy bowl, but a light shaft. Secondly think about how its handle feels in your hand. Pretend to bring it up to your mouth to eat with it. By doing that, you will see how it feels as you maneuver it through space. Sometimes a very modern simple styled piece might have a handle/shaft that looks stylish in a picture, but is awkward to eat with. On the flip side, a very wide or decorative handle might not be comfortable holding for long periods. If you are buying thin handled flatware, make sure it is at least thick enough so as not to poke through the bottom of the cutlery basket in your dishwasher. When looking at knives, make sure there is a good edge on them for cutting through any texture of meat. Also, run your fingers over the handle and eating part of the flatware to feel for smoothness.
When picking a pattern for flatware, sometimes less is more. Look for flatware that is not overly sculptural / decorative, because it will be competing with your dishes, table-cloth, table runner, napkins and table top decorations. Even the grandest of flatware silhouettes come in a pattern that is toned down somewhat.
18/10 stainless steel flatware can tarnish a bit. Most often it happens when a person uses a dish washing soap that has lemon as part of its base. The citric acid of the lemon affects the stainless steel. If you see the brilliance going a bit, touch up your flatware with a good quality stainless steel polish made for flatware, and look for a non-lemon dish washing soap or dish washer liquid.
Good quality, as well as everyday eating utensils should be stored in drawers with some kind of divider in them. Stack like sized forks and spoons one on top of another, and try to place knives so their blades don’t bump / rub up against each other, which could cause scratching.
So there you have it, my recommendation for buying flatware that is both stylish, sturdy and easy to maintain. The 18/10 flatware I purchased more than 15 years ago is still looking great, and I love it. Over the years I’ve read things about how products and quality of construction changes so shop carefully. All I have to say now is Bon Appetit Friends and enjoy your new flatware.
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