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Flatware alternatives

HI all-

There are many forums on which stainless steel flatware to buy but I haven't found much on alternatives to stainless steel. I read that stainless steel is both reactive and corrosive, has some properties that can change the flavor of foods (true?) and, I know, holds heat for a long time. Plus, the 18/10 Oneida stuff I bought 3 years ago looked great out of the package but now is faded, has scratches and hardly seems presentable.

I always like the ceramic spoons I get at Asian restaurants and even the single use wooden chopsticks seem to feel better in the mouth. So, is there any sort of flatware out there made of wood or something othere stainless steel that someone would recommend?

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  1. I've got 18/10 stainless flatware that's probably ten years old and goes in the DW all the time and still looks good. I don't know about reactivity.

    1. I had some bronze flatware once, but it needed hand washing. Looked fabulous with my Blue Willow plates, I'll give it that.

      Seriously, stainless steel is one of the most durable materials for flatware and serving ware. Like c oliver noted about hers, my 6 year old flatware still looks great. Yes, it's got some scratches, but it's certainly not faded.

      FWIW, stainless steel is prized for being non-reactive.

      1. I've been using the same Oneida Community stainless for about 45 years, and can't relate to what you are writing. I also have basic bamboo chopsticks which I've had almost as long. If you want wooden utensils, I suggest you just use those.

        9 Replies
        1. re: GH1618

          Good point- bamboo chopsticks are infinitely reusable and washable in the dishwasher. After a year or so if they get stained you can use them for your gardening. They have lots of uses.

          1. re: EWSflash

            The fancy enameled ones make excellent hair picks. I used to wind my wet hair into a bun-type thing, stick a pair of pretty chopsticks through it, and head to work. It would stay perfect all day long.

            1. re: DuffyH

              i know -- and there are some beautiful designs! ;-).

              1. re: alkapal

                And if you have a teeny-tiny drill bit, drill a hole in the thick end, and you've got a place to hang all those orphan earrings you can't bear to throw away...

            2. re: EWSflash

              EWSflash, good point about the bamboo. I wonder if they make fork, knife, spoon out of bamboo? Hmmm, I new point of research here. Thank you.

                1. re: DuffyH

                  Hi DuffyH-

                  I finally bought some bamboo utensils albeit not the ones listed above but some from my local specialty kitchen store here in Portland, Maine- LeRoux Kitchen.

                  The mouthfeel is incredible, the taste of my food seems enhanced (or maybe just entirely natural being unadultered by stainless steel) and an added bonus (that has probably become my favorite feature) is that bamboo doesn't hold heat or cold like stainless does. This means that when eating soup the utensil doesn't trap heat and burn the lips or tongue and when eating, say, ice cream the spoon isn't frigid and unpleasant to the touch.

                  Here's the only problem: the bamboo grains have started to fray a bit. I assume from washing. They were relatively inexpensive to buy so it's not a huge deal. The other thing is they are shaped kinda weird. Oblong, kind of more utilitarian than pleasant. I'm willing to make that trade though for now. Still hoping something better pops up.

                  1. re: spection

                    I'm glad you like the bamboo. Try treating it with a beeswax and mineral oil cream. Food safe, it will help the utensils last longer.

                    Even a simple mineral oil rub will from time to time will help.

                    1. re: spection

                      Without rereading the entire thread, it occurs to me that I don't think anyone suggested melamine or nylon utensils. Are those something you'd use?

              1. I have had Oneida Community stainless for 35 years and my mother's stainess is at least 55 years old, all in great shape even though it has all been in the dishwasher. They both have a satin finish which does hide the scratches and they probably have now developed their own patina of life. I have seen stainless rust but it was a lower grade. I have some silver too but it is much more reactive.

                1. I'm a sucker for quirky flatware... have 3-4 different sets that I rotate. Nothing really expensive and does just fine in dishwasher.

                  A few years back, when people still did "crafts", got into making wind chimes with old, silverplate pieces that I pounded flat, drill holes and strung together. Got my raw materials CHEAP on Ebay. One buy included a BIG lot of the same pattern... Patrician. Most of it looked in REALLY good shape... normal wear but none thru the silver plate. Spend a LOT of time cleaning the stuff up, but worth the time.

                  For a while I used the "silver" for everyday... even put in dishwasher. Only negative effect seemed to be the surface dulled and kinda yellowed over time and eventually need to be cleaned. Think I have at LEAST 12 place settings of at least 7-8 different pieces. A found silver chest keeps them from tarnishing completely. Flatware gets used occasionally. Niece likes to set my rarely used diningroom table with EVERYTHING around holiday plates.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: kseiverd

                    Silver in the dishwasher?!?!?!?!?!?!

                    We've, through inheritance and wedding gifts to my parents, got a full (8 person of each or so) set of silver plate and sterling silver cutlery (obviously excepting the blades of the knives). According to all the care and maintenance stuff, silver joins wood, good knife-blades, crystal glass, and some types of pans as the never-put-in-the-dishwasher-if-you-value-your-stuff list, because it tarnishes MUCH more rapidly than in the air. We use it everyday, hand-wash, and it needs a full polish (with electrolyte silver dip stuff) maybe once a year and a touch-up every six months for the forks (egg, in particular, does bad things to them). We don't bother with a silver chest, because it's everyday use. If it's gone to yellow then it's way too far down the tarnish route; if you start polishing as soon as it starts to dull, then it's easy to clean whereas full tarnish takes forever to remove. I agree with your niece - there's something special about dining off gleaming silverware that other metals just don't touch.

                    For the original purpose of the thread; try either silver plate cutlery or (better, but really expensive) sterling silver - definitely the best choice to eat with, just DON'T PUT IT IN THE DISHWASHER (Silver is generally as inert as it can be to the food (taste unchanged), just takes a slow oxidative tarnish, but that's accelerated by something in a dishwasher.) It's also bactericidal - look up some of the debates about use of a common cup at communion/eucharist/mass; when that's silver with wine, it's pretty much as hygienic as using individual ones... I suppose it's a little like using carbon steel knives - you love it for properties other than it's stain resistance, and learn to live with that - in the case of carbon steel by forcing a protective patina, in the case of silver by removing the tarnish as it forms, though that's a very slow process.

                    I find it much nicer to eat with than stainless, indeed it's spoilt me for other metals... Not sure about the dental work, since I don't have any, but my parents have plenty of it and like using the silver. Sterling tends to be lighter than stainless, due to cost reasons, so while it's a better conductor (you only grasp a silver ladle that's been left in boiling gravy once...) it doesn't hold heat/cold as much. That argument doesn't apply to plate, however.

                    1. re: DavidPonting

                      I see that you're pretty new to CH. If you're interested, you can find a TON of info here showing that putting sterling flatware in the DW isn't a problem. Not the topic for this thread but there's a lot here. Welcome.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        Since this has been brought up, whether it is a problem or not is a matter of opinion and what you want. You can find blurbs advocating both hand washing and using a dishwasher.

                        This is a great article about care of silver. He is on the side of not using a dishwasher but he writes from the perspective of a silver restorer and conservator.
                        Many people don't care of they have patina or not or even do not want it. (Chemicals dips will remove it too.) He has a picture to illustrate the difference in the look.
                        Others might not care about the value of silver as an antique or worry about what happens long term. It is always a good thing to educate yourself so that you can decide if it will matter to you or not.

                        1. re: wekick

                          Thanks, both! We're always hyper-careful of the silver, since it is mostly heirloom, so has sentimental value out of proportion with any commercial value. It's one of the things we checked before first installing a dishwasher, and that's where the strong prohibition came from. For the cutlery, we use dips, but then there's nothing that can really hold a patina for contrast as in his example. For the more ornamental things, then yes we just polish. It's good to know that any slip-up (of the spoon in dishwasher variety) wouldn't be disastrous, though I have ruined a silver plate one by using it to weight something that needed to be submerged in milton (mild sterilising for things like drinking bottles), and that turned it black! It came off with a good hard polish, but not something to be repeated...

                          1. re: DavidPonting

                            Yes you can hold the patina by using a gentle silver wash or polish. I think he recommends some in the article. I use Hagerty Silversmiths' Wash.

                  2. Just curious... what do you cook in if you're worried about reactivity and corrosion? Certainly not regular steel or aluminum...

                    BTW you can polish stainless! Something abrasive like Barkeeper's Friend, baking soda, or fine steel wool will work. Also soaking in some diluted vinegar will bring the polish out. When I started using vinegar in the rinse compartment of my dishwasher I noticed a big difference in the stainless steel.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: jaykayen

                      I would recommend using Bon Ami rather than Barkeeper's Friend to polish stainless steel—BF is more abrasive. I've used Bon Ami on my SS pots for ages, and they still look shiny and brand-new after a gentle polishing——no scratch marks.

                    2. Thanks for the great conversation here! In answer to Jaykayen, I use mostly non-PFOA ceramic cookware as well as cast iron. They really suit my sensibility about food and construction.

                      Part of the problem is dental work. My dentist reminded me that stainless steel and dental work, when an acid is present, literally creates a battery. I've tasted metal many times when eating foods, especially acidic ones. That why the ceramic knives are recommended for use with fruits and vegetables.

                      I guess, as well, the texture of metal seems incredibly unattractive and unpleasant in the mouth. Metal just doesn't belong in the mouth, it seems. I mean, I remember drinking from a stainless steel mug years ago when camping. I was drinking coffee and the metal was so hot and the coffee's flavor was most certainly tainted. Probably because of coffee's high acid content.

                      And, I should maybe look into the types of Oneida you all have because my style, Apex, looked shiny and reflective when I bought it, but now looks no where near the very same stuff I walk by in the store. Pitted, scratched, faded.

                      Anyhow, in lieu of being sold on how good Oneida is, I'd really be grateful if anyone had some suggestions about alternatives to stainless steel flatware- it's reactive with other materials, corrosive, holds heat and cold way too long, and is just plain gross in the mouth.

                      I'm thinking something more like Asians- ceramic, wood (safe, non-porous though). I'm hoping there's something out there other than chopsticks...

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: spection

                        stainless steel reacts with acids to create a battery? what???

                        1. re: alkapal

                          Galvanic reaction takes place between two dissimilar metals in an electrolyte (conducting medium). Stainless steel is low on the list of reactive metals. If you insist on nonreactive metal flatware, gold or platinum would be better.


                          1. re: GH1618

                            stainless steel is going to react with dental work to "create a battery" in the mouth - esp. when acidic food is present? the poster said "tastes metal":

                            """My dentist reminded me that stainless steel and dental work, when an acid is present, literally creates a battery. I've tasted metal many times when eating foods, especially acidic ones."""

                            i have a hard time buying what the dentist said. i cannot fathom that the "galvanic" reaction between SS and dental work is effected through acidic food (unless, perhaps, one is drinking lemon juice).

                            if this concept is true in the real word of someone's mouth (and not a theoretical reaction about generic dissimilar metals in an electrolyte), i'd recommend wooden chopsticks -- or buying a year's supply of plastic sporks! and/or replacing the dental work.

                            what kind of dental work is this we are actually talking about, spection?

                            1. re: alkapal

                              The galvanic effect with stainless steel is small. Obviously stainless steel flatware works well for most people, because it is nearly universal. Dental tend to be ceramic nowadays instead of amalgam, so they should not cause a problem.

                              A "metallic" taste is similar to a "salty" taste, which can have other causes.

                              1. re: GH1618

                                i think from looking at the other post from the poster that he/she has an issue with the feel of the metal itself, and seems to have some unusual heat sensitivity.

                                i used to have metal braces back in the day, but nowadays braces aren't metal. even then, i had no problem with flatware of any type.

                                1. re: alkapal

                                  What are they? Mine sure LOOK like metal :) And I'm quite ready for them to come off!

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    oops, i guess there is still some metal. but not like the old days, trust me.

                                    1. re: alkapal

                                      Gotta say that people of all ages get a kick out of this 66 y.o. in braces :)

                                  2. re: alkapal

                                    HI alkapal-

                                    I think you may be right about my maybe unique oral somatosensory reaction to stainless steel. I worry it may have been induced somewhat. This whole search for alternatives to stainless steel started last year when I was eating a plate of tomatoes I had just moments ago picked from my garden. I sliced them up (with a stainless steel knife) and then took a bite of one (unseasoned in any way) using a stainless steel fork. The result was a horrid flavor that I can best describe as metal-y and very unpleasant. It was immediately followed by sort of gut reaction to take the food out of my mouth which led to the fork scraping against my teeth. That feeling what awful. Cool metal on the enamel of my teeth! Ugh! It seemed almost instantaneous that I realized the absurdity of putting metal (I mean, really?! METAL?) in my mouth my whole life. I realized shortly thereafter that I loved my experiences in Asian restaurants (my family loves real Asian food profiles) with their wooden chopsticks and ceramic spoons. Since then I have hardly been able to eat with Stainless and have been searching for a better alternative. Western foods don't always jive well with chopsticks so I'm hoping this forward-looking and in-tune community can really help out!

                                    1. re: spection

                                      Many cultures eat with their fingers in combination with bread.

                                2. re: alkapal

                                  This is really true, because at one time I had a silver filling in my lower jaw and a gold inlay in the upper, directly above it, both of them in the chewing surfaces of molars. Well, one day I made some cranberry sauce, and when I bit down on one of these cooked cranberries right in between those two fillings, it actually gave me an electric shock! This hasn't happened since I changed to all gold inlays (and one porcelain). So, it's true, the two different kinds of metals in the presence of an acid liquid.
                                  And if the problem is stainless steel flatware in conjunction with silver amalgam fillings, then silver flatware would sound like a better thing to eat with. If the fillings are made of gold, then I don't know. But my dentist told me there was a bit of silver involved in the making or installation of a gold inlay. I'll have to try this. I hate that metallic taste; I get it all the time.

                            2. re: spection

                              What you are posting about has not been my experience. I've never had a "galvanic reaction" ever, and I've been eating with stainless for decades, almost all my life.

                              If you want ceramic, buy and use it. Or use chopsticks. But understand what you are concerned about, and any metallic taste, are not the general experience.

                              And, I remember a metallic taste from eating off worn out silver plated forks, but not with stainless, which is, as I understand it, non-reactive. See, it is used for top of the line cookware. It is advertised as non-reactive.

                            3. I'[ve had dishwasher detergent that has completely effed up my flatware and glassware. I use the Cascade platinum or something like that (supreme hooptie woo?) and that works well, but it was a Cascade pack that messed up all my dinnerware and glassware, beware what you buy. And for the record, the Cascade packs they have at Costco are the worst for putting film on my dishes with our water, which is NOT bad. I bought some "dishwasher helper" that seemed to help get rid of the residual film, but it pisses me off that I had to do anything that draconian, given that it was A) Cascade, carried by B)Costco, that messed up my dishes.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: EWSflash

                                And I use that product and have no problem whatsoever!

                                1. re: EWSflash

                                  try the finish Powerball, I get them at Costco, too. I have extremely hard water and nothing works better.

                                2. if you have 18/10 and it is ruined, i have no idea what you have been doing to it.

                                  one thing for sure, do not use lemon-scented dishwashing detergents. that'll darken your silverplate -- but i don't think it would affect SS.

                                  and i have no idea where you read that SS is reactive and corrosive.

                                  1. I bought Oneida stainless (Easton) about 25 years ago. I finally replaced that set with a nicer pattern from Yamazaki. My old Oneida did get pretty beat up over the time I had it, so I understand. But you've only had yours for 3 years?

                                    I recommend polishing it with either stainless polish or maybe Bon Ami.

                                    Don't use citrusy dishewashing detergent. If you have hard water, use one of the Finish ball things to decrease spotting. And you might have your dishwasher serviced to see if it is working properly, especially if it is over 10 years old.

                                    1. My stainless is more than 20 years old. I believe it's Reed & Barton, and I paid $100 for the whole set at that time. Still looks great.

                                      1. The Icarus Oneida flatware pattern is ours, but (and I have the volley of emails with Oneida just this year, if interested), the Oneida CSR stated in writing the nickle content was off due to price a few years ago. I researched the commodity and, well, I generally went off the deep end over this point - Oh, yes! It all began when their website was offering Icarus on clearance, but the numbers weren't jibing with mine.
                                        Also, on-site reviews indicated displeasure with durability from contemporary product lines...
                                        in a word, snag vintage or expect it to only last a short time, as in under 4 years.
                                        As for what to do, Matt & Angela Monarch, owners of The Raw Food World, show themselves dining with bamboo utensiles. They, of course, sell them on their (extensive) website, too.
                                        But, don't limit yourself to them as there are countless bamboo options, even disposable.
                                        As an aside, seeing as you have this sensitivity, perhaps you would be interested in trying a glass straw, rather than the popular metal versions, the better to get that spiulina-laden green smoothie into you without arriving at work with troll teeth. :-)
                                        The Raw Food World offers glass straws, too. So do other vendors.
                                        in no case would I suggest plastics os any type.
                                        Let us know what you discover to be best, won't you, please?

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: SusanaTheConqueress

                                          Wow ... that is just stunning that a well-known company with that kind of investment in their brand would screw around with their formula like that. But I guess that does explain the problem, and why 20 yo stainless is performing better than some only a few years old ...

                                        2. "Non-reactive" Stainless Steel Cookware and Utensils Question
                                          Stainless steel is non-reactive for most foods. But it does react with onion and garlic to remove those scents from your hands. Amazon sells a stainless steel "bar of soap" that removes onion and garlic odors from your hands.
                                          Rubbing stainless steel and water on onion or garlic scented hands removes the odors. You don't have to buy anything special, it also works with a stainless steel spoon.
                                          After seeing this, I have this question. When you saute or simmer onions or garlic in stainless steel cookware or stir or eat with a stainless steel spoon, is it removing flavor (onion or garlic) from your food?

                                          11 Replies
                                          1. re: Antilope

                                            This is what I learned from a few minutes with the Google Machine and the Interwebs. No one has done any research on this, but some people have proposed that it's the combination of SS + water that removes the odor. The theory is that the sulfur compounds in onions/garlic react with water to become sulfuric acid and that some molecules in the SS bind the acid. That's the theory, anyway.

                                            Does it affect cooking? I don't have a freakin' clue. It'd be easy enough to test. Have someone cook up equal amounts of onion + water in 2 pans, one made of SS. Transfer the watery onions to non-SS bowls. Have another person sniff the onions in the bowls to see if there's a difference.

                                            1. re: Antilope

                                              i just rub my hands on the kitchen's SS faucet. works like a charm!

                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                That makes me wonder if the stainless steel pot and ss utensils are doing the same to the onion soup, removing flavor or aroma?

                                                1. re: Antilope

                                                  i've never had any issue with making french onion soup in my SS pot.

                                                  or caramelized onions in my all-clad SS skillet.

                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                    I'll take the contrarian position here and ask how you'd know. Personally, I doubt it makes a difference, but it's an interesting question.

                                                    Maybe it's only in the raw state that SS removes the odor compounds; perhaps cooking changes the compounds into something else, as happens to so many foods.

                                                    1. re: DuffyH

                                                      I've carmelized onions in my stainless chef's pan and the flavor was very, very good.

                                                      1. re: sueatmo

                                                        I don't doubt it, sue. My pan of choice is a SS frypan. Still, unless we run a blind comparison, we'll never know if we're losing some flavor.

                                                        * Note that I remain in the SS is good camp until shown evidence that it's bad.

                                                        1. re: DuffyH

                                                          I don't think stainless steel is bad or dangerous. I just though it was an interesting effect about its reacting with onion, garlic and fish aromas to eliminate them from your hands. I was just wondering, how much flavor or aroma does it remove during ordinary cooking, serving and consumption? Probably not enough to make a major difference, but it must have some effect. If stored in the fridge in stainless for several days, does s.s. continue to react with onion/garlic/fish and decrease flavor? Just something to ponder. Not a major issue.

                                                          1. re: Antilope

                                                            I've not read about it removing fish odors. I can't think what fish and allium plants have in common that would cause them to react with SS.

                                                          2. re: DuffyH

                                                            What would you compare SS with in this "blind taste test"? Cast iron? Certainly not anodized aluminum or Teflon or anything like that, right?

                                                            1. re: translucent

                                                              I'd use the least reactive, Teflon. Better yet would be a Visions pan, or anything enameled.

                                                              I'd run two tests, one with water, no cooking, using two bowls, SS and glass. Then I'd run a cooking test.I suspect that even if odor compounds are removed in water, applying heat is a whole different animal, and might not exhibit any difference at all

                                              2. So much of the new "stainless" flatware seems cheaply made in China - it rust, yuk

                                                I have some old Oneida Community - its scratched, of course, because its used and that's what happens but otherwise is functional and attractive - it is a simple timeless pattern I imagine it will last me - I have an "everyday" set and a "good set" If I ever do need to buy flatware I like this company


                                                although I have not actually seen the product. Good quality stainless is pretty much as stable and durable as it comes with flatware - any utensil - metal, wood, bamboo, porcelain that gets as much use as flatware is bound to show wear and use. A good reason to have an everyday set and a good one I guess.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: JTPhilly

                                                  Make sure it is 18/10 or 18/8 stainless steel. If it doesn't state what it is, it may be 18/0, which will rust. Those two numbers refer to the amount of chrome and nickel that make up the stainless steel. This is not just a plating, this is the makeup of the stainless all the way through.
                                                  Explanation about stainless steel numbers from Ebay:
                                                  "The first number is the amount of chromium that is contained in the stainless, i.e., 18 is 18% chromium.
                                                  The second number is the amount of nickel, i.e., 8 stands for 8% nickel.
                                                  So 18/8 means that this stainless steel contains 18% chromium and 8% nickel.
                                                  18/10 is 18% chromium and 10% nickel. The higher the numbers the more corrosion resistant the material.
                                                  18/0 is a misleading designation due the fact there is no nickel in 18/0."