When purchasing flatware for your restaurant or commercial kitchen, the two most important factors to consider are the type of stainless steel the flatware is made from and the weight of the flatware you want to buy.
18/10 vs. 18/0 Stainless Steel
All flatware is made of stainless steel, but not all types of stainless steel are the same. The term “stainless” is actually a misnomer because stainless steel does in fact stain and rust over time. Most stainless steel is mixed with other metals like chromium and nickel to improve durability and rust resistance.
The amount and type of metals added to the steel affects your flatware’s performance and cost:
18/0 flatware contains 18% chromium and 0% nickel. The chromium forms a thin layer over the steel, making it stronger. 18/0 flatware is more affordable than 18/10 flatware but stains and rusts more easily and isn’t as shiny.
18/10 flatware has 18% chromium and 10% nickel. The nickel gives the flatware a bright shine and is less susceptible to staining and rust.
Flatware is also made in different weight classes. The heavier the weight, the sturdier the flatware, but also the more expensive it will be. There are four common weights:
Medium weight flatware. Also known as “economy weight,” this flatware is easily bendable and has a relatively short lifespan. It is, however, very affordable compared to other types of flatware. This type of flatware is ideal for restaurants where flatware is frequently lost.
Heavy Duty flatware. This flatware is probably the most common. It is much sturdier than medium weight flatware but can still be bent by hand.
Extra Heavy Duty flatware. This is the heaviest weight flatware and is by far the strongest. Heavier duty flatware costs more up front but lasts longer and is less prone to breaking or bending.
European Style flatware. European dinner knives and dinner forks are about a third heavier and a third larger than normal heavy duty flatware. This type of flatware is most commonly found in high end restaurants.
Caring For Flatware
Flatware is a large up-front expense for any restaurant or commercial kitchen, but at least once you purchase flatware, especially if it’s heavier duty, it will last a long time. However, improper care can cause flatware to tarnish or rust and reduce its usable lifespan. A few simple care techniques can help maximize your flatware investment:
Pre-Soak your flatware for about 10 minutes before washing. Pre-soaking for longer times isn’t recommended as this encourages rust to start forming. If possible, remove food bits manually with a soapy sponge or a pre-rinse. Don’t use an abrasive pad as this scratches the finish and encourages rust to start developing. Washing flatware as soon as possible after it has been used is ideal to help prevent tarnishing.
Use flatware holders to store and transport flatware. Do not use aluminum or metal pans for pre-soaking or transporting your flatware because the metals interact with chlorine in the water and speed the oxidization (or rusting) of stainless steel.
Use a high temperature dishwasher to wash flatware. Most restaurants and commercial kitchens already have a high temp dishwasher to meet NSF regulations. However, if you don’t, avoid using chlorine or bleach products to sanitize stainless flatware as these chemicals will damage it.
It’s also recommended to use a scale inhibitor filter on the water line to your dishwasher. A scale inhibitor removes minerals from the water, preventing harmful buildups on your flatware.
Dry flatware quickly. As soon as possible after washing your flatware, dry it and store it where it will stay dry. Wetness is the friend of rust and therefore the enemy of your flatware. Most commercial dishwashers have a drying cycle, but this doesn’t always get flatware completely dry. It’s a good idea to wipe down your flatware after it comes out of the dishwasher.
Don’t use abrasive detergents or materials. Whenever you clean flatware, avoid anything abrasive that will score or scratch the stainless steel surface. Those scratches penetrate the thin film coating of chromium and nickel on your flatware that protects the steel from rusting and tarnishing.