What Are Serving Plates? (Everything You Need To Know With Examples)

What are serving plates? If you are often setting dinner tables for different occasions, you probably know what these plates are. But there is more to these serving dishes than you already know.

Serving plates are a type of tableware that you use to present and serve food. They can be a buffet plate, platter, dinner plate, salad bowl, or dessert plate. Every type of serving plate serves its function. 

Moreover, there are several serving plates used today. That said, you must know these types as well as their functions. 

What Are Serving Plates And Their Different Types/Examples?

Serving plates always come in handy, whether you have a simple family dinner, serving dishes, or hosting a group meal. You may not need to know the different types of serving plates when attending an informal meal. But if you are in an event, you need to be aware of these ceramic plates’ different styles and uses. 

Knowing the different serving plates will save you from embarrassment when you attend a formal event where tableware is different from what you always use. 

But since so much tableware falls on the serving plate category, knowing them all is a bit overwhelming. We have compiled some of the commonly used ones that you need to know to make things easier.

But before that, you first need to know what serving plates are.

What Are Serving Plates?

Serving plates are any dishware that people use for setting the table, dining, and serving food. It includes:

  • appetizer plate
  • dinner plate
  • dessert plate
  • soup bowl
  • saucier

Service plates are also called charger plates. You can commonly find them at full-course dinners and events like weddings and parties. 

Moreover, this tableware has been used since the 19th century. 

Types Of Serving Plates

what are serving plates
Serving plates come in many different designs from around the world.

To help you better understand what serving plates are, here are six of the most common types/examples that you will find in formal and informal dinners. 

1. Appetizer Plate

An appetizer plate is available in different sizes, starting from 17cm. Most appetizer plates have curved tips. However, they do not have an indentation. 

Appetizer plates are also similar to bread and butter plates. The only difference is that an appetizer plate is slightly bigger than the bread and butter plate. You can use this serving plate for serving cheeses and fruits.

2. Dinner Plate

It is a type of serving plate used for main courses. A dinner plate usually measures 11 to 12 inches across. Usually coming out after the salad, a dinner plate is the most used plate during an entire meal. 

In addition, this plate typically rests above the charger. 

3. Dessert Plate

You will often find the dessert plate both in formal and informal banquets. What are serving plates? If you know, you probably know that dessert plate or luncheon plate has a very diverse function. You can use it to serve snacks, appetizers, and of course, desserts. 

Moreover, this example of a serving plate is only approximately 18cm in diameter. You can often find it at weddings, parties, and many other events. 

4. Soup Plate or Bowl

A soup plate or soup bowl has a different shape from other types of serving dishes. The reason is that you use it to serve watery food like soup. So, its form, which has an arch at the top, follows its primary function as a container for soup. 

But it is essential to note that the soup bowl for formal and informal dinners differ. Soup bowls for formal dinners are usually shorter than for informal ones. 

5. Salad Plate

If you know what serving plates are, you probably noticed that dinner plates and salad plates look very similar. 

A salad plate is a specific tableware for serving salads. It is characterized by a round shape and two different sizes. The large one is about 22cm, and the small size is approximately 20cm. 

Salad plates look similar to dinner plates. However, the salad plate is smaller than a dinner plate. Still, it is relatively large and can hold a massive portion of salad. 

6. Bread and Butter Plate

As the name suggests, the bread and butter plate or BnB has the purpose of serving bread and butter. People also know it as the quarter plate or side plate. The reason is that you will always find it beside the fork.

Moreover, the BnB plate generally has a round shape which has a diameter of about 15cm.  

7. Saucier

What are serving plates? If we are talking about the formal ones, the saucier is an example that you will usually see. 

You will commonly find a saucier at formal dinners. It has a boat shape and has the purpose of containing sauces, such as gravy. The saucier also sits on a matching plate that catches drips. 

8. Tureen

A tureen is the formal version of the soup bowl. It is usually used for serving large portions of stews and soups that guests can share. So, a tureen is a serving bowl for soup that allows hosts to serve multiple guests at a table. 

Moreover, Louis XIV, who had a fondness for rich stews, popularized the use of tureen. This serving plate became a symbol of wealth during the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe. 

9. Finger Bowl

If you know what serving plates are, you are probably asking whether you should consider the finger bowl as a serving plate. This question is understandable since it does not function as a plate for serving food. 

Finger bowls are popular during the Victorian era. During formal meals, each guest has a finger bowl filled to rinse their finger before the host serves the final dinner course. The bowl contains warm water and sometimes has a few flower petals or a slice of lemon. 

People regularly used finger bowls back then. But now, it is only prevalent in some cultures. 

10. Cream Soup Bowl

A cream soup bowl has a similar purpose to a soup bowl. The only difference is that the cream soup bowl’s purpose is for serving creamy, thick soup. 

Moreover, a serving bowl typically has handles on each side. Guests can hold the bowl on its handles and tip it so that they can consume all its content.

The Different Materials Used For Making Serving Plates

serving plates at banquet

Suppose you are shopping for a set of serving plates. In that case, it is essential to note that there are different materials used for making tableware. Therefore, you must consider other factors when searching for the most appropriate serving plates for your events. 

Knowing the materials used for tableware is as crucial as understanding what are serving plates. The reason is that these materials have different costs and quality. 


Ceramic is one of the most common materials used for producing serving plates. Artisans make serving plates out of ceramic by heating clay to a very high temperature and then hardening it. 

Plates made out of ceramic are not too dense and absorb more water than porcelain.

Moreover, porcelain is a general term for any tableware made from clay. Ceramic plates are rigid, durable, corrosion-resistant, and tough. However, it chips when it receives an impact. 

If you have pure and traditional ceramic tableware, you can safely use it in an oven or microwave when reheating dishes.

Ceramic has two types:

  • Earthenware
  • Porcelain

Earthenware is softer and more fragile than other types of ceramic. The reason is that manufacturers use a lower temperature to make it. It is also a bit porous, thick, and heavy. 

Earthenware is less expensive than other ceramic plates but is easily chippable.

On the other hand, porcelain plates are very hard since artisans expose them to high temperatures. It is translucent and white. Just like any ceramic, it can be fragile if exposed to thermal and physical shock. 

Furthermore, ceramic is generally the most popular when talking about what are serving plates. 

China Dinnerware

This tableware material is among the most commonly used ones when it comes to serving plates. People who know what are serving plates are probably aware that chinaware is expensive. It comes in different colors, styles, and shapes. 

You can use china dinnerware for both formal and casual dining setups. Its raw material is a fine-particle clay exposed to high temperatures, making it non-porous and highly durable. 

In addition, china dinnerware is easy to color and shape and is less susceptible to bacteria. Since it is non-porous, chinaware serving plates are relatively easy to clean. It is also generally oven, microwave, and dishwasher safe. 

Melamine Dinnerware

Melamine serving plates are a popular and less expensive alternative to chinaware. The reason is that they have the same appeal. 

You will commonly find melamine serving plates in casual dinners. It is available in a variety of shapes, colors, and styles.

These serving plates have a plastic material, making them lightweight yet sturdy and almost indestructible. If you are having a casual dinner or less formal events with guests who will bring kids, melamine serving plates are ideal. The reason is that they will not break even when someone accidentally drops them. 

However, it would be best if you never used melamine in an oven or microwave. The composition of this material discharges chemicals when exposed to high temperatures. Although melamine plates will not melt at extreme temperatures, their surface will leach out harmful chemicals that are unsafe when consumed. 

Furthermore, melamine dinnerware is dishwasher safe as long as the water temperature exceeds 140 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Stone Dinnerware

When discussing serving plates, you will find out that stone dinnerware is one of the most classic yet modern choices.

Stone serving plates are similar to earthenware in the sense that they both consist of refined clay. But what makes stoneware different is that it consists of some glass material that gives it more strength and durability. Stoneware is more refined than earthenware, making it dishwasher and microwave safe. 

Compared to chinaware which is pure white, stoneware has an off-white appearance, so it is ideal for fine dining and casual meals. In addition, people consider it as a mid-range serving plate due to its price, weight, and durability. 

Glass Dinnerware

Just like chinaware, glass serving plates are durable and non-porous. Most glass serving plates today are opaque. Still, some manufacturers create transparent ones. 

Vitrified glassware is safe to use in the oven, microwave, and dishwasher. It is virtually indestructible, so it is unlikely for such glassware to break even when you drop it onto a hard floor. 

Due to their durability, glass serving plates are ideal for child-friendly meals

How To Choose Serving Plates

What are serving plates? Once you know the types and the materials used for making them, the next thing you should do is choose your dinnerware. You have different options when selecting serving plates.

If you are having a hard time selecting the type you’ll purchase, you need to consider various factors, such as your personal needs. That said, here are the types of serving plates that you can choose from:

Formal Dinnerware

You will often find formal dinnerware in place settings. That includes all the pieces that a single person would need when dining. 

Formal dinnerware is ideal for people who are building a collection or are often hosting banquets. Most place settings include five traditional dinnerware pieces: 

  • dinner plate
  • bread and butter plate
  • salad or dessert plate
  • soup bowls
  • teacup and saucer

Dinnerware Sets

Dinnerware sets consist of several place settings to complete an entire table. The most common dinnerware sets are 20-piece sets, which is already enough to host four people. 

20-piece dinnerware sets usually come with a dinner plate, salad plate, teacup, and saucer for every setting. 

Open Stock

With open stock, you can purchase dinnerware in individual pieces. This choice is ideal if you want to mix and match serving plates in your collection. Open stock is also a perfect choice if you only need a few pieces.

Tips For Setting The Table

a formal place setting

True enough, knowing what serving plates are is essential. However, it is equally essential that you know how to set the table properly. This way, you can always make sure that you have enough dinnerware set up for your guests.

In addition, knowing how to set up a table will ensure that you will not set your serving plates too boldly or dull. 

Make sure you have enough dinnerware for guests.

According to experts, it is ideal to have eight to 12 five-piece settings. This way, you will ensure that you have enough dinnerware set for hosting events and general use. 

If you are purchasing two sets — one for casual and one for formal — it is ideal for getting four to six casual place settings. For the traditional place settings, 12 settings should be enough.

Still, the number of place settings you need to purchase will depend on the size of your family, how frequently you entertain guests, and how much storage space you have. 

Go for white dinnerware.

If you want serving plates that work for both formal and casual settings, you should purchase white serving plates. You may think that white dinnerware may look too plain. However, you can always decorate the table with a variety of accessories. For instance, you can use elegant placemats, linens, and chargers. 

In addition, you can use other accessories, such as napkins, if you want to add personality and color to a neutral table. White serving plates will always match whatever accessories you add, so you will not have any trouble matching things up.

Knowing what serving plates are, how to arrange them, and how to decorate your table will help you make your banquet looking great. 

Take space into consideration.

One of the things you need to do when purchasing serving plates is the amount of storage space you have. Serving plates come in many pieces, so insufficient space can be a problem when the pieces are not used. 

It is not enough that you know the answer to what are serving plates. Instead, it is also crucial that you assess other factors, like the storage space. This way, you can ensure that you will safely keep these plates when they are not in use. 

Knowing how much storage space you have will help you decide whether to get a set that can work for casual and formal settings or two sets for each occasion.

 Caring for serving plates.

Since you know what serving plates are, you also know that some of their materials are porous and can chip with impact. That said, you need to know how you should take care of your dinnerware so that it can last for a long time. 

Additionally, knowing how to care for your serving plates will allow you to keep them looking great. 

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