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There’s nothing like hosting a dinner party, especially if you like to cook. Not only are they a great platform for socializing with friends, but they’re an opportunity to let your skills in the kitchen shine and to let the people close to you know that preparing food is part of your identity.
If a dinner party is like putting on a show, though, the serving dishes you use are the props. If you don’t use high-quality serving dishes, in other words, your efforts will be for naught and people won’t fully appreciate the food, even if it’s delicious!
To help you get the credit you deserve at your next dinner party, I’ve put together a guide on how to choose serving dishes and written about some of the best serving dishes I’ve found.
What to Look For in Serving Dishes
Sometimes, you’ll want to buy a serving dish that’s not on my list. If you’re in a foreign country, for example, a nice serving dish makes a great souvenir. Or maybe you need to buy a specialty serving dish for a recipe you’re making.
With serving dishes, appearance is key. Of course you also want something functional, but a serving dish that looks boring or badly designed. Keep in mind the color scheme of your dining room, living room, or wherever you’ll be using the serving dish and try to get a dish with designs and colors that compliment its future surroundings.
A good serving dish will last generations if it’s not dropped. Make sure that the dish you’re getting has some good thickness to it, because that means it’s solid. Serving dishes that are hand-wash only are generally more fragile than dishwasher-safe ones but also tend to last a lot longer if treated with care.
Serving dishes can be tremendously expensive – I’m talking thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. However, I’ve found that you can usually find dishes that are just as well-made and aesthetically pleasing as the really expensive stuff for a fraction of the price. Unless you find something that you feel inexplicably drawn to, I really don’t recommend springing for something too expensive.
Lots of handmade serving dishes are not to be put in the dishwasher, but instead gently cleaned by hand. Like I said, these dishes are often prettier and more durable in the long run, but they’re also more of a pain to take care of. If you’re buying one big dish, handwash-only is fine. If you’re buying a set of smaller dishes, though, handwash-only may be more trouble than it’s worth.
1. Brooklyn Slate Cheese Board
This cheese board has an unusual and rustic look, and it’s also dishwasher-safe – a rare combination. It has little added touches, like its four cork feet that protect your table or the included soapstone pencil to hygienically label your cheeses, that make it my pick for the best cheese board on the market. Throw some crackers on there with the cheese and you’ve got a surefire hit on your hands.
2. Flow Chip and Dip
Chips and dip are always a crowd pleaser. They’re easy to eat, they’re delicious, and you can choose a dip to suit any taste or dietary need. This porcelain dish is the best way to present both chips and dip in one serving dish. The design is simple but elegant, with two elegantly sculpted sections that are perfectly sized for a before-dinner snack.
I have one of these and have used it at nearly every dinner party I’ve held for the past few years. It’s a good serving dish for shrimp and cocktail sauce, vegetables and hummus, or fruits and cream cheese dip in addition to classic chips and dip.
3. Zwilling TWIN® Brand Opus 18/10 Stainless Steel 45-Pc. Flatware Set
This set contains all the silverware you’ll need for every dinner party you’ll ever hold. It has eight pieces each of knives, forks, spoons, salad forks, and teaspoons, so your guests will never have to ask for more utensils. It also includes five serving implements—a large serving spoon, a large slotted serving spoon, a sugar spoon, a meat fork, and a snub-nosed butter knife.
All 45 pieces are made from mostly stainless steel, which makes them easy to keep clean. They also contain 18% chrome, which keeps them from corroding over time, and 10% nickel, which gives them a luxurious gleam you don’t see in competitors very often.
4. Berglander Stainless Steel Golden Serving Utensils, Set of 6
The gold-plated titanium used to make these serving utensils gives them an eye-catching flair that you don’t see in many similar sets. It also has a solid, durable feel, and the utensils will never scratch or rust.
For the Table
5. Cole & Mason Derwent Salt & Pepper Mill
by Cole & Mason
These salt and pepper shakers have a few features that make them stand out. Let me go through them one by one.
- The grinders have a special precision technology called the “lifetime mechanism” that strips down the salt/pepper grains layer by layer instead of crushing them. By doing so, they release the full flavor of the spices.
- There are six settings that let you determine the fineness of the grains that come out.
- The grinders at the top of both shakers are ergonomically designed so they are comfortable in your hand and easy to twist.
- The refill mechanism is convenient and intuitive.
- The set is available in two metal colors, silver and bronze, both of which look very nice. The dark wood color is also beautiful.
6. French Kitchen Marble Covered Butter Dish
This is a refreshing new take on a butter dish, because instead of holding a rectangular block of butter like most American butter dishes it holds French-style softened butter in a cylindrical bowl.
My family much prefers softened butter, because we think it’s easier to spread and has a better consistency. Your dinner party guests may very well feel the same. Who knew that something as simple as spreading butter on bread could be a memorable dining experience?
The bowl itself is made of very attractive white marble and is hand-wash only. It holds eight ounces of soft butter, the same amount of butter that’s in one stick. The lid, which keeps the butter safe from dust or foreign odors, is made of glass and is dishwasher-safe.
7. Le Creuset 4.5 Quart Round Dutch Oven
by Le Creuset
Dutch ovens make fantastic serving dishes because of their superior heat retention. They’re also one of my favorite cooking tools (I have an entire article about why Dutch ovens are fantastic),but if you stick a burn-proof mat under one and bring it to the table it will keep food hot for the whole meal.
This one is particularly great to put in front of your guests, because it looks great and can withstand metal utensils. This model also has a ceramic nonstick coating that’s dishwasher-safe and resistant to cracking, dulling, staining, and chipping.
8. Serving Platter
This shiny white platter looks a bit flimsy at first glance, but let me assure you that the restaurant-quality vitrified china used to make it is anything but flimsy.
In fact, it’s pretty amazing how much wear and tear these things can go through and still retain their “like-new” sheen. You can stack them on top of each other in a cabinet, cut steak on top of them, and put them through the dishwasher dozens of times, and they’ll still look like the day you brought them home.
The material won’t chip, either, even if you are a bit clumsy with it. Made In is so confident in the strength of the material that they have a policy of replacing any plate of this model that chips within the first year of ownership.
9. Pillivuyt Coupe Porcelain Shallow Serving Bowl
This is the kind of sturdy serving dish that you’ll get more use from over the next few decades than any other piece of cookware in your kitchen. The size is just perfect for group-sized pastas, salads, risottos, and sides. And the classic, simple design doesn’t draw the eye away from the food like a more colorful bowl might.
10. Blossom Lane Salad Set with Wooden Servers
by Kate Spade
The bowl itself is luxurious. It’s made of gleaming white porcelain, and it has an adorable yet classy floral design etched into it. It’s also big, holding 78 ounces of deliciousness. It’s dishwasher- and microwave-safe, too, which is nice with a bowl this big because you’ll almost definitely have leftovers.
I haven’t even mentioned the varnished dark bamboo serving utensils included with the bowl, either. They make serving easy, and they’re treated with a high-quality nonstick coating so washing them off is a snap.
11. Chateau Wood Cake Stand
I’ve served literally hundreds of cakes at dinner parties on dozens of different cake stands, and this dark mango wood and acacia beauty has gotten far more compliments from guests than any of them. It adds a touch of natural beauty to anything served on it, and it’s very easy to clean afterwards thanks to a great nonstick finish.
I love the slight inward tilt on the stand, too. It’s not so slanted that it makes serving a cake on it awkward, but it’s just angled enough to where it makes pieces of cake falling off the stand a very rare occurrence.
12. Caesna Mirror Pastry Server
The name of this product is not misleading; the forged 18/10 stainless steel used to make this pastry server really does shine like a mirror. 18/10 means that the utensil contains 18% chrome and 10% solid nickel, which gives it a gleam that you just don’t find in similar products for the price of $20.
13. Ona Large Pitcher
This is one of those serving dishes that looks like a work of art even when it’s empty. Once it’s at the table and filled with a delicious drink, though, it’s even more eye-catching. It also feels great in your hand, and it’s easy to pour. The sleek profile is easy to grip and makes storage a non-issue.
14. Punch Bowl 8-Piece Set
by Sur La Table
I love making punch for dinner parties because it looks nice, it’s easy to make taste delicious (it’s hard to go wrong with fruit), and it’s a great “group activity” drink when you have a nice punch bowl. The bowl with this set fits the bill, and the gorgeous clear serving ladle compliments it nicely. It also includes six glasses with a matching modern design.
15. HiCoup Wine Decanter
This decanter has two openings, one on either “arm” of the beautifully-designed glass shape. The large opening is for pouring in the wine, and the decanter holds 800ml, so you can pour in an entire standard-sized bottle of wine, which is 750ml. The smaller opening is for pouring the wine after you let it breathe in the decanter.
16. Aspen Stemless Wine Glasses 11.75 oz., Set of 12
Having nice wine glasses at a dinner party basically elevates it to a truly classy affair, but it’s also hard to make it through a party without at least one breaking. Seriously, you don’t know how many wine glasses I’ve lost just because that thin glass rod connecting the base to the glass itself shatters. And that’s why I love these glasses, which retain the elegance of wine flutes while removing the most common break point, the stem.
17. 2-Liter Thermal Coffee Carafe
This carafe keeps coffee hot for longer than any other one I’ve seen. It’s completely plated with stainless steel, which gives it great insulation and a heavy-duty appearance. At the same time, though, the gentle curves of the handle and spout temper that rugged look with a graceful appearance that makes it a great addition to the end of your dinner party.
Serving Dish FAQ
Porcelain and bone china are both good choices, especially for those on a budget, because they are very affordable and have a clean look to them. They’re also easy to care for because the materials are naturally nonstick.
If you’re going for a more rugged aesthetic, stoneware is another type of serving dish that is inexpensive, durable, and easy to maintain.
Yes, although the difference is subtle. Wine decanters expose the wine to the air and allow it to breathe, which means that some of the undesirable molecules in the wine are given a chance to evaporate. This process accentuates the fruity or oaky qualities of the wine.
If you want to have lots of chips and multiple types of dip, I’d recommend something like this chip and dip acrylic bowl set, which has a three liter bowl for chips and two 180ml bowls for dip attached to the chip bowl.
One Last Thought
Remember, your ensemble of serving dishes and utensils will make or break your dinner parties. To wow your friends and become known as the most stylish cook around, gear up with some high-quality dishes!
Last update on 2022-03-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API