How To Shop for Dinnerware

Choosing the perfect dinnerware can significantly enhance your dining experience and complement your kitchen décor. Whether you’re setting up a new home, replacing old dishes, or adding to your collection, understanding the different types of dinnerware, materials, styles, and brands is crucial. This comprehensive buying guide will walk you through everything you need to know to make an informed decision, including detailed explainers, a comparison table, top product reviews, frequently asked questions, and a concise conclusion.

Types of Dinnerware

Dinnerware sets are essential for any household, serving both functional and aesthetic purposes. Different types of dinnerware cater to various needs, from everyday use to formal dining and seasonal occasions.

Everyday Dinnerware Everyday dinnerware is designed for regular use, offering durability and practicality. These sets typically include dinner plates, salad plates, bowls, and mugs. Look for materials like stoneware, porcelain, or melamine that can withstand daily wear and tear. These materials are chosen for their resilience and ease of maintenance, making them perfect for daily meals. Stoneware, for instance, is known for its durability and rustic appeal, while porcelain offers a more refined look without compromising on durability.

Formal Dinnerware Formal dinnerware is used for special occasions and typically features more intricate designs and finer materials such as bone china or porcelain. These sets may include additional pieces like soup bowls, dessert plates, and teacups. Bone china, for example, is prized for its strength and delicate appearance, often adorned with intricate patterns and gold or platinum accents. Formal dinnerware sets are ideal for hosting dinner parties, holiday gatherings, and other special events where you want to impress your guests with a beautifully set table.

Seasonal Dinnerware Seasonal dinnerware is designed for specific holidays or seasons, featuring themed patterns and colors. These sets are ideal for adding a festive touch to your table during holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Easter. Seasonal sets often include motifs and colors that reflect the season or holiday, such as snowflakes and holly for Christmas or pastel colors and floral designs for spring. While these sets may not be used year-round, they add a special touch to celebrations and make meals feel more festive and themed.

Materials Used in Dinnerware

The material of your dinnerware impacts not only its appearance but also its durability, weight, and care requirements. Here’s a detailed look at the most common materials used in dinnerware.

Porcelain Porcelain is a type of ceramic made from fine-particle clay, fired at high temperatures. It is durable, non-porous, and has a smooth, glass-like surface. Porcelain dinnerware is often white and can feature intricate designs, making it suitable for both everyday use and formal occasions. Its non-porous nature makes it resistant to absorbing stains and odors, and it’s typically safe for use in the microwave, dishwasher, and oven. Porcelain’s elegance and versatility make it a popular choice for those who want a blend of durability and aesthetic appeal.

Bone China Bone china is a type of porcelain that includes bone ash, giving it a unique translucency and strength. It is the most durable and lightweight ceramic dinnerware, often used for formal settings due to its elegant appearance. The addition of bone ash not only strengthens the china but also gives it a warm, ivory hue. Despite its delicate appearance, bone china is surprisingly strong and chip-resistant. It’s ideal for formal dining and special occasions, offering a touch of sophistication to any table setting.

Stoneware Stoneware is made from dense clay fired at high temperatures, resulting in a durable and non-porous material. It has a more rustic and casual appearance, making it ideal for everyday use. Stoneware is often finished with a textured or matte glaze, adding to its artisanal look. It’s known for its durability and ability to withstand daily use, including being dishwasher, microwave, and oven safe. The weight and heft of stoneware give it a substantial feel, making it a favorite for hearty meals and casual dining.

Earthenware Earthenware is made from porous clay fired at lower temperatures. It is less durable than stoneware or porcelain and is often heavier with a more rustic feel. Earthenware requires more care and is best suited for occasional use. The porous nature of earthenware means it can absorb liquids and odors, so it often needs to be glazed to protect it. While it may not be as durable as other materials, its handmade look and unique glazes can add charm and character to your table setting.

Melamine Melamine is a durable, lightweight plastic material often used for casual dining and outdoor settings. It is shatterproof and dishwasher safe but not suitable for microwave use. Melamine dinnerware comes in a variety of colors and patterns, making it a fun and practical choice for families and outdoor entertaining. Its resistance to breakage makes it ideal for picnics, barbecues, and poolside dining. However, because it cannot be used in the microwave, it’s best suited for serving rather than cooking or reheating food.

Glass Glass dinnerware can be elegant and versatile, suitable for both casual and formal settings. It is typically non-porous and dishwasher safe. Tempered glass is more durable and resistant to breakage. Glass dinnerware often comes in clear, frosted, or colored varieties, adding visual interest to your table. It’s a good option for those who want a sleek, modern look. While glass is generally more fragile than other materials, tempered glass offers improved durability and is less likely to break or chip.

Styles and Designs

The style and design of your dinnerware can reflect your personal taste and complement your home décor. From classic to modern, rustic to vintage, there’s a style to suit every preference.

Classic Classic dinnerware features timeless designs, such as plain white or simple patterns, that never go out of style. This style is versatile and can be used for both casual and formal dining. Classic dinnerware often emphasizes clean lines and understated elegance, making it easy to mix and match with other pieces. It’s a safe choice for those who want their dinnerware to remain stylish and relevant for years to come. The simplicity of classic designs also allows the focus to remain on the food being served, making it ideal for showcasing culinary creations.

Modern Modern dinnerware is characterized by sleek lines, bold colors, and contemporary patterns. This style is ideal for those who want to make a statement with their table settings. Modern designs often incorporate geometric shapes, asymmetry, and minimalistic aesthetics. They are perfect for adding a touch of sophistication and cutting-edge style to your dining experience. Whether you prefer monochromatic palettes or vibrant hues, modern dinnerware can help create a chic and trendy dining atmosphere. This style is especially popular among those who enjoy entertaining and want their dinnerware to reflect their contemporary taste.

Rustic Rustic dinnerware often features earthy tones, textured surfaces, and handmade or artisanal designs. This style is perfect for creating a cozy, farmhouse-inspired dining experience. Rustic dinnerware typically embraces imperfections and natural variations, giving each piece a unique, handcrafted look. It’s ideal for casual, family-style dining and adds warmth and charm to your table. The rustic style often includes natural motifs, such as leaves, flowers, and wood grain patterns, which can enhance a homey, welcoming atmosphere. It’s a great choice for those who appreciate the beauty of handcrafted items and a more relaxed dining setting.

Vintage Vintage dinnerware includes retro patterns and designs, often inspired by past decades. This style can add a nostalgic touch to your table and is great for themed parties or special occasions. Vintage dinnerware often features intricate floral patterns, pastel colors, and gold or silver accents. It’s perfect for creating a charming, nostalgic dining experience reminiscent of a bygone era. Collecting vintage dinnerware can also be a fun hobby, allowing you to mix and match pieces from different periods to create a unique and eclectic table setting. Whether you’re hosting a tea party or a retro-themed dinner, vintage dinnerware adds a touch of elegance and history to your meals.

Comparison Table of the Best Dinnerware Sets

Brand Material Pieces per Set Dishwasher Safe Microwave Safe Style Price Range
Lenox Bone China 12 Yes Yes Classic $$$
Corelle Vitrelle Glass 16 Yes Yes Modern $$
Gibson Stoneware 16 Yes Yes Rustic $$
Fiesta Ceramic 4 Yes Yes Vintage $$
Melange Melamine 12 Yes No Casual $

Detailed Reviews of the Best Dinnerware Sets

Choosing the right dinnerware set can greatly enhance your dining experience. Here are detailed reviews of some of the best dinnerware sets available, highlighting their features, pros, and cons.

Lenox French Perle 12-Piece Dinnerware Set The Lenox French Perle 12-Piece Dinnerware Set is crafted from durable bone china, offering a classic and elegant design. The set includes four dinner plates, salad plates, and bowls, all featuring a delicate, raised bead pattern around the edges. This dinnerware is both dishwasher and microwave safe, combining practicality with sophisticated style. Users appreciate the lightweight feel and timeless appeal, making it suitable for both everyday use and formal occasions. The durability of bone china ensures that these pieces will withstand the rigors of daily use while maintaining their beauty.

Corelle Livingware 16-Piece Dinnerware Set Corelle Livingware 16-Piece Dinnerware Set is made from Vitrelle glass, a tempered glass material known for its durability and resistance to chipping and breaking. The set includes four dinner plates, salad plates, soup bowls, and mugs. It is dishwasher, microwave, and oven safe, making it highly versatile. The modern, minimalist design fits well with various table settings, and users love its lightweight nature and stackable design for easy storage. Corelle’s reputation for making resilient dinnerware is evident in this set, making it a favorite for families and busy households.

Gibson Elite Soho Lounge 16-Piece Dinnerware Set The Gibson Elite Soho Lounge 16-Piece Dinnerware Set is crafted from stoneware and features a contemporary, square shape with a two-tone finish. The set includes four dinner plates, dessert plates, bowls, and mugs. It is dishwasher and microwave safe, making it convenient for everyday use. The rustic, artisanal design adds a unique touch to your dining table, and users appreciate the sturdy construction and vibrant colors. The Soho Lounge set combines the robustness of stoneware with a modern aesthetic, making it a versatile choice for both casual and formal settings.

Fiesta 4-Piece Dinnerware Set The Fiesta 4-Piece Dinnerware Set is made from durable ceramic and comes in a variety of bright, bold colors. The set includes one dinner plate, salad plate, bowl, and mug. It is dishwasher, microwave, and oven safe, offering versatility and ease of use. The vintage design is perfect for adding a pop of color to your table, and users love the durability and wide range of color options available. Fiesta’s iconic style and quality have made it a beloved brand for decades, and this set is no exception, offering both functionality and aesthetic appeal.

Melange 12-Piece Melamine Dinnerware Set The Melange 12-Piece Melamine Dinnerware Set is ideal for casual dining and outdoor use. The set includes four dinner plates, salad plates, and bowls, all made from lightweight, shatterproof melamine. While it is not suitable for microwave use, it is dishwasher safe and highly durable. The casual, fun designs make it perfect for picnics, barbecues, and everyday meals, and users appreciate its practicality and affordability. Melamine’s resilience to breakage makes this set a great choice for families with young children and for outdoor entertaining.

FAQs About Dinnerware

What is the most durable dinnerware material? Bone china and porcelain are the most durable dinnerware materials, known for their strength and resistance to chipping. Stoneware is also highly durable and suitable for everyday use.

Can I use my dinnerware in the microwave and dishwasher? Most modern dinnerware sets are microwave and dishwasher safe, but always check the manufacturer’s instructions. Some materials, like melamine, are not suitable for microwave use.

How many pieces should a dinnerware set have? A standard dinnerware set includes 16 pieces, serving four people. This typically includes dinner plates, salad plates, bowls, and mugs. Larger sets may include additional pieces like soup bowls and dessert plates.

What style of dinnerware should I choose? Choose a style that complements your home décor and personal preferences. Classic styles are versatile and timeless, while modern, rustic, and vintage styles offer unique and distinctive looks.

How do I care for my dinnerware? Follow the manufacturer’s care instructions to ensure the longevity of your dinnerware. Avoid using abrasive cleaners or scrubbing pads, and handle with care to prevent chips and cracks.

Is it worth investing in high-quality dinnerware? Investing in high-quality dinnerware can be worthwhile, as it offers greater durability, better aesthetics, and can last for many years with proper care. High-quality materials like bone china and porcelain are particularly valuable for their elegance and resilience.

Can I mix and match different dinnerware sets? Yes, mixing and matching different dinnerware sets can create an eclectic and personalized table setting. Stick to a cohesive color palette or theme to ensure a harmonious look.

Are there eco-friendly dinnerware options? Yes, there are eco-friendly dinnerware options made from sustainable materials like bamboo, recycled glass, and biodegradable materials. Look for brands that prioritize sustainability in their production processes.

What is the difference between porcelain and bone china? Both porcelain and bone china are types of ceramic, but bone china includes bone ash, giving it greater strength, translucency, and a slightly warmer tone. Porcelain is typically whiter and denser but still very durable.

Can I use dinnerware in the oven? Many dinnerware sets, particularly those made from stoneware, porcelain, and ceramic, are oven safe. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions for specific temperature limits and guidelines.

Are all dinnerware sets microwave safe? Not all dinnerware sets are microwave safe. It depends on the material and the manufacturer’s guidelines. Always check the product specifications to ensure microwave safety.

Can I put my dinnerware in the freezer? Some dinnerware, particularly those made from durable materials like stoneware and porcelain, can be placed in the freezer. However, sudden temperature changes can cause cracking, so follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.

What is the best way to store dinnerware? Store dinnerware in a dry, stable environment. Stack plates and bowls carefully to avoid chipping, and consider using plate separators or protective liners between pieces.

How do I remove stains from my dinnerware? Stains on dinnerware can often be removed with a paste of baking soda and water, or by soaking in a mixture of vinegar and water. For stubborn stains, use a gentle abrasive cleaner.

What is reactive glaze on dinnerware? Reactive glaze is a technique used in stoneware production where the glaze chemically reacts during firing, creating unique, variegated patterns and colors. Each piece will have a slightly different appearance.

Is fine china the same as bone china? Fine china and bone china are similar, but bone china includes bone ash, making it more durable and translucent. Fine china is typically lighter and more delicate than bone china.

What is vitrified dinnerware? Vitrified dinnerware has been fired at high temperatures to make it non-porous and extremely durable. This process strengthens the material and makes it more resistant to chipping and scratching.

Can I use bleach to clean my dinnerware? Using bleach is not recommended for cleaning dinnerware, as it can cause damage to the glaze and material. Stick to mild detergents and non-abrasive cleaners.

What is the difference between casual and formal dinnerware? Casual dinnerware is designed for everyday use and is typically more durable and simpler in design. Formal dinnerware is used for special occasions and often features intricate patterns, fine materials, and additional pieces.

What is coupe dinnerware? Coupe dinnerware refers to plates and bowls with a smooth, rounded edge and no rim. This style offers a modern, minimalist look and maximizes the usable surface area.

How can I tell if my dinnerware is lead-free? Most modern dinnerware is lead-free, but it’s always best to check the product specifications or contact the manufacturer. Look for dinnerware that meets safety standards and certifications.

Can I replace individual pieces from a dinnerware set? Many brands offer individual replacement pieces for their dinnerware sets. Check with the manufacturer or retailer to find matching pieces.

What are the benefits of white dinnerware? White dinnerware is versatile, timeless, and complements any table setting. It also provides a neutral backdrop that enhances the presentation of food.

Is melamine dinnerware safe for hot foods? Melamine dinnerware is safe for serving hot foods but should not be used in the microwave or oven. It is durable and resistant to breakage, making it ideal for casual dining.

Can I use metal utensils with my dinnerware? Most dinnerware is safe to use with metal utensils, but some materials, like melamine or certain glazes, may scratch more easily. Use with care to avoid damage.

What is earthenware best used for? Earthenware is best used for decorative purposes or occasional dining due to its porous nature and lower durability compared to stoneware and porcelain. It is often chosen for its rustic, handcrafted appearance.

How do I know if my dinnerware is high quality? High-quality dinnerware will feel well-balanced, have a smooth and even glaze, and show no signs of defects like pinholes or uneven coloring. Trusted brands and positive reviews are also indicators of quality.

Are there any dinnerware sets designed for children? Yes, there are dinnerware sets specifically designed for children, typically made from durable, shatterproof materials like melamine or silicone. These sets often feature fun, colorful designs.

What is the difference between a dinner plate and a charger plate? A dinner plate is used to serve the main course, while a charger plate is a decorative base placed beneath the dinner plate during formal settings. Charger plates are not used for serving food.

Can I use my dinnerware in the broiler? Most dinnerware is not designed for broiler use due to the high temperatures. Always check the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure safe use.

What is the best way to transport dinnerware? When transporting dinnerware, use plenty of padding between pieces, such as bubble wrap or foam, and pack them in sturdy boxes. Handle with care to avoid chipping or breaking.

How do I prevent my dinnerware from scratching? Prevent scratches by using felt or silicone protectors between stacked pieces, avoiding metal utensils with certain glazes, and handling the dinnerware carefully.

What is the difference between a salad plate and a dessert plate? Salad plates and dessert plates are similar in size, but salad plates may have a slightly larger diameter. Both can be used interchangeably depending on the meal.

Can I mix different brands of dinnerware? Yes, you can mix different brands of dinnerware to create a unique table setting. Ensure that the styles and colors complement each other for a cohesive look.

Are there specific dinnerware sets for outdoor use? Yes, dinnerware sets for outdoor use are typically made from durable, lightweight materials like melamine, which are resistant to breaking and perfect for picnics, barbecues, and casual outdoor dining.

How do I choose the right size dinner plate? The right size dinner plate depends on your dining habits and storage space. Standard dinner plates are typically 10-12 inches in diameter, but smaller or larger options are available to suit your needs.

What is a place setting in dinnerware? A place setting includes all the dinnerware pieces used for one person, typically comprising a dinner plate, salad plate, bowl, and mug. Formal place settings may include additional pieces like bread plates and soup bowls.

What is the best way to clean delicate or antique dinnerware? Clean delicate or antique dinnerware by hand using mild detergent and warm water. Avoid abrasive cleaners and use soft cloths or sponges to prevent scratching or damage.

Can I use dinnerware for serving as well as eating? Yes, many dinnerware pieces can be used for both serving and eating. Platters, large bowls, and serving dishes are designed to match dinnerware sets and can enhance the presentation of meals.

What should I consider when buying dinnerware as a gift? When buying dinnerware as a gift, consider the recipient’s style, existing kitchen décor, and practical needs. Choose versatile, high-quality pieces that will be appreciated and used regularly.


Selecting the perfect dinnerware involves a careful consideration of materials, styles, durability, and intended use. This guide has provided detailed insights into the best options available, ensuring you can make an informed decision.

Whether for everyday meals, formal occasions, or special holidays, the right dinnerware enhances the dining experience. Investing in quality dinnerware not only improves your table setting but also brings elegance and functionality to your home.