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Choosing the Right Plate for the Job

Like fashions off the runway, plates come in many sizes, shapes, patterns and colors. And, just like accessories coordinating with an outfit, they're used to adorn and accentuate our tables. With so many choices, this can leave us feeling like we're standing at a buffet with a plateful of food. However, with a few table-setting tips, any meal can become a haute runway success.


Plates come in many sizes from a petite 2 inches to a hefty 10½ inches; each intended for a specific use.
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  • Petite plates at about 2 to 2½ inches in diameter are perfect for piped rosettes of butter, personal pinches of finely grated cheese or salt and pepper.
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  • Salad plates can range from 5 to 7 inches in size, and are not only suitable for a first-course salad; they perform dual duty for dessert.
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  • Lunch plates are about 8 inches and are perfect for sandwiches and smaller portions.
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  • Finally, dinner plates range 9 to 10½ inches and are suitable for a main course and sides

Rules have Changed

Breaking tradition is no longer a fashion faux pas. Petite plates can serve small appetizers and dinner plates work wonderfully when used as a charger under a salad plate or soup bowl.

Size Up Your Food

Always take into consideration the size of the plate to the size of your food. You'll want the perfect dimensions to showcase your meal. If a plate is too large, the food appears tiny; though, if too small, the food appears crowded or oversized.


Choosing a shape of a plate is similar to choosing an outfit for a special occasion and sets the tone for the meal. Casual or formal? Plated or family-style? Are you looking for a modern twist or keeping with tradition?

Give your meals a makeover by experimenting with different plate shapes.

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  • While square-shaped foods and servings do well presented on both square and round plates, square plates exude a modern flair.
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  • An 8-inch oval dish can look stuffy when holding a family-style side dish, but use it for a dinner plate and your table will look trendy and fresh.
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  • A deep, round bowl may seem perfect for soup or pasta. But if you artfully perch a protein atop a side dish and then flood the bowl with sauce, you'll have a unique display.

Patterns & Colors

Think of a plate as a blank canvas featuring your recipe as the work of art. When choosing a pattern or color, the same rules apply as coordinating your wardrobe. You want your dish to look chic rather than shabby.

Small printed pattern, and even raised textured patterns along rims and edges of plates can add interest. Try placing a small, plain plate on top of a larger one with a raised design edge or pattern. This immediately provides a frame, giving the table setting additional texture and visual appeal.

The Right Plate for the Job

Consider the type of food you're serving. Is the food solid, wet or soupy? When serving solid foods, such as a slice of lasagna with vegetable sides, a standard dinner plate provides ample room for the main entrée and two sides.
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  • Wet dishes, which are saucy, can be served in shallow-rimmed bowls. Pasta bowls are great for serving up saucy macaroni and cheese, spaghetti or linguine. The shallow depth is perfect for scooping up a bite or twirling pasta around your fork, all the while keeping the sauce contained within the bowl.
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  • Deep bowls are normally reserved for dishes that are soupy, though not intended for filling to the rim. The deep interior assists in spooning up chopped vegetables, delicate pasta, or meatballs without the worry of spilling broth over the edge.
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  • Large, flat dishes are perfect for corralling appetizers, antipasto and smaller finger foods. While big, deep bowls are perfect for serving family-sized portions of pasta, salads and fruit.

Use these rules to remove the guesswork from choosing the right plate and dress your table for a great meal fit for any occasion!