In our advice column, “Ask the Strategist,” we take your most burning shopping questions and survey friends, call up experts, and draw on our own personal experience to answer them. If you have an online-shopping question of your own, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Ask the Strategist.” We’re here to help.
I’m sick of buying small paper appetizer plates for parties, and I’d love to invest in some decorative, durable, and reusable options. My preference is for a set that won’t break when they drop but also aren’t made of cheap plastic.
Paper plates are a bummer because they are, of course, bad for the environment — but also because they can ruin a sophisticated party vibe. Not to mention, it’s a pain to have to go out and buy a new set every time you host. If you’re putting effort into having people over and setting out delicious bites on pretty platters, you want the vessels people will eat off of to not be — as you said — cheap. But it also may be that you don’t trust everyone at a party not to break really good ceramics or china, especially if they’re walking around holding them. To that end, you have a few good options.
My first and foremost recommendation would be to go with plates made of melamine. In scientific terms, melamine is a chemical compound used to make plastic (but not the cheap, throwaway plastic of party and dollar stores). In not-scientific terms, it’s a go-to material for making incredibly durable dinnerware (you’ve probably eaten off of melamine before, even if you haven’t realized it). Melamine dinnerware is often marketed as “outdoor” because of how well it holds up, but it’s totally acceptable to use inside, too — especially, I think, for apps at a party. It’s dishwasher-safe, and shouldn’t break if dropped. The selection of appetizer-size plates I found wasn’t huge, but if you’re willing to go a little bit bigger to a dessert- or salad-size plate (which can vary a bit, so just make sure you’re looking at inches), there are more options out there.
Enamelware, a material made from powdered glass, might be more closely associated with camping. Often speckled or solid, it has that classic look of over-the-fire cooking and eating (just Google “campfire mug” and you’ll see everything is made of enamelware). Like melamine, it’s super-durable, which makes sense, given that it’s also sold as an outdoor-friendly material. It’s also very lightweight.
This recommendation is a bit outside of the preferences you stated, but hear me out. While they’re not particularly decorative, white plates are timeless and will look good sitting out no matter what the rest of the décor of your party is like. These are stoneware, which is a form of ceramicware fired at a high temperature. While that means they’re somewhat breakable (more so than the options above), they’re still not quite as delicate as ceramic or china or porcelain. What’s more, this particular set comes with 36 plates for $36. At $1 a plate, will you really miss one if it goes down?
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