In the world of grown-up tableware, platters and serving bowls tend to take a back seat to nice glasses and decent flatware. But every home should have one or two, even if you rarely host dinner parties, because transferring your food from a cooking to serving vessel enhances the experience of eating. To surface the best dishes, sets, and a few more unorthodox plating vehicles, we asked a handful of experts — including chefs, designers, and prop and food stylists — about their own favorites. Aesthetics play a big role here, so we’ve collected a range to suit different styles and considered size, material, durability, and — as we’ve sorted them in this list — price. Read on to see if any strike your fancy.
The best platters and serving bowls under $50
Anna Polonsky, founder of the food-focused strategy and design consultancy Polonsky & Friends, says that enamel is lightweight, durable, easy to clean, and generally affordable (especially compared to artisan handmade pieces). She loves this dish by English designer Matilda Goad, whose style is instantly recognizable for its whimsical details and charm. “It’s a nice size,” Polonsky says of the peppermint-trimmed dish, “a bit smaller than some other ones I have, so I like to use it for cookies and sweet bites at the end of a meal.” Goad sells a rectangular one with higher sides, too, which would be perfect for snacks like olives and cheese.
Another enamel option that offers a great amount of versatility is this trio of prep bowls. They’re hearty enough (and easy-to-clean enough) to cook with day in and day out (and even to take outside or on trips). But they’re still “stylish enough to put on your table,” photographer Julia Stotz says. The fitted silicone lids are also a plus — if there are leftovers, “you can take them straight to the table to the fridge,” she says.
While not technically a platter, the Great Jones Little Sheet is a two-for-one beloved by many pro chefs. Its primary function is a sheet pan, but the quarter size and bright colors (deep blue, raspberry, forest green, and mustard yellow) mean that it’ll look at home on the table, whether you’re putting it there directly from the oven or pulling it out to serve. Because they’re made from aluminized steel, they won’t break on you during grill sessions or outdoor dinner parties.
The best platters and serving bowls under $100
Each Lawson serving bowl is distinct because of the reactive glaze, which produces subtle variations in color and texture when heated in the kiln. But because the actual vessel isn’t handmade, it comes at what prop and interiors stylist Kim Ficaro calls “an amazing” price. “There’s an organic and modern feel to it,” she adds. “It’s so simple, but has a little intrigue because of the glaze. There’s tone to it in a really sophisticated way.”
This set of glazed earthenware platters are iconic pieces by the Portuguese designer Bordallo Pinheiro — and ones that have been recommended to us many times over. Prop stylist Bea Chatska grew up with some in her mom’s kitchen and now has her own. “They’re playful and formal at the same time,” she says, “and kind of seasonless, too. They work well with an indoor set up and casual, summer, out-on-the-patio settings.”
Bennington Potters, based in Vermont, makes pieces that recipe developer and cookbook author Anna Stockwell calls “familiar and comforting.” She grew up with them in her mom’s house, and later started her own collection (which includes baking dishes and mugs in the same style). She says the glaze is somewhere between shiny and matte and has a very smooth feel. The shape, longer and narrower than many oval platters, is unique and especially suited to longer foods, like roasted carrots and broccolini. The blue color (Stockwell’s favorite) contrasts with most food in a pleasing way (so much so that she used this platter for several photographs in her cookbook). Finally, “you can pop it in the oven if you want to warm it up before serving because it’s ceramic,” she says.
This fairly neutral option comes recommended by Stotz. She points out that white glaze has universal appeal and will look good in anyone’s kitchen or dining room. But since each bowl is handmade with ever-so-slight differences, they still feel unique. “We’ve used these on set a bunch and I just know they’re really beautiful in person,” she says. “Up close, you can see the texture and tell how high-quality it is.” She also points out that it’s attractive enough to sit out as a fruit bowl when not in use.
Hasami’s porcelain tableware lines the shelves of many boutique home stores. The pieces feel considered and special, but their affordable price makes them more accessible than handmade ceramics. Prop and interiors stylist Kira Corbin says that the shape “does double duty,” referring to the wide bottom (much like a dinner plate) and the particularly high lip that serves to keep food contained whether you’re plating a pile of chunky vegetables or liquidy sliced tomatoes. “You can do flat, composed presentations,” she says. “There’s more of a landscape.” The appeal isn’t only aesthetic, though. “It’s easier to mix and toss when you have horizontal space,” she says.
This bowl is made from glazed terracotta that shows off the vivid natural color of the clay but still has a glossy, finished look. Chastka describes it as an “everyday bowl, tasteful but unpretentious,” and uses it for salads. “That burnt siena just looks good with leafy greens,” she says. Plus, it’s dishwasher safe.
The best platters and serving bowls under $250
One bang-for-your-bank option is this matching serving set from Thomas Fuchs that Stotz recommends. It comes with a large platter, two bowls, and serving utensils, all of which are made from melamine, a chemical compound commonly used to make durable outdoor tableware. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work inside, too. “The design looks uniquely hand-painted,” Stotz says. “Plus, it’s dishwasher safe, which is awesome.”
While some expert cooks keep their Boos cutting boards on the counter for consistent prep, Jess Damuck, a food and prop stylist and cookbook author, and Sara Kramer, co-owner and chef of Los Angeles’s Kismet, both say they like to use it as a platter for cheeses, charcuterie, tinned fish, and crudité. They appreciate that it’s “truly multipurpose,” as Kramer puts it, but still presentable as a serving piece. “It’s really big, so it holds a lot,” Kramer says. “There’s not a dinner party, especially with a lot of people, that I don’t use it for.” If you’re worried about stains or smells, just stay away from raw meat, garlic, and any vegetables that tend to leave color behind.
The bottom of this serving dish acts as a bowl, while the lid, which is glazed on the inside, can be flipped over and used as a cake stand or serving platter. “Let’s say you make chili,” says Nicole Rucker, owner and chef of Fat + Flour in Los Angeles, “you can plate the toppings on the lid.” She’s even used the top without the bottom because “it’s just absolutely gorgeous,” she says. “Heath is very high quality.”
Ficaro says this platter is perfect for roasted vegetables or a whole fish — “anything that is longer than it is wide.” The marble pattern is the real appeal, though. “It feels like an abstract painting, very nature-inspired,” she says. “There are such vibrant tones of stone and earth.”
Corbin loves this platter because “it has all the wabi-sabi that makes you feel connected to the human being who made it, but it’s also really functional,” she says. At first, the bright white glaze makes it look like a simple, any-occasion platter you’d find at Crate & Barrel or Sur La Table. But look closer, and you’ll see organic lines. It’s also big, which for the price is rare in hand-thrown pieces. “You could fit a turkey on this thing,” Corbin says. “It’s thick, sturdy, and heavy, the kind of piece that lasts a lifetime or more.”
Upstate specializes in textiles and glassware, the latter of which is all handblown in New York. Ficaro describes the pieces as having a “’70s-inspired feel,” like this platter she says is as much a design piece as it is a means to serve food. “There’s a softness with the color and the swirls,” she says. “It feels almost jewel-like.” You can choose from a few different color combinations, each one footed to double as a cake stand.
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