How to choose the right dinnerware: Earthenware, Stoneware, Porcelain, Bone China or Fine China?

In our previous posts we talked about how to choose table linens and placemats as a good alternative for those who are looking for something easier to clean and with more adaptability. To continue answering the questions that usually arise when buying products for the table, today we want to talk about a key factor in every tablescape design: how to choose the dinnerware.

We consider dinnerware to be charger plates, starter and dinner plates, dessert plates, salad plates, bowls and side plates, basically a set of dishes used in serving a meal. How many pieces do you need to have? This is totally up to you, but the most basic ones tend to be starter and dinner plates and bowls. As modern tablescapes allow mixing different materials, textures and colours you can buy your home tableware on the go without paying a fortune to have a big full set of plates. That is why in this article we are only going to talk about quality. The design you want to give to your dinner table is left entirely to your creativity (and budget). Although we also have some tablescape sets already designed if you're not the most creative person in the room.

Ok, so first of all we want to clarify a common mistake: Most of the dinnerware you can find these days on sale under different names are all ceramic plates, basically because ceramic is the art of making objects made of baked clay, hardened by firing, and decorated or glazed. The difference in quality (and of course, price) will be on how they are mixed with other materials, the temperature of the fire and design. Depending on that each ceramic dinnerware will take a different name and that is when it gets tricky.

Earthenware

Earthenware is usually the cheapest dinnerware we can find on the market and it is usually fired at around 999°C / 1140°C. It is baked clay that is varnished to give it a better finish and greater resistance. However, it is a porous material, of low hardness, high weight and that tends to scratch with the use of cutlery, so it is usually used on more informal occasions. According to its appearance, it is usually used on rustic table set ups, but unlike other tableware it is not as durable and tends to chip.

Dishwasher and microwaves safe? Typically earthenware collections are dishwasher safe, but not all are microwave safe.

Stoneware

  
Stoneware plates are made from clay at a higher temperature, between 1176°C / 1276°C. Because of the way it is fired the result is a thicker, stronger and more durable dinnerware. As well as earthenware they also look rustic and a little bit rough, but the main interesting feature of stoneware plates is the combination between its trendy opaque appearance and the resistance to different circumstances to which it will normally be exposed: food temperatures, blows, dishwasher cleaning, ovens and others. Even though it is more expensive than earthenware, stoneware will definitely be a better value for money if you are looking for something simple that lasts.

Dishwasher and microwaves safe? As stoneware tends to be more porous than other ceramic dinnerware, it could absorb the water in the dishwasher, and this can make it more susceptible to cracking or breaking. Most stoneware plates are microwave safe.

Porcelain ware

Porcelain plates are made from a more refined clay (feldspar, quartz and kaolin) and fired at much higher temperatures than earthenware or stoneware, approximately between 1200°C / 1450°C, resulting in a hard, white, non-porous pottery. Like we said: the higher the fire temperature is, the harder the crockery will be, which is why they stand out for their incredible resistance to high temperatures, keeping food warm, durability and colour conservation. Also it is considered as a very hygienic tableware, since it is a vitrified material that does not absorb odors or flavors.

Technically it doesn't seem to be that different from stoneware, isn't it? But if you search for porcelain tableware you will find that in fact it is more expensive. Then why will you be paying more? Because porcelain plates are lighter in weight, thinner (but stronger at the same time) and have a more delicate appearance than rustic stoneware. Due to these characteristics, porcelain plates have become one of the best options for restaurant crockery, but also a lot of people choose this material for a domestic use giving its fancy style.

Dishwasher and microwaves safe? Yes, unless they have metallic bands.

Bone China and Fine China

When we talk about bone china, we are talking about the same materials with which porcelain tableware is made of, but with the addition of at least 25 percent of bone ash (literally cow bones combined with porcelain clay). This kind of dinnerware is fired at a slightly lower temperature than porcelain to produce a material that is even lighter, very delicate in feel, and with a unique translucent appearance. But, even though they seem to be “fragile”, bone china is the strongest and most durable ceramic dinnerware because of the addition of bone ash to its raw materials.

On the other hand, fine china has a similar production process but without the bone ash, which at the end of the day makes it closer to porcelain dinnerware. But don't forget that porcelain plates are fired at a much higher temperature resulting in a harder and more durable dinnerware. So if we need to summarize it: fine china is somewhere in the middle in terms of quality and price.

Value for money: If you ever looked for bone china, you might have realised that it tends to be way more expensive than fine china or porcelain plates. The reason why is because of the cow bone that gives a unique shade of colours and hues. Even though the bone ash makes it stronger, realistically you will be paying way more just for the appearance.

Dishwasher and microwaves safe? Yes, unless they have metallic bands.

 

Summary

$

Durability

Style

Dishwasher

Microwave

Earthenware

$

Porous material, of low hardness and high weight that tends to scratch with the use of cutlery.

Rustic 

Yes

No

Stoneware

$$

Thicker, stronger than earthenware. Resistance to different circumstances to which it will normally be exposed.

Rustic 

No

Yes

Porcelain Ware

$$$

Lighter in weight, thinner (but stronger than earthenware and stoneware). Incredible resistance to high temperatures, keeping food warm, durability and colour conservation.

Delicate 

Yes

Yes

Fine China

$$$

Somewhere in the middle between Porcelain ware and Bone China in terms of quality.

Delicate 

Yes

Yes

Bone China

$$$$

Bone china is the strongest and most durable ceramic dinnerware because of the addition of bone ash to its raw materials.

Delicate. Translucent appearance.

Yes

Yes



 

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published