Dinnerware Material: Bone China, Porcelain, Earthenware, Glass, Bamboo

by Purvin Arshad

What do you think of when someone says tableware? It conjures up different images in the minds of people. One person may be thinking of plates and bowls, while another may be imagining glassware or knives and spoons. The term “tableware” is broad and far-reaching. It includes all types of instruments, starting with those used in serving a meal to consuming it.

tableware

To simply things, tableware is actually grouped into four different classes. There is the serve-ware, dinnerware, silverware and lastly drink-ware.

Serve-ware makes up all the different types of dishes used for serving. This will include dessert bowls, platters, casserole or salad dishes, etc. All items used in serving, like tongs, pitchers, and scoops, fall in this category.

Chinaware is another name for dinnerware. It includes all types of dishes used for holding the food for each individual.

The silverware category, also known as flatware, is made up of everything used for food consumption. More specifically, it includes items like forks, spoons, and knives.

As the name implies, drink-ware is made up of everything used for drinking. Namely, all types of glasses, mugs, and cups.

Understanding the qualities that make dinnerware great is vital to deciding which will be best for you. Dinnerware has a maximum visual impact on your table setting. It is also something you will be using day in and day out. There are numerous materials used in producing dinnerware. Glass, melamine, stoneware, porcelain, bamboo, and earthenware are some of the most common dinnerware materials. Read on to find out how which will suit your needs the best.

How to choose the best dinnerware?

So which is the best dinnerware? Well, the answer to that question begins with first figuring out what your needs are? It also has a lot to do with what your budget is? A few more guidelines you need to consider before the actual purchase.

  • For day-to-day use, the dinnerware selected should be durable with convenient everyday use applications. It should also be easy to replace in case a piece is broken. A formal dinnerware set can be more ornate and delicate, as it will be used sparingly.
  • Consider your lifestyle and how much entertaining you do. Are 6 place settings sufficient or will you need more? Also, do you need two different sets, one for formal settings and one for daily use? Perhaps it would be better to purchase open plates where you are not bound by a fixed number of place settings.
  • Oversized dinner plates are all the rage nowadays. Make sure your cabinets can accommodate them. You would not want to purchase loads of plates for which you do not have space. Neither would you want oversized plates that do not fit in your kitchen cabinets. Leaving them sitting on top of a kitchen is not an option.
  • Dinnerware is the center of attraction at your table. The add-ons like flowers, candle stands, and placemats further enhance your setting. The material of your dinnerware is an important consideration and again there is a large variety to choose from. Each material comes with its own set of strengths and weaknesses.

tableware set

What is bone china & porcelain?

Porcelain (also called fine china) and bone china are both ceramics made using different ingredients. Bone china mixes at least 30% bone ash (hence the name) to its raw materials. The amount of bone ash can go as high as 40 to 45% producing even better quality. Bone china is fired twice in the kiln. The first firing shrinks it while the second allows the glaze to become a part of the plate.

Naturally, Bone china is more costly compared to porcelain.

How can you differentiate between porcelain and bone china?

If you hold two same-size plates of porcelain and bone china, the porcelain one will be heavier. The differences in raw materials and production methodology allow plates created from bone china to be much thinner and smoother. This gives the bone china plates a more delicate and elegant look.

Don’t let the slender, elegant plates fool you; Bone china is the most durable ceramic available. It is not as bright as porcelain (or fine china). It is actually more an off-white color rather than pure white.

Finally, if you lightly tap together two pieces of porcelain, you will hear a heavy “club” sound without any echo. With bone china, you will get more of a ringing sound like a bell.

The most world-famous bone china and porcelain dinnerware are made by brand names like Noritake, Mikasa, and Wedgewood.

What is earthenware & stoneware?

Earthenware and stoneware are both made out of clay. Different types of clays and mixtures thereof are used to create dinnerware and other items of use.

earthenware

The main difference between the two types of pottery is the temperatures at which they are fired. Earthenware is fired at a lower temperature of around 1000°C. Stoneware, on the other hand, is fired at around 1200°C.

Earthenware products are more porous and granular compared to stoneware. Since Earthenware is porous glazing must be applied to make it nonporous. Stoneware is nonporous, so the glaze used here is only for decorative purposes. Stoneware is more durable than the two but, neither is as sturdy as porcelain or bone china.

Dinnerware made out of these materials tends to be bulky and thick. Being considerably cheaper than porcelain or bone china makes them an attractive option for daily use. Unique pieces of stoneware may not sack as uniformly as bone china or porcelain.

What is melamine tableware?

Melamine has come a long way since it was first introduced decades ago. It is loved because it is almost unbreakable very easy to maintain. It can withstand rough day-to-day usage better than almost any other material. Also, it is considerably cheaper than most other materials. Being chip and heat resistant means it requires fewer replacements compared to dinnerware made from other materials. It is available in tons of shapes and designs.

A lot of people have concerns regarding melamine’s safety. The FDA has declared melamine to be perfectly safe and has approved it for food-grade use. While it is certified BPA-free, it is recommended that melamine not be used for microwaving.

Not all melamine is created equal and there are ways to distinguish between the different qualities.

First up is the burn test. Just hold burning wax under a plate for 20 seconds. If there is a pungent smell (formaldehyde gas is given off) you should not be eating out of it. In food-grade melamine, no formaldehyde is released and there will be no smell.

Next up is the boil test. Merely boil the melamine piece in water for thirty minutes an hour maximum. The poor quality product will deform, even melt. Good quality melamine is thicker and a bit heavier than its fake counterpart.

Finally, poor quality melamine becomes easily stained and the color change is noticeable with short-term use. Good quality melamine has a very smooth finish and a shinier surface. It resembles porcelain more than it does plastic.

What is tempered glass tableware?

Corning has been producing tempered glass dinnerware since 1970. The tempered glass is made up of three layers of laminate. Two harder layers sandwich a soft layer in between. The soft layer acts as a shock absorber. The thermal bonding used in this type of glass makes it exceptionally strong. That does not mean that it can’t break. If dropped at the correct angle it will shatter, but fortunately, that happens rarely.

tempered glass dinnerware

Since there is no glue in the process, there is no danger of chemicals seeping into your food. Like porcelain, this type of tableware has no health hazards.

Tampered glass is dishwasher and microwave safe in addition to being chip resistant. A lot of Corning dishes are even great for conventional oven use. The dishes tend to be slimmer and lighter than dishes made out of most other materials. They are considerably cheaper than bone china and porcelain and being versatile is excellent for everyday use.

Bamboo tableware

With the increasing concern over the environmental impact in the production of plastics, bamboo tableware has gained popularity. Bamboo is biodegradable, grows aggressively, and even after harvesting does not require replanting. Cups, crockery, drinking straws, plates, and cutlery are being touted as the best thing for God’s green Earth.

bamboo tableware

From a health viewpoint, it is a different story altogether. Some bamboo products use a formaldehyde resin as the binding agent. At high temperatures, more than the recommended amounts of these dangerous chemicals seep into your food.

While products made out of pure bamboo are biodegradable, those using synthetic resin are not. Bamboo is a good alternative to some other materials as long as it is not in contact with high temperatures.

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