Why You Shouldn't Eat Food Directly Off A Charger Plate

There's an art when it comes to how to set a beautiful table for a special occasion. Along with fine china, cloth napkins, and an eye-catching centerpiece, it's also wise to use charger plates. Larger and more visually appealing than traditional dishware, chargers are meant to sit beneath plates and serve a purely decorative purpose — the question is, why?

Available in a range of colors and materials (ceramic, glass, wood, metal, plastic, rattan, and the like) that can match any theme, chargers provide a pop of color and draw attention to whatever's being served, amping up the aesthetics of a table laden with your best white plates. Yet while they might look a lot like regular plates, eating off of them is a major faux pas.

The reason why is that most chargers aren't food-safe. Utensils can scratch and chip the paints or other coatings used to decorate them, leading to accidental ingestion of potential toxins, which can pose a serious health risk. That said, food-grade chargers do exist. But given that they're few and far between, it's usually best not to eat off of chargers at all.

The right way to use (and care for!) charger plates

Although the primary purpose of chargers is to add a wow factor to table settings, that isn't their only benefit. They can also protect tabletops from hot dishes, retain heat so that food stays warm, and act as a barrier from spills, ensuring tablecloths don't become soiled and stained (but if they do, boiling water can actually clean some food stains). Given these many functions, chargers aren't typically removed from their place until dessert is served, so just wipe them down if they get dirty between courses.

Chargers should always be cleaned once the meal has ended to prolong their lifespan. Just bear in mind that how you go about doing so depends on the material. For instance, it might be as simple as brushing off debris, whereas some might require delicate handwashing. Others can even be tossed into the dishwasher! At the end of the day, chargers can be just as functional as they are aesthetic. The most important thing to remember is that among their many potential purposes, eating off of them isn't one of them.