White plates are the ultimate workhorses of the dish world. They never look cheap, their lack of color appropriately highlights any kind of food, and you can mix and match from different brands yet still present a pulled-together table. Plus, unlike patterned dishes, you can find replacements virtually anywhere.
Yet all this versatility can be a bit misleading—not all white plates work for every type of food. Whether you're an experimental type who takes plating seriously or live off a steady diet of sandwiches, here's the info you need to adjust your collection.
① For devoted home brunchers
One problem with standard rimmed dinner plates is that the actual surface area for food isn't as big as one needs for housing fare like pancakes, omelets and home fries. Instead, you want a rimless plate that also has a lip around the edge to keep everything from sliding onto the floor. These handcrafted minimalist white plates ($180 for four) from This Quiet Dust Ceramics Studio via Etsy are just big enough for your brunch needs, and each has a thin lip that protects tabletops from errant syrup.
② For gourmet grillers
The Apilco Porcelain Chop Plates ($56 for two) from Williams-Sonoma will change the way you serve BBQ. High-fired porcelain makes these extra sturdy, the angled rim keeps juices contained and the generous size is ideal for the appropriate serving of ribs (which is all of the ribs). Sure, they're a fancier option for cookouts but not so fancy as to inspire snarky commentary. The rest of the year, these large plates can be used as serving platters. The best feature is that they're oven safe, giving you the option to throw them right into the oven on those nights when cheese fries are the only option.
③ For light bites & apps
The day that I embraced the fact that I eat like a 60s businessman (lots of sandwiches) was a liberating one, but it also ushered in a much-needed adjustment in my plate supply. For sandwich eaters, it's weird to lug around a whole dinner plate when you want to enjoy just your BLT, but appetizer plates can be too small for sides. Your best bet is a rectangular plate like World Market's Small White Rimmed Rectangular Platter ($6). The shape creates lots of white space that makes everything look more stylish, but it's also a design that's easier to balance on one's lap (no judgments). It can comfortably support a sandwich or even a burrito, and it has a little room for a side of chips. Since it's technically a platter, you can also pass it off as an hors d'oeuvres tray.
④ For "simple green salad" types
Salad plates are usually scaled-down dinner plates, though the problem you need to address isn't portion size but the unwieldiness of eating salad. Like our rice/grain-based salad eaters, you need a deep plate that has a higher rim to keep leaves contained and appropriately dressed. Your best bet will be anything with a higher angled rim, whether it's a "deep" bowl/plate or one with higher sides, like the Marin White Dinner Plate ($10) by Crate & Barrel.
⑤ For grain salad or pasta fanatics
Be honest with yourself. If you eat a lot of rice-, grain- or pasta-based dishes, it's far easier to go with a bowl than a plate. But standard cereal bowls tend to be too rounded at the bottom, causing dressing (or thinner sauces) to pool. Not to mention, hunching over a cereal bowl for every meal can make one feel like a kidult. A better option is a coupe or the seeming oxymoron of a soup plate, like the Monaco Soup Plate ($14 for a 12-ounce dish) from Fishs Eddy.
⑥ For conceptual chefs
Experimental techniques can be shown off to great advantage on more sculptural plates. This handmade design ($33) from PuntoSoave on Etsy is shaped like a hill, which is completely amazing to look at but also impractical for anyone but those who dare arrange their sauces in dots. It's your time to shine.
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