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Shopping for serving dishes and pieces should focus on two questions: Does the item function well for its intended purpose? Does it suit my style? (In other words, as Marie Kondo might ask, does it spark joy?) Your favorite pieces will be the ones that balance these two priorities. When you’re on the hunt for these important items, patience can be a virtue, according to Cara Livermore, a food photographer, stylist, and creative director of Chickpea magazine. “Don’t buy everything you want all at once,” she says.
Taking your time lets you gain experience with brands and styles that can inform future choices. And when you do splurge on something you really love, don’t lock it away or use it only on holidays. Even if it’s just for you, use your best things on an everyday basis. Eat spaghetti off your nicest plates or slurp ramen with your fanciest spoon. “Good serving pieces just make any meal more special,” says Livermore.
Ahead are the best serving dishes and pieces for Thanksgiving, winter holidays, and beyond.
Best Wine Decanter: Le Chateau Wine Decanter
Add drama to your dinner parties with this architectural wine decanter. Its splashy shape is more about function than form, though. Wine aficionados insist that giving wine some air before serving enhances the flavor. Merlots, cabernets, pinot noirs, and other varietals can benefit from being decanted into this vessel prior to drinking. When you pour the wine into the decanter, it pools into the widest part, allowing maximum exposure to the air. The well-designed slanted spout allows for easy, drip-free pouring. This decanter is made for the standard 750-milliliter bottle of wine. It’s technically dishwasher safe, but the manufacturer recommends washing this by hand.
"The Le Chateau Wine Decanter should be a bar cart staple for any wine drinker, whether their collection boasts a stocked, curated cellar, or merely the occasional bottle stored on top of the fridge." — Caroline Goldstein, Product Tester
Best Dutch Oven: Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron Oval Dutch Oven
There is one Dutch oven to rule them all, and it's this classic stunner from Le Creuset. It’s an investment, but Le Creuset delivers on quality that can last for generations. An enameled cast-iron Dutch oven is a must for any well-equipped kitchen. It’s the go-to pot for soups, stews, chili, and braises. You can also use it to bake crusty bread and roast a whole chicken. Don’t be tempted to save a few dollars on the 5-quart version. The 7-quart option takes up almost the same amount of storage space, but you can make much bigger batches of everything in it.
"If you’ve fallen hard for Le Creuset, but still have lingering qualms over the price, follow your heart, not your head. The brand’s iconic Dutch oven isn’t only beautiful, but also highly functional and long-lasting, after all." — Tierney McAfee, Product Tester
Best Butter Dish: Butter Bell The Original Butter Bell Crock
When you store your butter in the refrigerator, it's cold and hard when you want to enjoy it. If you want creamy, soft, spreadable butter on demand, you probably keep your butter dish on the counter, which is fine, as long as you can eat a stick of butter in 14 days (after that, it goes rancid on you). You can have your softened butter and a long shelf life, too, if you store your butter not in the typical dish, but in the ingenious butter bell.
This contraption allows you to keep butter fresh at room temperature for a full month. You fill the top piece (the bell) with butter and set it in the water-filled bottom piece. The air-tight seal of the water slows spoilage. Just remember to change that water every couple of days for the best results.
Best Pie Server: Oxo Steel Pie Server
Making a pie is no small task. Why would you risk destroying it by trying to remove pieces from the pan with anything other than a purpose-built pie-serving utensil? Even if you go for store-bought, no one wants mangled pieces instead of neat, beautiful wedges. OXO’s model is especially great for the job. It’s made of flexible stainless steel—easier for maneuvering that tight first piece out—and serrated on both sides for cleanly slicing through the crust. This server works not only with your dessert pies but also for the pizza variety. Try it for quiches and tarts, too. Like other OXO tools, this server feels great in your hand thanks to the well-designed handle. When you’re done, just toss it into the dishwasher for no-fuss cleaning.
Best Flatware: Cambridge Silversmiths Julia Satin Flatware Collection
It’s easy to overlook the role of flatware in the experience of eating, but how utensils feel in your hands can add a lot to a meal (or detract from it if your utensils aren’t comfortable). The Cambridge Silversmiths Julie Satin Flatware Collection has a time-honored look that will never go out of style. The pieces feel pleasantly heavy and well balanced in your grasp, and all have rounded edges that are comfortable to hold. Made from stainless steel, this flatware will go the distance and is dishwasher safe. If space is a consideration and you need one set of flatware that you’ll love using every day, but will be proud to show off on special occasions, you’ll love this design.
Best Platter: IKEA Upplaga Serving Plate
You don’t have to spend a lot to get a sturdy, pretty serving platter that will serve you well for many years to come. The lightly textured ruffled edging is beautiful but subtle. It looks just as perfect at your dinner party table as it will in your Instagram photos. When shopping for tableware, don’t get distracted by seasonal patterns and colors, especially if you have limited storage. This stylish, but neutral design will work for summer’s big shared salads and your wintertime roast chickens, too. It’s made from porcelain, is crack- and chip-resistant is generously sized at 17 x 12 inches, and is dishwasher safe. Plus, it's every bit as attractive and functional as more expensive plates.
Style is personal, but Livermore suggests pieces made from natural materials like wood, metal, and ceramic. “You can get nice things without breaking the bank. Places like West Elm and IKEA have some good quality things,” she says.
Best Serving Bowl: Pottery Barn Classic Porcelain Serving Bowl
No matter how many large serving bowls you have, it’s never enough. This useful beauty is made from glazed, bright white porcelain. The simple, clean design makes it look perfectly at home no matter what style inspiration drives other elements on the table. You might find yourself mixing up pancakes in it or serving salad to guests you really want to impress.
For those times you want to keep dishes warm before serving, just slip this bowl into the oven. It’s oven and dishwasher safe. You could use it as a vessel for rising pizza or bread dough, or serving a special occasion soup. Even if you find yourself not cooking as much as you thought, it makes a striking fruit bowl. Fill it with apples, oranges, or peaches.
Best Serving Utensils: Lipper Acacia Oblong Salad Servers
This wooden fork-and-spoon serving set has a cozy retro vibe. Made from acacia wood, it brings a warm stylish feel to otherwise modern and sleepy kitchens. The fork and spoon were designed with salads in mind, and indeed, these are the ideal tools for serving up portions of greens. However, they can also function as all-purpose serving utensils in your kitchen. Use them to dish up tacos, spoon sauces, and serve roasted vegetables.
The wood material means you’ll need to give these utensils a bit of TLC. They can’t go in the dishwasher, so handwashing with gentle dish soap is a must. It’s also a good idea to oil them periodically with mineral oil. It will maintain their appearance, enhance the grain of the wood, and extend their life.
Best Coffee Carafe: Zojirushi Stainless Steel Vacuum Carafe
This good-looking thermal carafe will keep your coffee or tea perfectly hot for hours. If you’re entertaining, this allows you to make coffee ahead and have it ready to pour on your time. If you’re sipping at home by yourself or with the family, enjoy fresh and hot refills all morning. Unlike some other carafes, this model disassembles fully for easy cleaning. Its spout offers an even, steady stream of coffee that cuts off on-demand, so you’ll never spill or overflow a mug. It boasts extra insulation to keep the goods hot (or cold, if you prefer), and its stainless steel construction is unbreakable. The burnished copper-colored exterior looks more than good enough for your dining room table.
Best Cake Stand: Winco CKSR-12 Cake Stand
Once you’ve watched a certain amount of "The Great British Baking Show," your standards for your cake decorating tend to level up a notch. And there’s no better way to improve your cake frosting skills than using a revolving cake stand. The fluid rotation lets you sweep and swirl your frosting over the cake’s surface with precision. Not every cake stand is just as well-suited to the table as it is to the kitchen, but this one is attractive enough to serve as a stage for dessert in front of your company. Pro tip: Keep everything neat and professional by snuggling strips of parchment underneath your cake’s edges. That way, when your decorating job is complete, you can pull them out to reveal a drip and smudge-free cake stand.
Best Cheese Board: Royal Craft Wood Cheese Board
When you want to go all out on your cheese and charcuterie spread, you need plenty of space for all the varieties and garnishes you want to serve. At 17 x 12 inches, this big board can fit a lot of snacks. In addition to its generous size, some other features that make it a must-have include a hideaway drawer that contains three specialty cheese knives and a cheese fork. The center of the board is flanked with two long, shallow oval indentations that serve as built-in bowls for your crackers and nuts. The board is eco-friendly, crafted from sustainably harvested bamboo. Bamboo is not only attractive, but it’s also easy on your knives. In addition to hors d'oeuvres for the family, you’ll be pulling it out on evenings when you decide to fix yourself a cheese plate instead of dinner.
Best Wine Glasses: IKEA Dyrgrip Wine Glasses
It can be tough to choose the right wine glasses. Many are expensive and fragile. Some of the prettiest can’t be put in the dishwasher. But most people don’t need fancy crystal wine glasses. What you probably want is a good looking, but sturdy option that will let you put your focus on drinking wine with your friends and not worrying about chips and breaks. The DYRGRIP wine glasses from IKEA are Livermore’s favorite. “I replaced more expensive glasses that had all broken over the years with these. They’re a little sturdier, and they have a beautiful shape,” she says.
Best Salt and Pepper Set: Williams Sonoma Trudeau Graviti Electric Salt and Pepper Mills
This set marries the convenience and ease of table-ready salt and pepper shakers with the superior flavor of freshly ground salt and pepper. An ingenious automatic design allows you to simply invert the grinder to start grinding pepper or salt onto your plate. Flip it upright and the grind stops. That also means you can season your food with one hand, which helps prevent cross-contamination.
This pair of mills is made from stainless steel with a satin finish. A transparent chamber allows you to see when your salt or pepper is running low and needs to be refilled. They’re conveniently pre-filled with salt and pepper so you can use them right after unboxing. Get them monogrammed with your initials to make them your own.
Best for Chips and Dip: Crate & Barrel Flow Chip and Dip Bowl
Today’s chip and dip servers are sleeker and more modern than the retro ones your grandma probably remembers—but are just as useful for snacking. This one has elegant curves and the perfect sized built-in bowl to hold your dip right where it belongs: with the chips. You’ll want to use it for guacamole and tortilla chips, spinach artichoke dip with toasted bread cubes, or shrimp and cocktail sauce. Its smart design makes it good for cherries or olives as well. Serve in the large compartment, designating the smaller bowl for the pits.
Best Pitcher: Novica Large Blue Hand Blown Glass Pitcher
This pitcher is made from earth-friendly recycled glass in an arresting shade of translucent blue. It holds 82 ounces, a good size for pouring homemade lemonade or margaritas for your crowd. It’s part of the Novica project, a collaboration with National Geographic that brings objects from artisans around the world to America, and it comes with a story card detailing its quality and authenticity. It’s handmade blown glass, so you might notice tiny irregularities in its color or tiny bubbles inside the glass. These aren’t flaws; they're what make handcrafted pieces one of a kind. The artists are Javier and Efren, who work together to imprint each piece with the style of their home country, Mexico.
You don’t need to buy everything at once. Start with everyday items you’ll use the most, like the Le Creuset Dutch Oven (view at Amazon) and The Original Butter Bell Crock (view at Amazon). Over time, add cool stuff like the Le Chateau Wine Decanter and the Trudeau Salt and Pepper Mills (view at Williams Sonoma).
What to Look for in Serving Pieces
For serving pieces that will take a lot of use over the years, you want items that will stand the test of time. You don't want to grow attached to a piece and then have it break in the middle of your special event.
Price may be a factor but perhaps not in the way you might think. You might splurge a little bit for pieces and equipment that are going to serve you well during holidays and when you are entertaining—sometimes it's worth it to pay a little more to have a piece that fits your style, cleans up easily, and functions well. Some of these items are priced affordably and are such good basics that you can stock up on a few of them (bowls and platters, for example) without breaking the bank.
You might be surprised by how many items can go into the dishwasher these days—wine glasses included. Yet, there are still items which the recommended best care is handwashing. Read the fine print, so you don't spend hours after your party cleaning up items that can be hand-washed only when you could have perhaps sought pieces that are dishwasher safe.
What type of dinnerware is best for everyday use?
Look for porcelain, bone china, or stoneware for everyday use. Typically, these items are sturdy, easy to care for (read: can go into the dishwasher), and affordable.
What is the best material for a cheeseboard?
Look for boards made from hardwood, bamboo, and marble. Hardwood and bamboo are easier to store, transport, and clean, as they are not heavy. Marble looks beautiful, can be easily cleaned, but is heavy and can chip easily, if that's a concern. All of these materials tend to be easy to clean and can withstand repeated cuts on the surface.
Does a wine decanter make wine taste better?
The short answer is yes, it does. Almost every wine can benefit from decanting, as it adds more oxygen to the wine. Decanting releases the aromas and also can soften the tannins in wine, making the wines taste smoother and fruitier. Decanting sparkling wines is of no benefit to them.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Joy Manning is a food writer and recipe developer. Her work has appeared in many publications including The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Washington Post. She’s the author of "Almost Meatless" and "Stuff Every Cook Should Know."