Buying guide needed: dinnerware edition
February 17, 2015 12:32 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking to buy new everyday dishes and I don't know how to find something I'll be happy with. Dishwasher- and microwave-safe is easy, since most tell you that right up front. But I also want dishes that are resistant to chipping, even if clattered around a bit, and ones that don't show knife/tool marks readily. I gather I want stoneware rather than earthenware, but are there specific features, or price points, I should be seeking? Any advice you can offer would be much appreciated.
posted by DrGail to Shopping (47 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Heath's stuff is great.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:37 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Both my husband and I grew up with Corelle. Lightweight and durable. No chipping at all. Stacks like a dream in the cupboard. We've had our set for over 4 years now and there are some knife/tool marks on the white centers of the dinner plates. This is most likely because we keep using the same two plates every night and probably don't rotate them well enough. My parents are also still using their Corelle dishes from the 1980s.
posted by watch out for turtles at 12:37 PM on February 17, 2015 [19 favorites]

For dishes that will last for mother-loving EVER, I recommend Corelle. They're thin and delicate looking, but they're meant to be indestructible. My Mom's is plain white and she's had it for 42 years. It looks as good today as it did when she bought it. It's made by Corning, so if you know how well Corning Ware stands up to punishment, their dishes are just as good.

They sell it at Target Wal-Mart, JC Penny, it's ubiquitous.

I also have a huge weakness for Fiesta Ware, which is great if you like colorful dishware.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:46 PM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

We have a cabinet stocked with the Williams Sonoma Pantry Collection and we are very happy with it. Nice and simple, sturdy and it seems to be holding up very well.
posted by Jacob G at 12:47 PM on February 17, 2015

My parents have been using the same two sets of Corelle dishes they got when they got married about 38 years ago. They have a bit of knife wear but not a horrible amount. I've watched them throw those plates at each other a number of times over the years and the plates have fared better than they have. They hold up remarkably well.
posted by phunniemee at 12:48 PM on February 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

Mr. Thumbscrew and I decided last year that we were GROWN-UPS, DANG IT, and as such, we needed to buy some real dishes (instead of continuing to use the chipped IKEA monstrosities we'd been using for a decade). I did a ton of research (Amazon reviews, this esteemed website, etc.), and finally settled on piecemeal Fiestaware (not the pre-packaged sets) and Duralex "Picardie" glasses. We've had our new dishes/glasses for close to a year and they are the most durable sons-of-bitches OF ALL TIME. They still look the same as they day we bought 'em, even though they've been mistreated by klutzy adults and somewhat-careless kids.
posted by julthumbscrew at 12:49 PM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Corelle is completely bulletproof. You will never see a chip - we beat the crap out of this stuff at the office.

The only thing keeping me from using it at home is that it's light and doesn't hold heat very well if you tend to serve dinner on hot plates.
posted by ftm at 12:50 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

(I grew up with Corelle dishes, and while they ARE durable as hell - my parents have been using the same set for nearly 40 years - they just feel kinda cheap to me. They'll last forever, but you won't have the same daily satisfaction you get from using Fiestaware. Swear to god, I DO have a moment of, "Ahhhh, what a nice, hefty, indestructible bowl!" every time I eat my cereal.)
posted by julthumbscrew at 12:51 PM on February 17, 2015 [13 favorites]

My mom's had Corelle for my whole life. The stuff works great and she can still get new plates/dishes if she needs to in her pattern.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:56 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I had white Fiesta dishes for 20 years with nary a chip. However, I did end up getting rid of them because they were totally knife-marked. It may have been the white. My sister has navy blue Fiesta of the same age and at least you can't see the knife marks. FWIW, I now have plain white Food Network dinnerware from Kohls and love it.
posted by sarajane at 12:57 PM on February 17, 2015

I'm with julthumbscrew that Corelle--while ultra-sturdy--looks and feels like cheap dishware.

The new Fiesta is great stuff though, and it is glazed to resist cutlery marking.

**If you do have an issue with knife marks, etc. on white ceramic, Bar Keeper's Friend takes them completely out.
posted by yellowcandy at 1:03 PM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

I just bought 2 sets of Denby's "Everyday" line of dishes. I bought mine at Canadian Tire so I'm not sure what other vendor sells them, but they meet your requirements and are beautiful enough to make my morning coffee so happy. (Bonus: made in the UK, a country with a minimum wage and labour laws, yay!)
posted by unlapsing at 1:26 PM on February 17, 2015

Came in to recommend Fiesta as well. Ours is going on 3 years old at this point and still looks brand new.
posted by saladin at 1:40 PM on February 17, 2015

On the other hand, if you do break Corelle, it shatters very impressively. Because it is glass, and I am a Shatter Monster. We went through a fair amount of Corelle before deciding that picking glass splinters out of our feet was just not worth it.

We've got 1960's vintage Noritake Progression plates in three sizes, plus other odd pieces (I found a gravy boat!) in a few different patterns and have not actually broken any of it in the ten years we've had it. It hasn't shown any wear from when we bought it. It can be hard to find, but I'm quite fond. And IKEA bowls, because they're cheap and are the right size and don't shatter when they break.

If I were going to buy new dishes, I'd probably get Fiestaware. It is nice without being horribly expensive, and you can always get replacements that won't look out of place even if you can't get a specific color.

For glasses, those Duralex Picardie are AMAZING! Haven't broken a single one! I lucked into a few at a thrift store and over time have replaced all of the other glasses with thrifted Picardies.
posted by monopas at 1:44 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

We use vintage Corelle, because we like that kind of thing.
posted by PlutoniumX at 1:44 PM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Another vote for Corelle. My parents have had their set since before I was born and they're in great shape. I haven't had mine as long, but I do love them. I know some people like heavier plates, but I think the lightness is a feature not a bug. I like that I can carry a giant stack and it's not heavy. I like that they're thin, so I can stack 12 dinner plates, lunch plates, and dessert plates on one cupboard shelf (with those little cupboard-organizing shelves in between, obviously).
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:48 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Hah, yes Corelle will shatter if you manage to break it. My mom has always told me this is a safety feature (more in cups than in plates). If a cup chips you might keep it (on purpose or not noticing) and then someone could cut their lip. But if your cup shatters, no one will use it afterwards.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:50 PM on February 17, 2015

I've replaced most of my pans, some of the pots, and all of the flatware that I received as hand-me-downs from my mother and grandmother when I was just getting started as a young adult.

But you can pry the Butterfly Gold Corelle dishes that my grandfather gave me from my cold, dead hands.

Corelle is the best. (Granted, the pattern is pretty dated. Still the best.)
posted by PearlRose at 1:53 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

PearlRose: That's my parents' pattern, too.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 2:00 PM on February 17, 2015

Heath is wonderful.
posted by turniphead at 2:07 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have a set of IKEA PROMENAD that are bulletproof – strong and light, cheap and pretty. IKEA says they're feldspar porcelain.
posted by zippy at 2:07 PM on February 17, 2015

Fiestaware! We've had a full collection of the piecemeal stuff for three years and have broken one piece because I dropped it on a marble floor in our laundry room. I've dropped about 20 pieces on the wood kitchen floor with no problems whatsoever.
posted by notjustthefish at 2:13 PM on February 17, 2015

On the other hand, we received a set of Fiestaware for our wedding in 1998 and all but 3 pieces were broken within 2 years, mainly from our counter-cruising dogs knocking them onto our (vinyl) kitchen floor. Yes, our dogs were bad, but I was totally bummed that they do not bounce even a little, in my experience. Maybe they are made sturdier these days?
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:20 PM on February 17, 2015

On the occasion of my 20th wedding anniversary (just a couple of weeks ago) I noted that our dishes -- from our wedding registry -- are all looking amazing and pretty much like new. We have a combo of Bennington Pottery's blue agate classic dinnerware and Williams Sonoma's Brasserie. They're both beautiful and sturdy.
posted by BlahLaLa at 2:34 PM on February 17, 2015

came in to say Corelle
posted by infini at 2:37 PM on February 17, 2015

As for dated patterns, no such thing. A country flea market in W. Pennsylvania found me most of a dinner set for $4 - though now sadly I lost the large salad bowl and serving plate to moving continents.

Yes they do break but its most unusual. I still remember the ads when they were launched, dropping to the floor and not breaking...
posted by infini at 2:39 PM on February 17, 2015

PlutoniumX I have one of those plates!

And this is my vintage pattern and my regular pattern
posted by infini at 2:45 PM on February 17, 2015

Like many others, I'm a sucker for Fiestaware, and in spite of having about 10 million Fiesta items over ~30 years (I grew up with 'em), I've never had anything chip or break. There are few household items that give me the same enjoyment I get from using these plates - they are so bright and happy and strong. I also have some plates & bowls from Anthropologie in coordinating colors, which add to the prettiness on special occasions.

For the record, my college dining hall used Fiesta plates, bowls, & mugs - that's how indestructible they are.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 2:51 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I love dishes, and have lots. I use Emile Henry everyday and have for about 10 years--no chips, a bit of knife scratching. I also buy plates and bowls at thrift stores and estate sales because I get bored easily. I hate Corelle, it's the polyester of plates.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:42 PM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

An anti-vote for corelle. It has got the be the cheapest get the point. It's thin and it's glass. Cutting on it is like dragging nails down a chalkboard.
Go japanese. Something with a gorgeous colorful/textural glaze over heavy earthenware. Things whose beauty comes from their imperfections tend to hide flaws the best.
posted by sexyrobot at 3:45 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

(Also, blue is a terrible color for dishware, totally unappetizing, and even purple can be a little dicey.)
posted by sexyrobot at 4:01 PM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Raised on a combination of Corelle and melamine. I have been rocking Dansk earthenware, Generations, for 15 years; sturdy and hippy looking. To be honest, I dig the plates out of places like World Market and even Pier 1. But the Duralux glasses are the BEST. The only other alternatives I suggest in glassware is going to a restaurant supply store and picking up glasses there, which are way sturdier than what you find in most stores.
posted by jadepearl at 4:22 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I keep all of my dinnerware the same basic white so that when I do break enough to warrant replacement, I can go and buy whatever suits my fancy without having to worry about matching patterns. That, and I hate eating food on coloured or patterned plates.

I have 2 different sets of IKEA plates - the 365 dinner plates and their soup plates, and have sourced small bowls and side plates from dollar shops of various sorts. Everything matches, everything is cheap, and I don't care if I do smash something. For what it's worth, the IKEA 365 dinner plates have had heavy usage for 10 years and have few knife marks. We've chipped one (I'm damn clumsy) and outright smashed a couple but they were easily replaced.

What I do spend serious money on are statement pieces - a canteen of good cutlery,fancy carafes, serving platters and so on. They look wonderful, and you can play with colours as they won't make the food look weird and bright splashes against basic white looks awesome.
posted by ninazer0 at 4:45 PM on February 17, 2015

I love how there are really only 4 answers in this thread, but they range from the obscenely expensive (if arguably justifiably so) Heath down to the democratically accessible (and often adorable) Corelle. I champion the mid-range, myself, with a set of the Williams-Sonoma Pantry Collection equivalent - mine came from a Pottery Barn outlet, but same company, same general range of basic white stoneware. They've lasted 15 years so far, not a single piece chipped (and I am someone who washes up after a dinner party while well lit on wine, so...), just now starting to show some knife marks (but not darkening within, just some less shiny streaks to the glaze).
posted by amelioration at 5:08 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Syracuse China hotel ware, which you can now really only buy secondhand (but probably hotel ware from other brands that is more available) is incredibly sturdy. My mother kind of hates the pattern she has (it was a gift) and didn't like how heavy it was. She kept waiting for some of the pieces to break or scratch or chip or SOMETHING. (Do you know what it's like to have a mom who wouldn't mind if you broke some bowls doing the dishes?? It's weird.) She finally just squirreled it away around 2000 so she could pretend it didn't exist and bought some corel ware instead.
(Regular Syracuse China is just as breakable as the rest though...)
posted by Tandem Affinity at 5:33 PM on February 17, 2015

Bone China is actually pretty strong, and isn't just for fancy dinners. I don't like the clunky feel of Fiestaware, so I found some simple white bone china dishes that have served me well as everyday dinnerware. I haven't thrown them on the ground, but I also haven't treated them extremely delicately, either.

Something like this pattern is simple but good for casual dinners. White can get a little boring, but I also find that bright colors can look a bit strange with food.
posted by that girl at 6:32 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

You know, dishes can be cheap and fun to experiment with. For many years I had serial sets of dishes (always four place settings) in many different colors, styles, materials, and patterns. Then when I wanted my first set of "grown up" dishes, I bought everything (and I do mean everything) in a pattern I loved from a Big Name factory outlet. Five years later I was so sick of those damn dishes that I gave the entire set away.

Now I have plain white Mikasa bone china that I found at Costco. I like it so much that I went back and bought another set for backup. It's basic, elegant, light, delicate but strong, and very classy. It's thin so you can stack more of it in the same space as earthenware or stoneware, and fit more in the dishwasher. Rather than have matching everygoddamnthing, I use serving dishes and accessories with color and character from the thrift store. Pretty dishes are nice, but at this point the dishes are the backdrop and the food is the star.
posted by caryatid at 7:00 PM on February 17, 2015

I'm a fan of Libby Duratuff glasses; they have heat treated rims to hold up to more abuse. You'll probably have to order them online or from a restaurant supply company. The ones I got are designed to stack well (that is, without getting stuck together), so I can store them fairly compactly.

In my experience Corelle will turn into a thousand shards if you drop it. Whereas with the Arabia Ruska plates my parents have had for decades with little evidence of any wear, if you drop them, you're more likely to damage the floor (or your foot).
posted by Hither at 8:38 PM on February 17, 2015

Definitely bone china. Plain white.

But I can't stand Corelle - feels cheap and nasty, and I'm not into the 70s patterns.

Anything that isn't bone china will chip easily, whereas bone china is thinner and feels more delicate, but is actually very tough.

And all good looks good served on pure white.
posted by Salamander at 9:00 PM on February 17, 2015

I have some Corelle plates, and I know they are durable but secretly as soon as I can, I want to put them in the "for kids" pile of plates, and get something nicer for us. Most anything will shatter into a million pieces if dropped on a hard floor, so for me I want either bone china or porcelain - stoneware and earthenware tend to be very heavy, and earthenware (especially if it is cheap!) chips if you glance at it. I had some plain white porcelain bowls, that stood up to everything, including the occasional knock against the tap, until they were eventually all broken by being knocked off tables onto tiles by dogs or flying projectiles.

I have a relative who worked in the china department of a big department store, and one of the porcelain ladies used to stand on the teacups to demonstrate their durability :)
posted by mythical anthropomorphic amphibian at 10:08 PM on February 17, 2015

tl;dr don't buy blue corelle ;p
posted by infini at 4:14 AM on February 18, 2015

I tried yellowcandy's suggestion of Bar Keeper's Friend on the knife marks and, voila! My tired-looking dishes look (virtually) new again.
posted by DrGail at 5:46 AM on February 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

I have broken nearly all of my Corelle bowls, so it will certainly break. It doesn't chip though.
posted by interplanetjanet at 5:56 AM on February 18, 2015

I like bone china porcellan, and we've been using Cashmere (Maxwell & Williams) for several years now. It has got a simple, yet elegant look, and it's quite sturdy. If you break something, it's not the end of the world since it's not very expensive.
posted by amf at 9:49 AM on February 18, 2015

I have broken nearly all of my Corelle bowls, so it will certainly break. It doesn't chip though.

If you send the pieces to them, they'll send you a replacement.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:24 PM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's too late! I threw them all away. They shatter into really small sharp pieces too so I wouldn't like to mail them. There's one left. I'll try it if (when) I drop it in the sink.
posted by interplanetjanet at 2:33 PM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you send the pieces to them, they'll send you a replacement.

Mine broke in transit and UPS changed the carton so I dont even know what else was crushed.

This is why also Corelle is so attractive for someone who moves continents every few years - lightweight and packs really well. Barring this last move's strange accident, I never lost a piece in 10 years from the US to Asia to Europe and back around one more loop.
posted by infini at 2:51 PM on February 18, 2015

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