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Updated September 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best serving platters

Has this ever happened to you? You offer to host a get-together or a holiday meal. You study recipes, get the ingredients, and do the prep work. You watch your main course come together on the stove or oven, and everything’s going just right. You take it out to serve – and realize you don’t have a serving platter.

A serving platter is a piece of tableware for serving and displaying food. Food isn’t consumed directly from a platter, unlike a plate. Rather, food is served from a platter to a plate. A serving platter is key to hosting a gathering, but it’s also a piece that a lot of people overlook.

Serving platters enhance the presentation and appeal of food. While food could be portioned out in the kitchen and served restaurant-style on individual plates, turning out a roast or bird on a serving platter has a grand visual impact and gives the home cook satisfaction.

Some serving platters perform double duty as artistic or decorative objects. In fact, in some families, a serving platter is an heirloom that gets passed down through the generations.

Before you host your next get-together or holiday party, make sure you have at least one or two attractive and durable serving platters that fit your personality and budget. You won’t regret it!

People eating from charcuterie board
Serving platters can be confused with serving trays and chargers. A charger is a large decorative plate placed under a dinner plate. A serving tray is used to convey plated dishes or drinks. Unlike serving platters, chargers and trays are not generally meant to touch food.

How to choose a serving platter

Think about your dinners and occasions

You can use a serving platter whenever you’d like, but usually, platters come out for dinners, holidays, and other gatherings. 

A light, simple, easy-to-clean serving platter is more practical for frequent use than a heavy, delicate, or highly expensive platter. Informal melamine platters are appropriate for both indoor and outdoor casual serving, whereas platters with flourishes, scallops, or metallic accents are often reserved for bigger occasions. Thus, having different platters for different uses – one for a charcuterie board or hors d’oeuvres, one for roasts, and so on – makes a lot of sense.

Consider various materials

Serving platters come in a variety of materials, from affordable to extravagant.

Wood: The earliest platters were often made of wood, and food-safe wooden platters – as opposed to trays, which aren’t made for direct contact with food – remain popular. 

Melamine: This plastic-like material is a popular choice for low-cost serving platters in colorful designs.

Tempered glass: This material is microwave safe. Corelle ware is a popular example. 

Ceramic: The most popular material for serving platters is ceramic, from simple earthenware and pottery to bone china and fine porcelain. 

Metal: Metal serving platters were historically prevalent, including those made with precious metals. 

Stone: Popular serving platters for cheese or appetizers can be made of stone, such as marble, slate, and soapstone.

Decide which shape you would like

Serving platters come in different shapes, and some shapes are better than others for certain foods. 

An oval is the most common and versatile serving platter shape. Oval serving platters work for almost any type of food: roasts, shish kebabs, pasta, grains, and even finger food. 

Circular platters do well with roast birds like chicken or turkey, while many hors d’oeuvres trays are rectangular. Boards and platters for serving cheese typically have paddle-like shapes with handles. 

Some serving platters eschew “real life” shapes. For example, you might like a platter shaped like a fish, a cob of corn, a flower, or a sun. Abstract shapes can be interesting, too.

Choose a size

Most serving platters are larger than a dinner plate. In other words, they are larger than 12 inches in diameter. A “turkey platter” intended for a whole cooked turkey should be at least 16 inches wide. 

There are smaller platters for more specialized uses, too:, hors d'oeuvres platters, cheese boards, and egg plates, for example.

Think about weight

The size of a serving platter can make it one of your heavier pieces of tableware. If you want something attractive yet lightweight, consider a melamine platter. If you don’t mind a heavier platter, stone and stoneware are lovely choices, as are glass and most types of ceramic.

Lighter, more delicate platters in porcelain or glass may be more fragile and not ideal for heavy items like whole roasts.

A trencher is a kind of platter consisting of a flat surface without a lip or rim. Trenchers were prevalent in medieval Europe when they were made of edible bread, and later, wood or pewter. A cheese board is technically a kind of trencher.

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Features of serving platters

Well

In tableware, the well of a plate is its lowest area, where food is placed and juices or sauces collect. A serving platter may or may not have a well, but having one can be an asset in serving roasts, pasta, and braises.

Lip and handles

The lip of a platter is the space between the well and the rim. A wide lip makes it easy to hold a serving platter and provides a visual and physical margin for the food, whereas some platters may have very narrow lips and hold more food. 

Some serving platters also come with handles, either integrated with the lip or attached to the rim.

Rim

The rim of a serving plate is the outer edge of the lip. Some platters have highly decorative rims in keeping with their festive appearance. Examples include gilded rims and scalloped rims.

Base

The base of a platter may be flat or not, depending on the presence of a well. Serving platters sometimes have feet on their base, either to support weight or for decorative purposes.

Compartments

Serving platters that have been subdivided into separate compartments are ideal for serving snacks and appetizers. 

Finish or glaze

Wood, stone, and ceramic platters are generally glazed or finished. Wood platters used for serving food can be sealed with food-safe wax or oil. Most stone platters have some kind of seal or glaze to prevent them from absorbing food oils and moisture. 

Metal platters frequently have highly polished surfaces but can also sport satin or textured finishes.

Some artistic glazes are not food-safe and are meant for decorative platters and trays only.

Temperature-proofing

Oven-safe, microwave-safe, and freezer-safe platters add versatility to your kitchen. These platters can be convenient when, for example, you need to keep a dish warm but don’t want to transfer the food back to its cooking vessel. They’re also convenient at the end of the meal when you want to place the whole platter in the fridge.

Seasonal and holiday designs

Since serving platters are often used during holidays, you may want to pick those with holiday-specific shapes such as flags, trees, pumpkins, or stars. Or, you may decide to go with a more subtle seasonal or holiday color scheme on an oval, square, or rectangular platter.

Best silver serving platter
Did You Know?
Platters, plates, and drinking vessels in silver and gold formed a large part of the wealth of European aristocrats in centuries past. Unlike land, “the plate” was portable and could be melted into coins or bars.
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Accessories for serving platters

Serving utensils

If you’re investing in a serving platter, don’t forget the serving utensils. Serving spoons, carving forks, carving knives, and ladles are all part of a thoughtful kitchen.

Linens

As long as you’re setting a fine table with a serving platter as the centerpiece, invest in good table linens while you’re at it: cloth napkins, placemats, tablecloths, and table runners.

Display cabinet

Display your tableware in a china cabinet or hutch. These display cabinets are designed to showcase crockery and dinnerware. China cabinets have doors and walls of glass, while china hutches, also known as Welsh dressers, have open shelves and a sideboard.

Melamine is a type of plastic commonly used to make dishes and tableware. It’s considered safe to use, but it can transfer some of its chemicals to food when heated or if the food is acidic. Don’t heat food in a melamine container.

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How much do serving platters cost?

Inexpensive

Inexpensive serving platters can easily be found for less than $30, including not just plastic or melamine platters but also ceramic, wood, and metal platters. You will also find seasonal styles, cheese boards, and charcuterie boards in this price range.

Mid-range

Good-quality serving platters often cost between $30 and $100. These platters are available from known and respected brands and include glass, tempered glass, porcelain, and sterling silver with artistic or decorative ornamentation, generous sizes, and attractive glazes.

Expensive

Heirloom-quality serving platters may cost $100 or more. These pieces of tableware are the kind you build collections around or give and receive as important gifts. They are as likely to be displayed as they are to be used. Many of these platters are made of artisanal ceramic, fine porcelain, bone china, or silver.

Tips for serving platters

  • In a pinch, a casserole dish or baking dish could be used instead of a serving platter. Cutting boards can be used to serve charcuterie, fruits, or cheese.
  • The most versatile color for a serving platter is white. White serving platters go with anything and can be dressed up or down.
  • Display your most beautiful platters as decor when they’re not in use.
Serving platter with deviled eggs
An egg tray is a small serving platter with hollowed compartments designed to hold half or whole boiled eggs. Egg trays are useful when serving deviled eggs.

FAQ

Q. What is the importance of serving platters?

A. Serving platters are important in both practical and aesthetic terms. A serving platter allows you to serve food to multiple people at once. It helps food look attractive, enhancing everyone’s enjoyment. Serving platters themselves can be beautiful and valuable. 

What’s more, serving food on a platter can promote a sense of family or community in which everyone shares and partakes of the same dish.

Q. How many serving platters do I need?

A. You should have one serving platter at minimum, but two is more practical. Think of a holiday meal with at least two main dishes. Some experts suggest having one oval serving platter, one round platter, and one or more smaller rectangular platters.

Q. How should I present food on a platter?

A. There are some rules of thumb for food presentation on a platter. One of the top rules is to use the appropriate platter size for the food you’re serving. Don’t choose a platter so small the food overhangs the lip or rim, and don’t use one so large that it looks like some of the food is already gone. 

Build height on a platter, especially when serving a large quantity of smaller items. Add color with garnishes, fruits, and vegetables. A sprinkling of parsley around a roast turkey goes a long way.

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