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Tableware: Types, Uses, and Shopping Tips

Tableware is an essential part of our daily lives at home. Whether it's for everyday meals or holidays and special occasions, having the right collection of dinnerware, serveware, table linens, flatware and tabletop decor can make all the difference. But with so many options available, it can feel overwhelming to choose the most versatile set of tableware for family dining and entertaining.

Tableware is the umbrella term for the dishes, utensils, and other items we use to set the dining table for meals. Tableware can be made from a variety of materials such as porcelain, bone china, ceramic, glass, stainless steel or even plastic. Both practical and decorative, tableware comes in different shapes, sizes, and styles, often with specific designs for different types of meals and occasions.

Types & Uses of Tableware

Here are some of the most common types of tableware and their typical uses:


For most of us, plates are essential for serving and eating food. Typically flat, these dishes come in different sizes and shapes, including round, square, and rectangular. Some are made with a lip to keep saucy foods from sliding. Dinner plates are larger and are used for serving the main course of a meal, while salad, appetizer and dessert plates are smaller dishes for serving small bites, starters and sides.


Bowls have a basin that makes them perfect for serving soups, stews and other liquid-based dishes or loose foods like grains. Like plates, bowls come in different sizes and shapes, including round, oval, and square. Some bowls are designed for specific purposes, for example rice, soup, cereal, pasta and dip bowls.


Glasses are used for serving beverages and come in different shapes and sizes, including red or white wine glasses, water or coffee cups and juice tumblers. The material and structure of a drinking vessel may affect the taste of the beverage, which is why there's such a wide assortment of wine and cocktail glasses.


Flatware refers to the utensils we rely on for eating when we're not using our bare hands, including forks, spoons, chopsticks and knives. Available in an array of sizes and styles, flatware is made from various materials such as stainless steel and other metals, wood or plastic.

Serving Pieces

Serving pieces, or serveware, is used to transfer food and present it to guests. Examples include round or rectangular platters, serving bowls and gravy boats. Serving pieces are typically larger than the regular plates and bowls we use at our personal place settings because they're designed to hold bigger portions of food for everyone at the table.

What to Consider When Shopping for Tableware

When shopping for tableware, there are a few things you should consider:


Because it can be made from various materials, and each material has its own unique features, the way your tableware is constructed will determine how it's used. For example, porcelain and bone china are delicate and are best reserved for special occasions. Ceramic, glass and metal are more durable materials that are suitable for everyday use.


Tableware comes in different styles, including classic, modern and rustic. Keep the style of your home and the design of your traditional, farmhouse or contemporary dining furniture in mind to help you choose tableware that complements your aesthetic.

Number of Pieces

Dinnerware, silverware and other tableware sets are bundled with a different number of pieces depending on its size, from four-piece to 12-piece and greater. Consider the number of people in your household and how many guests you regularly entertain before choosing the set that meets your needs.


Tableware can range in price from basic and affordable to high end and very expensive. Consult your budget while you shop to narrow your focus to the tableware that fits within your price range.

Tableware is an important part of our daily lives and choosing the right set will make your meals more pleasant, convenient and impressive. Familiarizing yourself with the different types, materials, styles, uses and costs of flatware, glassware and dishware before you shop will help you find the tableware set that meets your needs. By keeping these important considerations in mind you'll be able to build a complete tableware set for every occasion that you'll love to use for years to come.