How to Measure Plates and Bowls

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Here's why you want to measure your plates and bowls: Your diet calls for portion control; you have limited table space; you're trying to estimate how many new kitchen cabinets or decide whether or not to purchase that amazing antique breakfront; you're not going to buy every last plate in a tableware line, so multipurpose sizes will determine selection. Measure a lucky find or an heirloom collection to find the numbers. Know standard measurements to configure your next dinner party.

Tea Saucers and Tape Measures

It's the diameter, darling. Run your tape measure from rim to rim across the widest part of the top of the bowl or plate. Some typical diameters for different kinds of dishes include:

  • Dinner plates -- 9 inch to 11 inch -- beware the 12-inch plate; it may not fit in your cabinet or dishwasher.
  • Salad plates -- 6 inch to 8.5 inch -- salad plates can double as dessert plates; both tend toward the larger end of the range in contemporary dinnerware.
  • Soup plates, shallow with a rim -- 9 inch to 10 inch in diameter, although the soup sits in a 6 inch to 7 inch well.
  • Soup and cereal bowls -- about 6 inch to 8 inch across and deeper than a soup plate; these work well for simplifying a table setting but are considered informal.
  • Teacup sizes vary widely; the average saucer runs between 5 1/4 and 5 5/8 inches across.

Dish Volume Equals Your Volume

Figure out how much a bowl will hold by pouring a pre-measured amount of water from a measuring cup into the bowl. Check the remainder in the measuring cup and subtract it from the original amount to see just how much ice cream you're cramming into that cereal bowl. Most bowls hold between 8 to 16 fluid ounces, or 1 to 2 cups. Since dinnerware varies by manufacturer, no hard and fast rules exist for measuring volume; some will give you the depth of a bowl or plate, but you'll have to compute the potential contents for specific styles. If you have the metabolism of a hummingbird, fill up your bowl and devour the contents. If not, calculating the volume to exercise portion control might be a useful idea. Remember, the bigger the dish, the more you tend to consume. You have been warned.

The Minimalist Cupboard

As you do not live in Downton Abbey, you might rethink the elaborate sets of china required to host frequent meals around a table for 12 or 20. Consider your typical meal and usual entertaining. Then figure out what you really need to be storing, dusting, washing and maintaining in the dinnerware museum. Place settings for 12 are nice, but when was the last time you used a bread plate? If space, finances or time are tight, consider a set of plates and bowls that will work for most or all of your dining adventures. Plain, unpatterned neutral colors can be dressed up or down for holidays and for every day: White is the default color. Porcelain is finer and longer-lasting, but ceramic is OK and takes color better. Open stock is easily replaced if something breaks. Consider a half-dozen mid-sized plates and cereal/soup bowls and be done with it. Sturdy diner pieces like Buffalo china have a stylish retro cache and will stand up to kids and clumsy guests.

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