Whether hosting a holiday meal or simply sitting down with your spouse, the serving dishes you use make a statement. Bits and pieces pulled from here and there convey a potluck attitude, while complementary serveware sets a more sophisticated tone. Invest in the following essential serving dishes if you regularly cook — or even order takeout — for others.
Basic Serving Platters — Employ the same strategy here: Consider the meals you regularly make and purchase platters accordingly. Do you need multiple platters for meat, such as one for a roast and another for veggies? Avoid purchasing theme platters, such as those with a turkey raised on the dish, so you can use any platter for any meal, no matter the occasion.
If you host dinner parties or extended-family gatherings often, keep that in mind and purchase enough basic serving bowls and platters to meet your needs.
Basic Serving Bowls — The number of guests typically at your table determines how many basic serving bowls you need. One large serving bowl and two or three smaller ones will suit a couple or small family, but larger groups will need one for each main dish that goes in a bowl (pasta, stew and the like), as well as any sides regularly served.
Specialty Bowls — Invest in a tureen if you regularly make soup. This large, lidded serving dish has a notch on the rim that allows a ladle to rest inside without exposing the soup to cooling air. Also consider a special serving bowl for salad.
Specialty Trays — If you regularly serve bread, purchase a long and narrow tray that doesn’t take up too much room on the table and allows for easy passing between guests. A divided tray also suits meals with items such as olives, pickles and the like.
Other Specialty Serveware — A gravy boat proves essential for most holiday gatherings, as does a butter dish. Also have on hand cream, sugar, salt, pepper and condiment dispensers or serving bowls. If you plan to keep water and wine on the table, also purchase a pitcher and cooler.
Serveware Utensils — Some of the above items will come with accompanying utensils, but if not keep them in mind when choosing your silverware. You may want all utensils to match, which means choosing a set that offers additional pieces above and beyond basics included with place settings. Serving spoons and forks are a must, as are salad tongs. A pie server and cake knife also come in handy if you serve dessert at the table.
All of the above items can be considered essential, but purchasing them all at once can prove challenging, in terms of keeping pieces complementary, and costly. The easiest and most affordable way to create a comprehensive and attractive set of serveware involves using as a base an established and open stock dinnerware set, such as Fiesta, for example. That way, you can slowly build your collection over time and not worry about having to find several individual pieces that work into what you already have.