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What Type of Serving Bowl Do You Need?

Serving bowls come in a spectacular array of styles and sizes, and choosing one that’s perfect for your needs is an important part of presentation. The right bowl can make your culinary masterpiece more visually appealing, so finding the right one is incredibly important.

If you regularly host cozy, intimate get-togethers or large gatherings, you may need a complete entertaining set – but if you’re more of an occasional entertainer and you usually bring a dish to share at others’ get-togethers, you might simply need a beautifully crafted, stand-alone serving bowl.

Features to Look for When You Choose the Perfect Serving Bowl

Finding the right serveware depends on its purpose and where you’re using it. Everyday serving bowls need to be durable and create a seamless theme with your existing serveware, while special-occasion serving bowls need timeless quality and all the right features, like footing or lids.

You can narrow down your choices by knowing what each feature is designed to do.

  • Footed bowls look especially elegant on a buffet table.
  • Lidded bowls are ideal for soup and other delectable dishes that need to stay hot.
  • Handled bowls work best for foods that need to be served quickly while hot.
  • Low, sloping sides are perfect for pastas and portioned foods, like chicken breasts and potatoes.
  • Upright, high sides can dish up snacks and small foods that could easily spill or tumble out, like grapes and cheese wedges, salads and vegetables.

Tureens are specific to soups and stews because they’re deep and feature fixed handles, low-domed covers with knobs or handles, and a cutout for a ladle or other serving utensils.

Serving Bowl Shapes and Sizes

Serving bowls come in a wide range of sizes and shapes, and each has its own purpose.

Chalice-shaped, footed serving bowls let you serve appetizers and other dishes in style. They’re excellent for side dishes in small portions, and they can double as dipping or tapas bowls. They look great as stand-alone bowls on a sideboard, or as a centerpiece on the table.

Mid-sized serving bowls are perfect for side dishes and snacks, as well as small main courses. Because medium-sized serving bowls are so versatile, this is where you’ll find the greatest variety when it comes to shape and style.

Rectangular or oval serving bowls range in size from small (think dip bowls) to very large, with the latter primarily designed for serving main courses. It’s typically easy to find rectangular and oval bowls that coordinate with serving trays so you can create a professional looking design of your own.

Serving Bowl Measurements

Round and oval serving bowls are measured by diameter, depth and height.

  • Diameter: The distance between two edges of the bowl, traveling through the center
  • Depth: The distance between the top and bottom of the serving compartment
  • Height: The distance from the bottom of the bowl, including its foot if it has one, to the top of the bowl

Square and rectangular serving bowls are measured by width, depth and height.

  • Width: The distance between the narrowest sides of the serving bowl
  • Depth: The distance between the widest sides of the serving bowl
  • Height: The distance from the bottom of the bowl, including its foot if it has one, to the top of the bowl

You can determine how much volume a serving bowl can hold if you know its measurements – but if you want to skip the math, just know that a 9" wide x 13" deep x 2" high serving bowl fits about 15 cups of prepared food.

Serving Bowl Materials

Depending on how frequently you’ll use your new serving bowl, you might need one made from melamine, bone china, stoneware or acrylic.

  • Melamine is perfect for everyday use because it stands up to enthusiastic use, and it’s shatterproof. You can put melamine bowls in the dishwasher and the microwave. It’s also scratch-resistant, so even if you use metal flatware or serving utensils, you don’t have to worry about damaging its appearance.
  • Bone china - a type of soft-paste porcelain made with feldspar, quartz, kaolin and bone ash, which is typically derived from ox or cattle bone - is popular in modern settings and pairs well with the right glassware collection. It is also durable and resilient. Like melamine, bone china is dishwasher- and microwave-safe.
  • Stoneware features warm, natural coloring and various textures that lend it an interesting, distinctive appearance. It’s able to resist thermal shock, which means it can go straight into the oven from the refrigerator, and it typically stands out among other serving bowl styles.
  • Silver serving bowls are the perfect choice for formal events because they’re timeless and durable. Although silver needs to be hand-washed, it’s not fragile – and it’s versatile enough for you to use on any occasion.

Specialty Serving Bowls

Specialty serving bowls designed for specific uses may be the right choice for you if you’re tasked with bringing an appetizer or side dish.

  • Chips & dip bowls: When you want to serve chips and dip with style, a specialty serving bowl with multiple compartments is the answer. Choose one with a center dip bowl for a traditional look or pick one with room for multiple dips surrounding a large center compartment for chips, fresh veggies or fruit to offer your guests more variety.
  • Condiment bowls: Condiment bowls are ideal for maximizing convenience while minimizing dish-washing work after the game or party. Whether you’re serving burgers from the grill or a family feast that requires multiple condiments, you can skip the plastic squeeze bottles and serve them in style with a divided condiment bowl.
  • Snack bowls: Dish up popcorn, just-picked fruit and other tasty treats in a specialty snack bowl designed to complement your existing serveware. Small snack bowls are available in several styles, like pewter bowls perfect for cashews, wooden bowls that look great piled high with strawberries and cantaloupe, and glass snack bowls that let you keep an eye on popcorn levels during a family movie night.

Choosing the Perfect Serving Bowl

Whether you prefer bold, notice-me patterns or simple, elegant designs, it’s important to make sure the serving bowl you choose meets your needs – it’s about more than just style. A serving bowl’s capacity, whether it has a lid and what it’s made from are all important considerations. You may also need to search for serving boards and knives, chargers and other dinnerware to put together a beautiful collection of serveware for any occasion.