100 Essentials: The Great Plate Debate

{This series is based on my latest book, 100 Essentials: Simple Kitchen + Capsule Wardrobe + Minimalist Home. In it, you’ll find the full list of my personal possessions, with detailed explanations and 100 color photos—including my 35-item kitchen, 35-item wardrobe, and more. I hope this series will start some interesting discussions on what you can’t live without!}

Everyone’s list of Essentials will be different—the stuff in my 35-item kitchen certainly won’t be the same as yours. But I think almost all of us would include a plate (and if you wouldn’t, do tell!).

The big question is: what kind of plate?

Truth be told, I never gave much thought to plates before my daughter was born. If I needed one, I’d just pick something pretty. But somehow, becoming a mother put all kinds of new hazards on my radar.

Before she came along, we had stoneware plates. They were lovely to look at, but weighed a ton. They were hard to hold on to while washing (I chipped quite a few), and I didn’t look forward to transporting them when it came time to relocate.

But most of all, I started worrying about lead. Apparently, it’s not uncommon in ceramic dinnerware—particularly vintage pieces, and those with colored glazes or decorations. Dishware sold in the United States is supposed to conform to legal limits; but given the wide variety available, and the global nature of manufacturing, it was hard (for me) to believe that retailers were tracking the info on every dish. I wasn’t too keen on testing them with a home kit, so I started to look for alternatives.

We made the switch to Corelle plates, which are made of a glass laminate. They’re lightweight and durable, meaning my daughter could start setting the table as a toddler. They also stack compactly, and are a dream to move (instead of painstakingly wrapping each plate, I’d simply pile them all together and wrap the lot). Plus, the plain white style is lead-free.

Great, right? We used them happily for years. But then I tripped across some reports of tempered glass shattering spontaneously, or if hit the wrong way. Sure, the possibility was remote, and I wasn’t particularly concerned for myself—but off went my mommy alarm bells.

So I passed that set along to an interested party, and bought a regular glass plate for my little one. Yes, it will break if dropped, but seems a little more predictable. I still have a few ceramic plates that my husband and I use—they’re plain white (so less likely to have lead), and we’re not in a high-risk group (like children and pregnant women) for lead poisoning. I received them as gifts, and rather like them, so continue to use and enjoy them.

Our current plates are a hodgepodge of styles, but I actually prefer that to a matching set.

I would love to hear your thoughts! What kind of plates do you use and why?

56 comments to 100 Essentials: The Great Plate Debate

  • m

    I have a set of Corelle and a set of plain tempered glass. My mother has Corelle as well. In my entire life at her house and mine, we’ve managed to break exactly two. I broke a large bowl when it fell out of a high cabinet, and she broke a small plate that fell from a similar height. Neither of those breaks were “unexpected.” Otherwise, they’ve never even chipped.

    Both “sets” (they were bought on an individual basis, not in a set number) were gifts. If I bought for myself I would definitely go for plain Corelle. Patterns aren’t entirely my thing.

  • Muntaha

    I have the Corelle pure white square set and absolutely love them! They’re perfectly lightweight and durable for everyday use (haven’t broken any yet *knock on wood*) yet lovely for entertaining too because of the simple modern design. My absolute favorite collection, I have all the matching pieces and use them everyday!

  • Claudia

    Tempered glass is designed to break into small pieces, which are less likely to cause harm. I grew up with Corelle and have used it all my adult life as well; in all those years I’ve broken one plate by dropping it (they usually don’t break, but this one must’ve hit the floor at just the wrong angle) but I didn’t get hurt.

    The ‘regular’ glass plate you got for your daughter is likely also tempered, so it’ll break the same way as the Corelle. If it’s vintage glass that’s not tempered, it’s actually dangerous for kids to use because the resulting shards can be big and sharp.

    If you want to be super safe, get her a stainless steel plate.

    • miss minimalist

      I’m actually really curious about this. I bought her an Anchor Hocking glass plate, which is open stock at our local grocery store: http://www.anchorhocking.com/prodd_5982_cat_17_10_in_isabella_dinner_plate.html

      I assumed that since it said “clear glass” rather than “tempered glass” or “borosilicate glass” that it wasn’t tempered. Or is all glassware tempered? If anyone knows, please weigh in! I’d love to understand this better.

      • Phil Stephens

        I have broken a Corelle plate once. It spectacularly disintegrated into a lot of small, but non-sharp pieces, like a car windscreen in a crash.

        I now completely trust Corelle, and we have a kitchen full of them. Several have minor chips, but when they break, they are gone. But quite safely, in my experience.

        Given the very low price, if you have questions, take on out and drop it on concrete somewhere, and put your mind at rest

  • Anne

    In California, they are required to tell you if there is any lead in the dishes. I like colorful dishes and tend to buy from known names – like Thomas, Villroy & Bosch (both German companies), or Denby (UK).

  • Louise

    My favourite plates are these odd bowl/plate hybrids. They are flat enough to work as plates but suitable for cereal and other bowl foods. When it came time to buy my own plates I looked for my hybrids and luckily found a Vue dining set that matched. Mine are white with a green pattern. I’m not bothered if they break.

  • Elaine

    I got rid of Corelle for the same reason. Wedgwood White bone china is my only set now. It is simple and sturdy, yet elegant. My set was made in England. (Their current product is made in Indonesia.) If mine ever breaks, I will look for used pieces made in England or buy Apilco Tradition. Love your webpage and books!

    • miss minimalist

      Thanks, Elaine! Bone china is definitely on my radar, but I (probably wrongly) assumed it was delicate. I’m glad to hear you describe it as sturdy.

  • We have a set of fargrik (Ikea) stoneware dishes. I actually don’t like matching sets, and would like to replace them with colourful patterns one day, but they get the job done. When dropped, they break into large pieces with a few sharp crumbs, which are easy enough to sweep up. The only time my children have been injured by dinnerware was when the enamel chipped on a camping mug, leaving a sharp edge and a cut lip.

    Tempered glass is definitely the way to go, it shatters into cuboid pieces with a duller edge. Regular glass shatters into very sharp, pointy shards.

  • We also have Corelle and like them very much. I had heard the reports about them suddenly shattering but I think this dated from the time when they were made outside the United States so are probably older ones. We used to have stoneware plates which I liked very much (we had had them for years) but when we moved we had to store plates on a metal carousel in a kitchen cupboard and I could see they were much too heavy for the carousel. I thought it would end up collapsing – sooo, time for a change! As far as stoneware is concerned, I should think any reputable make would tell you whether they had lead in them. Mine were Lambeth stoneware and dated from the 1970’s (made by Doulton) so I was fairly confident that there were no “nasties” in them.

  • Alix

    I have about six vintage Jadeite plates (restaurant ware), which are pretty sturdy. Smaller than today’s oversized dinner plates, too. A such a lovely green color!

  • Amanda

    We always used Corelle dish ware growing up, and I’ve been considering getting some for my toddler. I’ve never had one shatter, although I have had that happen with a Pyrex mixing bowl (that was at room temperature!). We have IKEA plates currently but the glaze seems to scratch easily and it makes me nervous. Lead is such scary stuff…it’s even in purses! One more reason to stay away from fast fashion…

  • Janice

    I have a set of Crate and Barrel Aspen Dinnerware. It is white and fits like a dream in the dishwasher. If I chip or break one, I can purchase from their open stock. White dishes are so easy to accessorize for the holidays too.

  • Sarah T.

    We also use Corelle and love it! If I had to start over, I’d still get them. I received my mom’s old set when she got tired of them. I expect to never buy plates for the rest of my life.

    I received a fancy China set for a wedding gift that passed through our home fairly quickly. Practicality won out and Corelle prevailed.

    We have had a few break on us, and yes, they shatter like the dickens, but they tend to bounce when dropped more often than not. A wet paper towel picks up the small, almost invisible shards.

  • t

    Old plain white Buffalo China hotel/restaurant/diner plates – indestructible, match everything, and I love them even more since I grew up in Buffalo.

  • Lana

    I use Corelle for everyday because I live with klutzy kids and husband. For special occasions I have hand-made pottery plates I got on Etsy. They do not have lead and are dishwasher and microwave safe. I would like to only have one set for everything but I am afraid they would get broken. In the future when it is just hubby and me in the house I will give away the Corelle and keep my precious pottery to use every day.

  • minimimy

    I dont have a plate because I choose to eat from the pans.

  • Kym

    I have used primarily corelle 36 years. I love the look of stoneware but I tend to be a breaker of plates. That being said I’ve had a few different sets of the Corelle, and I personally have not broken any. I have had a plate broken by an ex. I have the square white ones and have had them for 13 + years and I still have them all.

  • Kido

    I’m using bamboo and wooden plates. Nice and naturel also light in the hand. They don’t break easy. No chemicals, no harmful glass chips. They are also beautiful naturel looking.

    • miss minimalist

      I’m intrigued. How do you wash them? Does water not ruin them, or do you have to dry them immediately? I’m assuming you can’t put them in the dishwasher.

      • We don’t have bamboo/wood plates, but we have bamboo bowls. Water/liquids are fine, as long as it’s not just sitting there soaking for a long time. Hand wash, dry right away, and done. Food doesn’t adhere to the bamboo (like having to scrub glass/ceramic dishes when stuff gets really sticky or hardened) so they’re very easy to clean.

      • Sara

        I don’t know about bamboo dishes in general, but I’ve got a reusable Take- away cup made out of bamboo and you can even put it in the dishwasher. I don’t since we do our dishes in the sink, but you could. ;) I’ve also got a To-Go Ware set of utensils that I carry with me to eat on the go and they can be washed again and again and seem very sturdy.

        Mind you, the cup and utensils are not in any way meant to be used disposable ware, they’re meant to be reused time and again; maybe there are different kinds of dishes etc. made out of bamboo out there.

  • Kathie

    I’ve broken scads of Corelle. I immediately sweep, vac, and then mop because the teeny-weeny pieces fly and scatter everywhere. Recently, I somehow dropped a bowl in the sink and it broke. It’s really not that hard to clean up, and for all the dishes we’ve broken over the years, no family member has ever been injured–except me, when I got a tiny cut once. Come to think of it, I’m the rascal who breaks them all! I don’t believe any of my children have ever broken a piece of Corelle. : )

  • Mark

    I use a porcelain pasta bowl that I got at Bed Bath and Beyond. I like the fact that I can eat pasta, stews, and also soups from the one bowl. I actually have two of them, one at the office and one at home. I hadn’t really thought about breaking them. I guess if I drop one of them, I can always just go get another one.

  • Jana

    Corelle all the way: inexpensive, lightweight, beautiful white color, easily replaced (though I’ve never had one break). My only quibble is Corelle mugs are not made out of the same glass, but are some kind of stoneware or ceramic, heavy and not really matching.

    Love the new book — lots of food for thought — I’m looking around at my things (already much reduced) with fresh eyes.

  • Christine

    I have had Corelle dishes for over 40 years, and my mom had them before I left home. I have never had a problem with them, and only broke one plate when I dropped it from the overhead cabinet to a tile floor! Other than that, nothing. I love mine and most of my family member with children have used it successfully for years with no problems. I also have Corelle pasta bowls which are really useful, and I like their cereal bowls, too.

    I really enjoyed reading your new book last week, and ordered a couple of things you mentioned in it – I was unhappy with some of my cooking gear, and your suggestions were great. Got them on Amazon, too! No shopping, because I hate shopping!

  • My essentials in no particular order are a coffee pot, coffee grinder, 3 plates, my small set of cast iron cookware and a blender for both smoothies and mixed drinks.

  • I stumbled across my first Corelle dish when an old roommate left one behind after moving out. I thought it was the most perfect dish (lightweight, durable, minimal in design, etc.) so I bought a set of Corelle bowls and plates when I got married. They continue to be my favorite brand of dishware and I haven’t broken one yet!

  • reba

    You are absolutely right about pieces spontaneously shattering. We have had Corelle dishes for a number of years. If the plates are being washed by hand and are put through extremely hot rinse water, they will shatter. Oddly enough, the shattering did not occur until the plate had been set into the drain pan. Very scary experience. Also, Corelle is perfect for us because we are rough on dishes. We did have a number of pieces that survived a house fire intact. Let’s hear it for durability.

    • Kathie

      Thank you for your explanation, Reba. We wash by hand, too, so maybe the hot rinsing explains why I’ve broken so many over the years. Also, I recently had my first pyrex break–in my hands–while it was full of hot beans. Scared me to death because it broke into large pieces, unfortunately NOT like the Corelle.

  • Amy

    Hello all!

    I just love this site and have read with pleasure for several years.

    I too grew up with white Corelle and loved it. This is not a response to the brake issue but to one at least as important, especially to children.

    The issue of lead in cooking and drinking vessels has been on my radar for a long time. Some quick takeaways: lead in any kind of drinkware is the most hazardous because these vessels are commonly used to store liquid and to contain heated liquids, which leach lead more easily. Sadly, the mere fact that the manufacturer has a famous name is no guarantee of safety: some of the most prestigious names used lead in the past (watch out for heirloom china) or now are manufactured in factories not subject to good safety practices. Brightly colored dishes, especially in reds and yellows, are more suspect. My lovely heirloom Christmas set was a casualty.

    Some good news? Although you should not use vintage Fiesta Ware, the new line is made in the US and comes in safe glazes in many colors. White Corelle ware is safe from lead. And certain high end artisan lines, like Heath, are safe. You can always call the manufacturer and ask but may not get a straight answer.

    For mugs and glasses, Bodum makes an interesting line with pieces that function like mini-thermoses, keeping hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold. They are a little pricey but in a minimalist household a single drinking vessel would serve nicely for one’s hot and cold drinks.

    For further reading, here are some links:

    An FDA alert to refuse dishware imports by these manufacturers:the list is alphabetical by country. I used to have a better list, I’ll see if I can find it. Meanwhile, manufacturers were added to this list as late as fall 2016.

    http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/cms_ia/importalert_122.html

    A really excellent site by the Australian government on lead in ceramics, using them and making them:

    http://www.environment.gov.au/protection/chemicals-management/lead/lead-in-ceramic-crockery-pottery-making

    Hope this was useful and legible: I typed without my glasses. :)

    Amy

  • Diane

    Corelle! I started with Mikasa stonewear, and liked it. But the weight and space they took up got to be too much. I switched to Corelle and never looked back. Our current set has a slight pattern, but the next one will be square white. We’ve had these for many years, and never had a problem with shattering. We’ve broken or chipped a few over the years, but not many, considering my boys and all the friends that used them.

  • Liz H

    I have 4 children and have had plenty of things break and never had any major injuries. I think we are a bit overly concerned with the possibility of an injury. We have used regular glasses of whatever brand and dishes of all kinds. In fact, I used to purposefully give the glasses I didn’t like to the kids so when they broke I could throw them out without guilt! I think it’s a good idea to let them break stuff now and then. It helps them learn to deal with life. We now have a set of Fiestaware. The kids get plates out of the cabinet all the time and have even dropped them. We haven’t had a single thing chip or break. It figures because the dishes are so darn heavy I can’t even wash them by hand. Those things are super sturdy. Really though, don’t worry about kids breaking stuff. That’s how they learn to be careful.

  • Faye

    We too have white Corelle; I purchased the set (plus several pieces to have a setting for 6) when we downsized into a small space 10 years ago. I’ve had several pieces break into many pieces because I’ve personally dropped them. And, I’ve dropped some that haven’t broken.
    Ikea now makes dishes than are almost identical to the white Corelle, the top has a bit more of a shine but the underside is matte white. Each piece costs around $1.00 or less. They are thin and stack nicely.

  • Barbara

    I bought a white Corelle set when I started having children 19 years ago and it’s still going strong. I also like the colorful Fiesta dinnerware which is made in the USA and is fully vitrified lead-free china with a color glaze. I bought the Corelle though because it is lightweight, so was easier for children.

    However, the Corelle mugs are too small. I’d like to find a large size lead-free mug set. Do you have any recommendations? I’m considering the Fiesta Java mug…

  • Unfortunately, my wife is a vintage collector. She loves having all of her vintage plate collection displayed by the dining room. She even have vintage victorian teacups. It’s insane!

  • Sara

    We use a hodgepodge of dishes in our home. Some are from flea markets and others were bought new. We don’t have a lot, but enough that if one breaks, there’s no need to run out and buy a new one. Material-wise they’re anything from stoneware and porcelain to something in-between that I’m not sure about. :) No children under the age of 13 in our household, so this is fine.

  • Kathleen D

    I use pottery made by a friend. It is lead free, beautiful, and I think of her whenever I use it.

  • Linda

    White bone china – thin and very, very durable!

  • We have a white set from IKEA, but I would like to switch to Corelle because it is so lightweight. I can’t see getting rid of my working dishes just to buy new ones, though. Maybe if I find some used?

    About the lead issue: if you have something that you love, but you don’t trust it, I have found lead test kits at Home Depot. You rub an applicator on the surface and it changes color if lead is present.

  • Lisa

    I recently purchased a set of bamboo Dinner plates, salad plates, and salad bowls from “At Home”. They are very light weight and durable. They can go in dishwasher but not microwave. They are bio-degradable. I had been looking at them awhile and they were 50 percent off so I purchased them. I hope they are not discontinued because I can’t find them anywhere else.

  • Helen

    Stainless Steel plates, bowls, cups, pots and pans – they are clean, hygenic, toxin free, unbreakable, great for kids, great for everyone.

    • Chandra

      Any suggestions on where to get good stainless steel plates and bowls? I’ve really thought about switching to them but was unsure of how they hold up/dishwasher safe/etc.

    • Helen

      Hi Chandra,
      If you google indian suppliers – (eg thali plates) they do a wide selection of stainless steel everything. Also kleen Kanteen for a very nice cup which I use all the time for tea, water etc. Summit (camping) do an ideal sized bowl for side salad, rice, pasta etc.
      Hope this helps,
      Helen

  • I have a set of Corelle Winter White. I have had Corelle dishes break, but they mainly stay in big pieces, not little shards. In my mind, all dishes are breakable so its a risk I’m willing to take. I’m also not worried about the pattern being discontinued any time soon and the price point is very resonable.

  • Janetta

    I have a set of white bone china inherited from my mother (she’d never used it, kept for best I suppose, so sad). I’ve used it daily for 27 years, never broken or chipped one, they are very hard. Made by Arzberg, Germany. I love them.

  • Tania

    I no longer purchase sets as you end up with more pieces than you need and I prefer to select handmade artisan pieces. It brings me great joy to drink my coffee or eat off a plate that was made by a potter (just make sure it is food safe first). I also find a selection of individual pieces much more interesting than a matching set. But I don’t have children (I totally get the predictability of safety concerns) and my boyfriend is a potter. From him I learned not to fret over breakage, to enjoy and use.

  • Mike

    Stoneware plates are my favorite. I first picked up a set of four small plates from the trash and recycle dumpsters at one of my old apartments. It was a common trash and recycling area where all of the residents on the “village” dropped their stuff off. I had just dropped off our weekly bag of trash when I spotted a cardboard box full of stoneware plats and cups. I picked the only matching set of plates from the box, brought them home, and sent them through a sanitize cycle in the dishwasher. Those same plates have been with me now some two moves 10 years later. Another set of plates was bought direct from a local artisan at a craft fair about 5 years ago; those plates too have stood the test of time. We had also registered for a set of plates from BB&B and ended up with a nearly complete set of plates (seven settings, not eight; go figure). We had also bought a 4 pack of large dinner plates some time ago that do not match anything else. I think they will go into the donate pile.

    Some of our other essentials include cutting boards, a high-quality set of kitchen knives, restaurant-quality baking pans, pizza pans (we love homemade pizza!), plastic pizza cutter, and of course, cutlery. We had collected beer glasses for a few years but I’ve started to trim the collection. Shot glasses – something that I collected in my youthful world travels – went into the recycle bins because neither of us is into hard alcohol. The set of wine glasses, however, is another story; I’d like to trim the collection but my sig other has different ideas. A small number of high-quality pots and pans are essential for cooking at home, which we love to do, with fresh ingredients, but we could certainly trim the set down a bit. The lightbulb moment there came when we couldn’t spin the lazy susan in the cabinet in order to get to the pots in the back : ) A toaster over is essential for heating small meals as it’s more energy efficient to heat a small box than a large one, and with only two adults, small meals is pretty much what we make. For us, caffeine, in some form, is an essential; I prefer a cuppa black tea with loose leaves in a tea ball, while the SO does coffee. Our coffee system is a Toddy cold brew pot. It prepares about a week’s worth of coffee in one go and requires no electricity (except to heat a cup in the microwave). We love making waffles, so a good (albeit old) belgian waffler gets a prominent place in the cupboards. It also saves us money on the frozen stuff, and it tastes a whole lot better, too.

  • J Xd

    I used to have Corelle but once one shattered and shards literally exploded all over my kitchen, that was the end of that. I now have Fiesta- it’s made of Ohio River clay in the US so I don’t have to worry about lead, etc. and it’s extremely durable. mixing the colors is fun so I don’t worry about breaking a piece, but the only 2 that have broken were dropped. As for stainless, look at restaurant supply – Vollrath makes wonderful lasts-forever stainless pieces.

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