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A Guide to Crockery for Restaurants
First of all, let's tackle the biggest crockery question of them all: Do you need help with choosing the correct crockery sizing for your establishment? No restauranteur should be without our useful Size Guide, which will clear up any lingering questions relating to plate sizes and steer you towards the best decision for your restaurant.
When you’re looking for the right type of crockery, whether it’s intended for a high-end hotel restaurant, a secluded bistro or a hearty pub meal, the choice of material, shape and the inherent product characteristics all play together to become a specific set for a specific need or style. If the food you serve is art, it needs the right frame.
While what crockery set matches with what style is a much debated topic among chefs and restaurant managers, there are some key factors to consider before making an informed decision. That’s why we’ve put together a guide looking at all the different aspects to consider when selecting a new batch of table crockery.
While your choice of material determines the overall look of your tableware, it is key to understanding its functionality and durability. Each type has their own unique advantages and disadvantages so it is important to understand your options when deciding which type is right for you.
Here are the most popular choices:
The top-level standard quality, elegance and strength. Made from at least 45% bone ash, bone china’s strength and durability allows it to be incredibly thin, resulting in delicate, light pieces that are suited for the finest restaurants. Not only do they look incredible but their light-weight constitution allows for easier carrying for your wait staff.
An important point to note is that because bone china is made from animal bones, it is not well suited for vegetarian or vegan cuisine.
Tends to be tough, white and vaguely translucent. Porcelain usually has a smooth glazed finish that can be finished plain of with a pattern. Porcelain is a popular material for potters to work with, which means there is a wide variety of styles and designs to choose from. Most porcelain is safe for use in ovens, freezers, microwaves and dishwashers, making it an incredibly versatile material, useful for all kitchen scenarios.
Crockery made from porcelain is a great choice for restaurants and homes alike.
Made from ceramic that has been glazed and fired, earthenware has a rustic feel loaded with character due to it’s thick and heavy style. It is ideal for a variety of cookware and simple dishes that look great on their own or as a roasting dish or bowl, separate from the other dishes.
The material is slightly porous, meaning it can absorb water if left submerged, so it is best hand-washed. Earthenware can also be prone to chipping, another issue that can be avoided with handwashing.
Aside from that, earthenware is well suited for use in ovens, microwaves and freezers.
Stoneware crockery is incredibly dense and scratch-resistant. It is similar to porcelain except more opaque and normally only partially vitrified (see below). Stoneware is marked by a grey or brownish hue and tends to be glazed. Unglazed stoneware has a coarse feel to it but like the glazed pieces, it still maintains the material’s resistance to chips, stains and scratches.
This material is ideal for baking as it heats up slowly and evenly when put in an oven, which is essential for even cooking. Like earthenware, stoneware possesses great table presence and character.
Marked by its creamy colour, alumina crockery is essentially porcelain that has been enriched through adding an oxide of aluminum to the clay, making it stronger and more durable than regular porcelain. This makes it more expensive than regular porcelain but closer to bone china in quality, making it a cheaper alternative in high-quality crockery.
Made from strong, lightweight thermosetting plastic, meaning the material gains its shape and strength during the initial heating process but is unaffected by heat once it has set. Melamine is a fine alternative to china as it is essentially unbreakable and resistant to staining and scratching. Ideal for larger scale restaurants that don’t have the luxury of handwashing due to volume, melamine is great for everyday use under a variety of circumstances.
A traditionally Spanish material, ideally used as crockery from the oven straight to the table. A quirk of the material is that it interacts with acidic foods, resulting in a natural and subtle sweetness to the food being cooked.
Terracotta is synonymous with Mediterranean cooking and has a distinct look and feel to it, bursting with character.
Terminology and Treatments
This refers to the fluctuation in temperature a piece can withstand. A plate with a high thermal shock resistance can be taken from a freezer and placed in a heated oven with no result while a plate with low thermal shock resistance would likely break during the transition.
Vitrified crockery is fired at an extremely high temperature, resulting in a durable piece that is scratch resistant and non-porous. Crockery under this treatment is ideal for bustley restaurants with a lot of activity and volume.
A technique used by potters when the edge of a piece, such as a plate or bowl, is rolled back on itself before it hardens. This makes for soft, durable edges that are far less susceptible to chips and cracks.
When crockery has a glazed foot, it greatly reduces the amount of scrapping the dishes undergo when stacked. A glazed foot leaves the bottom of a dish with the same surface as the top, allowing the dishes to smoothly rest on top of each other, which extends their life considerably.
There’s a popular saying in the restaurant business: If it looks bad, it is bad. Basically, regardless of taste and quality, a lot of diners decide whether they like a dish before they have even tasted it, based on how it looks. On the flipside, this also means you can win people if your presentation is just right.
Let’s look at the pros and cons for each plate shape:
These plates are less common and tend to hold a main item pushed to one side, while the complimentary pieces are spread across the remaining space. Think of a piece of cheesecake on one side with fruit and squiggles of complimentary sauce filling the remaining area, balancing the dish with bright colours and new textures.
There are many different styles of triangular plates. Some have rounded edges and shape while others can be quite hard and flat. The variety available makes them great for one-off dishes at all levels of dining.
The Classic. Round plates are the most versatile and functional of all the plate sizes. While a round plate won’t get noticed for its shape, the real fun comes from the colour and material and how each plated meal plays off those elements. Round plates aren’t linked to any one cuisine or fad, allowing for a fresh start towards something truly unique.
Square plates used to be the standard for modern and trendy dining but this style has given way to more casual-leaning dining trends. That’s why square plates are a great choice if you’re looking to do something different.
This style of plate is well suited for Asian cuisine or for dishes that are stacked or a combination of ingredients rather than several separate dishes (think meat, potato, veg). On the downside, due to their hard lines and corners, square plates are more susceptible to chipping than other plate shapes. If you’re worried about wear and tear, look for square plates with rounded corners.
Similar to triangular plates, these plates are best suited for one-off dishes that really focus on presentation. Popular plating techniques for this style are to have 3 distinct items, like a selection of desserts, lined up in a row, or to fancy up traditionally standard dishes. Chicken wings served in a bowl are nothing spectacular but if they’re lined up on a rectangular plate with a little garnish...suddenly they’re a little bit more.
Coupe plates are as minimalist as you can get. They tend to be entirely flat with slightly upturned edges, making them look like a flattened bowl. The minimalist design draws attention away from the crockery, making the food the absolute star of the dish. Coupe plates are perfect if you want the food to be the main focus of the dish, rather than the overall combination of food presentation.
Whether you need to top-up your existing reserves, or require a full-scale kit-out for a refurbishment project, we're here to help. Let us know your requirements, and we will endeavour to meet and satisfy your wishes.
Remember, crockery styles are not set in stone. While history dictates expected plating trends, there’s nothing stopping restaurateurs from thinking outside the box and finding the right combination of the above elements to create something truly unique and new. Never stop experimenting. The more you know, the easier it is to be different.
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