3 Expert Tips For Choosing A Serving Bowl

Serving bowls are ubiquitous kitchen tools that can - and should! - double as attractive pieces of art to properly show off food. Whether you lean more minimal or are looking for a conversation piece, there's definitely a serving bowl for you! Let's talk about your options, as well as the best types of serving bowls for specific situations.

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1. What is the best material for my serving bowl?

Serving bowls can be made from a wide array of materials. Each has specific properties that make it good for specific things - and not so great for others! Therefore, the best material for your serving bowl will depend on what you're using it for. We'll break it down below:

If you need to…

  • Serve hot things: When you're serving something hot, you'll need a bowl that is a good insulator so it won't be hot to the touch but will keep the food inside at good serving temperature. Ceramic, melamine or glass are both good choices here. You'll likely want to stay away from very thin plastic or metal, as they will warp or get extremely hot.
Colorful Melamine Serving Bowl
Glass Rectangular Serving Bowl
Melamine Serving Small Bowls in White
Ceramic Serving Bowl Set in Red
Ceramic Serving Bowl Set in White
Glass Low Serving Bowl
  • Use it for mixing: When you're mixing ingredients in a serving bowl, you want something that has a sturdy enough base to stay put. However, you'll also need it to be lightweight enough so you can pick it up if need be. Good materials might include durable plastic or lightweight stainless steel or copper. For mixing bowls, you should probably stay away from more porous materials like wood or ceramic, or heavier ones like glass.
Stainless Steel Serving Salad Bowl in Rose Gold
Stainless Steel Serving Bowl Set in Rose Gold
Stainless Steel Serving Bowl
Stainless Steel Serving Bowl in Black
Stainless Steel Serving Bowl in Silver
  • Use it mainly for decoration: Sometimes, a serving bowl is mostly decorative, for example, a fruit bowl. This is a good opportunity to use more porous materials, such as wood or ceramic. Thinner, more delicate serving bowls should be used for more decorate purposes as well, such as porcelain or bone china.
Porcelain 5 Piece Serving Bowl Set
Porcelain Serving Bowl in White
7 Piece Serving and Salad Bowl Set in Wood
Acacia Wave Serving Bowl
Ceramic Serving Bowl Pig Styled
Ceramic Decorative Serving Bowl

2. When should I use the different types of serving bowls?

Aside from the material incorporated, serving bowls can often be differentiated by size. Because bowls tend to be a variety of differing sizes instead of having standardized measurements, we'll talk about three very general sizes of bowl:

  • Small (less than 6" in diameter): Very small bowls, when used for food, are perfect for dipping sauces or individually-sized portions of small snacks, like nuts or berries. If you group many small bowls together, you can get a really fun mosaic effect!

  • Medium (about 6-8" in diameter): These are very practical bowls, as you can use them for serving routine bowls of pasta or cereal to individuals, or you can use them as more family-style serving bowls for sides, such as veggies or grains, at larger meals.

  • Large (about 12" in diameter): The biggest serving bowls can be used for entrees (such as pasta or meats) or can be used for sharing larger pieces of food, for example, think of a bread bowl, to be passed around the table.

Pro tip: The bigger the serving bowl, the heavier it'll be - so, when you start to look at bowls with larger diameters, consider the material you're using as well as the density of the food inside very carefully.

Big Serving Bowl in Green
Small and Medium Serving Bowl Set
Small to Medium 3 Piece Serving Bowl Set
Medium Rectangular Serving Bowl Set
Large Serving Bowl Set in White
Large Square Serving Bowl

3. What's the best set or size of serving bowls for me to choose?

Do you have a series of nesting serving bowls that all look the same, but hold differing quantities of food? If you don't have one and like a more unified look, going for a nesting set of serving bowls can help remove busyness from your table and allow you to concentrate on the food instead of the bowl.

If you're looking for a more cohesive look, selecting a set of nesting glass or ceramic bowls are wonderful for serving (or for a decorative mise-en-place if you like cooking!). Nesting wooden bowls, on the other hand, are perfect for entertaining: Set a small set of wooden bowls by a large bowl of chips, and your snack station is good to go!

Everyone should have at least one large mixing bowl for the kitchen (one made of metal or plastic) and one large serving bowl, even if you just use it to display fruit on your kitchen counter. However, the best set or size of serving bowls for you to choose will depend on how often you entertain - and how many people you have to serve! If you frequently host more than 5-7 people, you should have at least two large serving bowls, two or three medium ones, and 5-7 smaller ones. That way, you'll be able to take care of you and your guests, no matter what you happen to be serving.

Jessica started out as an interior photographer, but her love of pretty settings took her to the field of interior design, where she can combine two of her greatest passions, creating and then capturing the beauty of homes.