Last year I moved into an apartment where I had just enough space to fit a dining room table. To be clear, it's not a dining room. It's a slot on the floor with enough space for a three-by-five-foot table. But that's all I needed to start entertaining more often.
The great thing about working at Serious Eats is that there are always new recipes to try and techniques to master. The inspiration is endless. But when I had my first group of friends over, I was presented with an issue. I had absolutely nothing for serving! Sure, I had bowls and plates where I could serve people individually. But I had nothing on which to present my hard work, nothing that would do justice to my enormous brisket. That needed to change.
So I set out to find some serving platters. While attractiveness was certainly something to note, I also wanted to make sure they were durable, affordable (under $100), and functional—worthy of space in my limited cabinetry and the food placed upon them. The following is a selection of my favorites.
I'll start with a note that there are some baking dishes that also work as perfectly acceptable serveware. When it comes to holiday casseroles, this heritage baking dish from Staub can go from the oven to the table without any trouble. What's more, Staub, in particular, has excellent heat retention, so it'll keep whatever you've prepared warm, even if there are stragglers to your meal. Doesn't hurt either that it comes in nice holiday colors. And then we have the Great Jones Hot Dish, which has a fun, retro-style print and wide looped handles that make it easy to carry from the kitchen to the table.
Buying a nice white serving platter is sort of like collecting plain white T-shirts. As long as they're made well, they're endlessly versatile. You can use them again and again, paired with different conversation pieces (from roast chicken to duck a l'orange), and no one will tire of them.
This white serving platter from Williams Sonoma was recommended to me by our former copyeditor here at Serious Eats. Just like said copyeditor, this platter is no-nonsense in all the right ways. It's classic, elegant, and extremely functional. I love the handles, which are helpful when you're transporting something a bit heavy, like a roast or a lot of cheese. Perhaps what surprised me most was the price. Even the largest size is just $50. Plus, cleanup's a breeze, since you can toss it (gently) into the dishwasher at the end of the night.
For fancier occasions, I break out my Jono Pandolfi platter. You may recognize the brand, perhaps not by its name but by the design, as its pieces are used in some of the fanciest restaurants in the world. (And now, in my apartment!) Everything from Jono is handmade; while the platter definitely has some heft, it's delicate-looking and sophisticated. And despite the fact that it's handmade, it's still dishwasher-safe. While the large size is above $100, the medium one is $84.
This ceramic platter from Crate & Barrel was recommended to me by our former visual director, Vicky Wasik. It's ideal for a bold centerpiece. I love the antique-look of this platter and how the rim is more freeform. What's more, this piece is actually oven-safe up to 300°F, which means you can carve up your turkey, place it on the platter, then stick it back in a warm oven until your guests arrive.
When I went to Portugal a few years ago, I was astounded by how much beautiful ceramic kitchenware there was. I came home with a rolling bag full of heavy, bubble-wrapped platters and bowls, only to realize later that a lot of Portuguese ceramics are actually available here, from retailers that I use all the time. While I'm still a little grouchy about that, I can't be mad at this lovely black-and-white platter from West Elm that is, yes, made in Portugal. A boon for holiday leftovers, it's microwave-safe, and reactive glaze gives it a lovely, unique speckled appearance.
I also like this bright blue platter from Crate & Barrel. It also has a reactive glaze, but this time it's created a more ombré look. I could imagine this piece highlighting some grand roast, like a beef Wellington.
I'd also be remiss not to mention this other grey, dotted option from Crate & Barrel. Unlike most of my other recommendations, this one has a delightful matte finish that is both understated and elegant. I could see it used a centerpiece for a holiday meal or as a dish that remains out at all times, topped with a smattering of citrus in your dining room. If you have a dining room, that is.