Tag Archives: stoneware

Buying Ceramic Dinnerware and Bakeware

There are a few different things to consider when purchasing new ceramic dinnerware or bakeware, and I’ve also included some use and care advice to help you out.

Choosing Durability

Ceramics can be expensive, and usually the inexpensive ones will end up needing to be replaced constantly, so I’m a believer in spending more for better quality and that it will actually last a lifetime.

This is me standing on a Fiesta dinner plate as demonstrated to me by the Fiesta rep I met once.
This is me standing on a Fiesta dinner plate as demonstrated to me by the Fiesta rep I met once.

As mentioned in the “Ceramic Dinnerware and Bakeware Basics” blog, durability comes from how the ceramic is made. Depending on how many times the piece was fired during its creation is a huge factor – the less (at higher temps) is better.

This butter dish knob broke  off easily; super glue did the trick since I don't eat off of it.
This butter dish knob broke 
off easily; super glue did the trick since I don’t eat off of it.

What also matters is the design – having thin edges or connecting pieces might be an indicator that it will chip. Imagine the piece lightly bumping into another piece in your dishwasher – edge to edge. Do you think it would stand up in this situation, or crack? The less edges the piece has the better, too. Bowls are a great example of this – does the base of the piece have a protruding edge? Just something else that could get chipped.

Click here to watch my Ceramic Edge Test video.

Choosing Colors

Le Creuset dinnerware set
Le Creuset dinnerware set

Colors can be fun until you put food on them, then all of a sudden the fun colors make your food look not so appetizing. I have a friend who gave up a cobalt blue loaf pan simply because she made mac and cheese in it and it looked inedible to her! There’s a reason why restaurants use whiteware; there’s also a reason why food judges always rate chefs on their “plating” – this is taught in culinary school, I kid you not!

Also to consider with color is what scratching will look like (see more about scratching on ceramic below). Cobalt blue is notorious for showing marks very well and customers were always returning it with complaints. I have the “Sunflower” color in Fiesta dinnerware, and while all of the different colored plates show a small amount of scratching, the yellow really looks unappealing.

Choosing a Brand

You want to do some research and make sure the brand you choose is going to be around for a long time, producing the same product lines, and also the same color choices, otherwise you won’t be able to replace or add to your collection in the future.

Fiesta dinnerware color options
Fiesta dinnerware color options

Fiesta dinnerware actually claim they never discontinue pieces because the pattern has remained the same for decades, only the colors have changed (or rather, “retired“). This might not make a person who buys all one color happy if their color gets discontinued!! You should be able to find information on at least quality vendors about when a pattern came out or how often they discontinue colors, etc. if you do enough research.

Read about individual ceramic and glass brand names.

Use and Care

Emile Henry dinnerware and bakeware
Emile Henry dinnerware and bakeware

Make sure to check to see if the dinnerware or bakeware you’re selecting is dishwasher and microwave safe. Generally all ceramics are, however, the claim that it is safe for the dishwasher doesn’t mean it’s safe FROM your dishwasher. I load all of my ceramic bowls with dishwasher-safe plastic pieces in between them to avoid them bumping each other while being cleaned. I also find that if a piece of bakeware has buildup on it, just like cookware, it’s probably just going to get baked on harder inside of the dishwasher and not come out clean.

As mentioned in the “Basics” blog, different elements exist within different color dyes that are used on ceramics. Different elements react differently when heated in a microwave; for instance, reds get hotter than any other color because of the lead contained in the glaze. It’s not harmful to you as a user, but it does react to the heat!

Not all ceramics can handle the same temperature ranges, so be sure to check the instructions or label of the piece in question. You can really only assume bakeware is good to 350 degrees Fahrenheit; anything higher you would want to be sure you check first. Some of the sturdier brands go as high as 480 degrees, but I’ve never seen one that is OK to use on “broil”.

Le Creuset cast iron oven and three different bakers. Don't mix them up and put the bakeware on the stove!
Le Creuset cast iron oven and three different bakers. Don’t mix them up and put the bakeware on the stove!

Be wary of Pinterest recipes and other things you read online. Like with anything  you read on the internet, not everyone’s an expert. (Not even me! I double-check myself constantly and will always update my blogs accordingly, however.) Two different casserole recipes I randomly found on Pinterest and tried asked me to put in my “oven safe” bakeware and then crank them up to 500 or broil and  told me not to worry, it was fine. Luckily both times I realized my stupidity and turned the oven back down quickly enough.

When an item says it is “freezer to oven” safe, they mean they want you to warm it up with the oven. Don’t EVER put cold ceramic in a hot oven, let them come to temperature together! (Same goes for a pizza stone!) Extreme temperature changes are a major cause of cracking and crazing with ceramics.

Ceramics are never stovetop safe (with the exception of CorningWare’s stovetop safe line), so be careful when you are using brands that create both cookware and bakeware. I’ll never forget the poor gal who tried returning her Le Creuset baker because it cracked on the stove! It had a lovely electric burner ring stain on the three pieces it had become and we were not able to replace it for her because that wasn’t proper use – she thought all Le Creuset was safe for the stove. 🙁

CorningWare stovetop baker in a modern print
CorningWare stovetop baker in a modern print

Surface Scratching

Scratching on ceramic is normally caused by two different things.

1. Flatware scratching: This is inevitable unless you do all of your cutting on a different surface. The metal from your flatware leaves unsightly marks on lighter colored porcelain and ceramics. There are various cleaning products you can purchase that they say will remove these marks, but I have never personally tried any of them.

2. Ceramic-on-ceramic scratching: This occurs when you stack your ceramics, more commonly with plates. Generally the base of a piece of ceramic has a ring that is not glazed and also a little rough to the touch. When you pull one dish out, it lightly scrapes against the other item it’s stacked against, causing a scratch. These scratches can actually be deeper and worse than flatware scratches.

Ceramic-on-ceramic scratching can be avoided by purchasing ceramics with less edging, sanding down  your unfinished edges, or storing them in a plate rack versus stacking them.

Plate rack storage to avoid surface scratching.
Plate rack storage to avoid surface scratching.

I created a guide for you, which includes a quick video on how to sand your ceramics without sandpaper, using other pieces of dinnerware. You can also use a lower number grit sandpaper.

Check out How to Sand Your Ceramic Dishes and Bakeware by Your Ultimate Kitchen on Snapguide.

You can use the bottom of two similar-sized pieces to sand each other.
You can use the bottom of two similar-sized pieces to sand each other.

Back to Ceramic and Dinnerware Basics

Forward to Ceramic & Glass Dinnerware & Bakeware Brands

Ceramic Dinnerware & Bakeware Basics

Some of this information was already in my “Clay & Terra Cotta Cookware” blog, but we’ll go into more detail here. Some people might be surprised or confused that dinnerware and bakeware are being lumped together, but the same properties exist among any items made from ceramic, and certain companies make both. The only difference is the shape they form them into!

Emily Henry dinnerware, bakeware, and stovetop
 collections are all made from the same clay!

So first, some ceramic basics.

Clay, when fired, becomes crystalline, like glass. Therefore, ceramic dinnerware and bakeware is no different than purchasing glass dinnerware and bakeware. Meaning it’s non-porous (unless chipped!) and environmentally friendly.


Le Creuset dinnerware set

Earthenware is non-porcelain, clay-based pottery that is porous after being fired. It can be made out of a variety of different clays and can be glazed. Terra Cotta is a type of earthenware made from clay and therefore it is also porous after being fired, but is never glazed. Ceramic is made from clay in the form of kaolin but sometimes other materials are mixed in, as well. It is always glazed and often colored. Most ceramics are crystalline, meaning they act like glass. Porcelain is made from clay and other materials fired at high temperatures, and is the most glass-like of all the varieties of ceramics. It is often referred to as China or Fine China since that is where its production originated. Stoneware is ceramic that has been fired once at a higher temperature and is considered to be even stronger than porcelain.

Confused yet? 😛 Again, ceramic is like glass, non-porous and strong.


Different manufacturers utilize different glazes to create the colors on their ceramics. A few vendors even use natural ways to color their wares; Emile Henry uses metal oxides (naturally occurring) to create their colors. As I mentioned, ceramics are non-porous so you wouldn’t have to worry about anything in the colors leaching out into your food, but I suppose if you were still using chipped ceramics you would have to consider the glazes at that point. Most inexpensive ceramics made in China also contain glaze made in China, however, if a piece is manufactured in one country does not guarantee that the glaze also came from the same country, so do your homework if this matters to you!

Fiesta dinnerware colors!

Every color has different elements within it, so you’d have to know your pigment chemistry to focus your concerns properly. For instance, red dyes have the most lead in them, yellows can have cadmium, and blues can contain cobalt. Most people are only concerned with lead, so know that all items are lead tested before they are able to be sold in the United States, which means anything you are buying off the shelf is considered within safe levels. You shouldn’t be using cracked or chipped ceramics, however, so this shouldn’t be a concern. It is against food safety regulation to eat off of cracked dinnerware because bacteria can grow in cracks, so always send your food back if you receive it on something chipped or cracked! (Chipped or cracked glassware is just plain unsafe – you don’t want to cut yourself! Send it back.) Chipped ceramic will also get much hotter in the microwave, as will anything with more lead in the glaze. Yes, your favorite red mug really does get hotter than your white one, you’re not crazy!

Cracking Versus Crazing

This plate is cracked!

Cracking is when an object breaks into two or more pieces under stress, while crazing is the phenomenon that happens before cracking. Crazing looks like a network of cracks, usually within the glaze. You can feel a crack if you run your finger over it, while you cannot actually feel the crazing if you were to do the same.

This bowl has crazing.

You can still utilize dinnerware or bakeware that has crazing, you just want to be extra careful with it because sometimes bumping it hard in the affected area will cause it to actually crack. Other times, the ceramic will never actually crack and you can use it for ages, which makes sense because crazing can actually increases the strength of the piece…ah, science! Crazing is caused by flaws in production (less expensive pieces made by machines with low quality control will craze easily) or excessive stress on the piece (using it at higher temperatures than recommended).

Making Strong Ceramic Pieces

What makes one brand of ceramic better than another? Ceramics that don’t have a lot of extra edges or have smoother, thicker edges are more likely to last longer, like Fiesta dinnerware. The less edges there are, the less chance they have to chip! Pieces that have to be added on later, like handles and knobs, can be very fragile because of how thin they can be and difficult to “attach”, so be cautious. How many coffee mugs do you own with broken handles?!?

Fiesta has thick and almost non-existent edges making it very hard to break.

Companies that reuse their molds for too long will start losing the quality control in their production. Think about it – the molds the ceramics are created in go in and out of the kilns repeatedly, breaking down over time. Le Creuset actually destroys their molds after each firing so each piece is unique and considered to be hand-crafted. (The same goes for their cast iron!)

Le Creuset stoneware

I’ve mentioned molds going in-and-out of the kiln repeatedly, but didn’t talk about how the ceramics themselves sometimes do, too. The more something has to go into the kiln like this, the more brittle it becomes. As stated in the definitions section above, stoneware and porcelain are created at higher temperatures, which makes them stronger because they didn’t have to go in-and-out as often as others might have. Fiesta dinnerware and Emile Henry are both “high-fire” meaning they only go in once at an extremely high temperature. This is the strongest ceramic dinnerware and bakeware you will find, but the other stoneware is very strong, too.

More details about “Buying Ceramic Dinnerware and Bakeware

More details about “Ceramic & Glass Dinnerware & Bakeware Brands

Clay & Terra Cotta Cookware

Emile Henry Flame Top Brasier

Anything ceramic/stoneware/terra cotta/earthenware being sold as sturdy cookware should be high-fired. This means when it’s being made, it is put in the oven once at a really high temperature, versus being pulled in and out several times like how most ceramics are made*. Doing this causes a piece of stoneware to become more brittle so it won’t hold up as long. A high-fire piece is going to be a heck of a lot stronger and can handle the stove top and oven. Since this cookware is just clay, the heat will distribute evenly, just like a stainless clad pan!

Emile Henry and Piral are the brands I am most familiar with. Since it is sold as an “all-natural” cookware, the colors (at least in these brands) are actually derived from metal oxides, not dyes, which are naturally occurring. These companies make a lot of dutch oven style pots, so they’re a great alternative to a heavy cast iron dutch oven. I always tell people to pick up the pan, then imagine it full of food. Can you carry it? If not, clay is probably the better option!

Natural cookware like this will generally require special care, so read your instructions! Cookware like Piral asks you to soak it before just the first use and to utilize a heat diffuser on electric stoves. Emile Henry also has seasoning instructions before first use, which are kind of funny. You boil a layer of milk and immediately turn the heat off and let it cool. Emile Henry will also start producing what look like hairline cracks inside the piece over time. Completely normal, and actually most cookware in this category will warn you of natural flaws that will occur!

Piral Cookware

If you are cooking with unsealed clay, you will need to soak the piece, usually for 15-20 minutes. The water turns to steam and keeps the food really moist, so these are really great for roasting meat! Generally, clay is only for oven use and is a bit more fragile than the ceramic cookware mentioned above. Clay cookware can be really inexpensive or really expensive like the Romertopf brand that I remember selling a lot of during the holiday season.

Sealed cookware like Emile Henry and Piral are going to be a bit more costly than clay, but are backed by warranty periods, which I think is amazing for something that seems like it should be so fragile.

Click here to return to “Buying Cookware” to compare to other types of cookware! 

*Read about “Ceramic Dinnerware and Bakeware Basics

*Read about “Ceramic & Glass Dinnerware Brands

*Read about “Buying Ceramic Dinnerware and Bakeware