Towards the beginning of my working life, I spent a few months working for the US distributor of Limoges dinnerware. Some discussions of portion size, and the relationship between plate size, fill level, and perceptions of satiety reminded me of the following:
Standard dinnerware size/capacity ranges
- 4-5" -- bread and butter plate
- 7-7.5" -- salad plate
- 8-8.5" -- luncheon plate
- 9.5" -- European dinner plate
- 10.5" -- US dinner plate
- 12" -- charger (underplate and/or place-setting "show" plate)
The food surface of a plate is considered to be that between the rims
- 4" -- 1/2 c -- (rimless) fruit/dessert bowl
- 5" -- 1-1.5 c -- (rimless) cereal bowl
- 9" -- 1 c -- (rimmed) soup bowl
Cups and Mugs
- 2 oz -- Turkish coffee cup
- 4 oz -- demitasse cup
- 5 oz -- "standard" (bowl-bottomed) cup
- 8 oz -- "can" (straight sided) cup
- 10 oz -- tall footed bowl-bottomed cup, standard can mug
- 12 oz -- "breakfast" cup
A related observation is the degree to which restaurant dinnerware is oversized, particularly in "casual dining" chains. I believe the last time I ordered out, the plate was easily 14" in diameter, with a 2.5" rim -- the food surface was almost the size of an entire RIMMED (European) dinner plate!
On the other extreme, serving a meal on a salad plate tends to present the idea that the serving is being deliberately sized down. This brings to mind the "nouvelle cuisine" of the mid 1980's, in which very small servings of ultrafresh-and-hard-to-find foods were plated with small amounts of innovative sauces. (Derisively referred to as "twenty dollars for two petite peas and a baby carrot on a plate drizzled with a teaspoon of balsamic raspberry kiwi sauce" -- which was literally the case at several tony restaurants.)
Then again, elegant plating can create a tempting presentation with a lot of "white space". Many TV chefs will decoratively drizzle a teaspoon of sauce or gravy on a plate before plating the food itself, which only takes up a quarter of that plate. The artistic design of drizzle, food, and overdrizzle creates an appetizing presentation of a small portion, without the association of volume deprivation.
In the end, one needs to find the key that works for one’s self: smaller plates, rimmed plates, larger rims, decorative plating, a combination of the above… or something else.