Ceramic vs. Porcelain Plates – What’s The Difference?

We eat with our eyes first. This famous saying that chefs worldwide swear by was first coined by Apicius in ancient Rome. This is why the top chefs spend so much time designing and producing every detail of the dish while plating it.

And it is not just how you arrange the food, but also the plate or other tableware you choose that matters for the end result of your culinary efforts.

In fact, choosing the right plate can either make or break even the most perfect dish.

This is the reason why people spend so much time choosing the right types of plates for their needs. The dishes and tableware offered on the market vary hugely by shape, size, design, color, pattern, and others. But another factor apart from its design to keep in mind is the material it is made of. This is an essential element for the overall quality and durability of the dinnerware.

If you are facing a dilemma about whether to invest in porcelain or ceramic plates, then read on through our detailed head-to-head porcelain vs. ceramic plates comparison.

Both types are made of clay which is shaped and then hardened at a high temperature. But it is the type of clay used as well as the temperature reached when firing it that makes the difference.

While both are types are ceramic, porcelain is a more durable and denser type of ceramic than the two. Due to its invention in china, porcelain is also often referred to as “china” or as “fine china.”

We have included the similarities and the differences between the two so that you can decide which option is better for you.

Ceramic

Ceramic is the general term for an inorganic and a non-metallic material like clay which is shaped into a plate or any other form and then is fired at a high temperature. The word ceramic comes from the ancient Greek word “keramikos,” which means pottery.

Ceramic plates are corrosion-resistant, durable, and hard but chippable. Most ceramic cookware can be used safely in an oven or microwave due to its high heat resistance.

These are the reasons why ceramic is used for making all types of tableware, such as bowls, plates, mugs, as well as for the making of cookware that is non-stick and non-toxic.

Usually, the plates and other tableware made of ceramic are glazed and colored.

The different ceramic types

Since ceramic has been made since ancient times and is used for so many different products, there are various types of ceramic.

Ceramic has become the general term for numerous other materials and products, including porcelain, earthenware, terracotta, bone china, fine china, and china.

Here are the main three types of ceramic

Earthenware

This is a more fragile type of ceramic that is fired at lower temperatures than most other types. Earthenware plates and other objects are heated to a temperature of just up to 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. Since this type of ceramic is more porous than others, it is usually glazed and then fired once more. Dishes made of earthenware are heavier and thicker than others, and they are less durable and chip easily. But they are cheaper than the other types, and still can be very charming.

Stoneware

This is a more durable type of ceramic, which is strong, hard, and non-porous, thanks to the fact that it is fired at a high temperature of 2,000 to 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit. This high temperature causes it to become vitrified into a glass-like material. While porcelain is typically white, stoneware can vary in color. Stoneware, though, is more opaque than the more translucent porcelain.

Stoneware plates and other tableware are suitable for serving as well as for cooking, baking and storing foods.

Porcelain

Porcelain dishes are fired at temperatures higher than 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit and up to 2,600 degrees. Thus, they are harder than the others. As a result of the exposure to the high temperatures, porcelain is white and translucent compared to the stoneware, which is more opaque and colorful.

In general, the main properties of ceramic are:

  • A high melting point – heat resistance
  • Long durability
  • Strong and hard
  • It can be damaged due to physical impact or due to thermal shock
  • It is non-reactive to chemicals
  • How is ceramic made

Ceramic is made of clay derived from the ground. The natural clay is mixed with water and other materials to make it soft, flexible, and ready to be shaped. Then it can be molded into the desired shapes and forms.

When the plate or other item is formed, it is placed in a kiln (which is an oven for ceramics and glass)

How Ceramic Is Made

As we mentioned earlier, ceramic is made of clay as a base. Once the clay is taken out of the ground, it is mixed with water and other materials until it becomes flexible and soft. Once it’s easily moldable, it can be made into different shapes.

Then the shaped item is placed in a kiln, a furnace for ceramics, and fired at a high temperature. Then it may be glazed, and it may be re-fired.

Further Reading: Best Ceramic Cookware Reviews 2022: Top 5+ Recommended

Porcelain

As mentioned earlier, porcelain is a type of ceramic. The main difference is that refined clay is used to make the plates or other items and is fired at a much higher temperature.

Because of the refined clay and the higher temperatures in the kiln, porcelain is much more durable, harder, and less porous than regular ceramic. Porcelain has a higher density than it and is much more chip and crack-resistant than traditional ceramic.

Many people prefer porcelain tableware due to its visual appeal. This is why many families have special china tableware sets which are used for formal occasions, and also why there are so many collectors of porcelain plates and other porcelain items.

The material which is used for forming the porcelain dish is clay mixed with kaolin, quartz sand, feldspar and can include other materials, such as bone ash, granite, glass, alabaster, and more.

The temperature for firing the porcelain plate or other object is at least 2,300 and up to 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes the porcelain dishes so much more durable and strong. It is also the reason why porcelain is white in color and is translucent. This means that you can see the light passing through it, unlike with other traditional ceramics, which are opaque.

Another way to tell whether a plate is made of porcelain is to tap it gently with a fork and see if it makes a bell-like sound.

Porcelain is a material often used to create a non-stick and chemical-free coating in Dutch ovens, braisers, and other cast-iron cookware and cooking surfaces.

The different porcelain types

As with ceramic, there are different types and subtypes of porcelain. Here are the main three porcelain types:

  • Bone China – this is the strongest porcelain type, which has the whitest color, the most translucency, and is the most durable. Bone china is made with added kaolin, feldspar, and bone ash to the clay.
  • Hard-paste porcelain – this is also known as “true porcelain” and is made with added kaolin, feldspar, and petunse and fired at very high temperatures.
  • Soft-paste porcelain – better known as “artificial porcelain,” this type is not as strong and can crack easily, especially when in contact with hot products and liquids. The reason is that it is not fired at such high temperatures and doesn’t have all of these additional minerals as the other types.

Overall, it is important to know that porcelain is a type of ceramic but has the following specific characteristics:

  • White color
  • Translucency
  • More considerable durability, strength, and hardness
  • Higher resistance to heat and thermal shock
  • Now that you know what porcelain and ceramic are, it is time to find out the biggest differences between the two materials used for making plates and other tableware and cookware.

Read on to find out more about the main differences between porcelain and ceramic.

How porcelain is made

Making porcelain requires the following several steps:

Crushing the main raw materials. These usually include clay, silica, and feldspar. All of these materials are crushed meticulously via jaw crushers, followed by hammer mills and the fine ground in ball mills.

Water is added to the well-mixed materials. When the larger chunks are removed, the rest of the materials are mixed together, and water is added. Once the material is ready, the plate or other body of the item can be formed.

The plate or other item is formed. The porcelain tableware or other products can be formed by the wet mixture via soft or stiff plastic forming, by pressing, or by slip casting.

The items are fired. The ready-formed plates and other items are placed in the hot kiln at very high temperatures to be fired.

Porcelain vs. Ceramic plates – the final comparison

If you are not sure how to tell which tableware is made of porcelain and which are made of other classic types of ceramic, here are the main characteristics to look for and the differences to keep in mind:

Porcelain is lighter, thinner, and has more fine edges than ceramics. Ceramics, especially earthenware and stoneware, is more rustic, rough, and definitely heavier.

Ceramic plates can chip easier than those made of porcelain.

Porcelain is less porous and thus will not absorb hues odors and will not stain.

Porcelain is translucent, and ceramic is more opaque. This means that you can see the light through a porcelain plate but not through a ceramic one.

Ceramic tableware is more versatile and easier to maintain, as you can use it in a microwave oven or wash it in the dishwasher.

Summary of the main characteristics

Ceramic plates and dinnerware

  • Heavy, more rustic, thick, and opaque
  • Suitable for daily, casual use
  • Less expensive
  • Strong and durable
  • Colorful

Porcelain plates and dinnerware

  • Thinner, lighter, more delicate, and translucent
  • Suitable for formal occasions
  • More expensive
  • Stronger and more durable than traditional ceramics
  • White

FAQs

Can you cook in ceramic dishes?

If you buy a good quality ceramic cook set, then you can rest assured that you have an excellent, eco-friendly, non-toxic, and long-lasting set of dishes suitable for cooking.

Is porcelain or ceramic better for cooking?

Suppose you will be using tableware for food preparation, especially for baking, roasting, or cooking. In that case, it is more reasonable and better to use stoneware, earthenware, or other traditional ceramic dishes.

Porcelain is a lot more expensive, thinner, and more beautiful, making it more suitable for serving food and drinks and formal tableware.

Can a ceramic casserole be used on a stovetop?

Casseroles made of ceramics are usually marked and should be used as bakeware and be used in ovens. If you are looking for a vessel that you can use directly on the stovetop without the risk of it cracking, then make sure to check the labels.

In any case, no matter whether you are using ceramic or porcelain plates and other tableware, make sure to avoid sudden temperature changes, which can crack, break and ruin the plates.

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