Casual dishes typically include a single plate used for an entire meal, while formal dishes include at least three different plates. Casual dishes also differ from formal ones in their materials. While casual dishes are usually ceramic, formal dinnerware is usually porcelain.
The most common dish for casual dining is the dinner plate. It is typically a fairly large, thick piece of they typically feature durable glazes or transfer-printed designs. Most casual dining sets also include dual-use soup and salad bowls in the same style as the plates.
Formal dinnerware has at least three different plates to casual dining's one. In addition to a dinner plate, formal sets also include a charger, a smaller version of the dinner plate that sits on top of it before the host serves the meal. A dessert plate is even smaller than the charger and sits on top of it before serving. Formal sets may feature a separate salad plate or use a duplicate of the dessert plate. Most sets also include a bread plate that sits away from the dishes used in the main meal.
Most formal dinnerware is made of porcelain. Porcelain is similar to the ceramics used in casual dinnerware, but it uses a higher quality clay fired at a higher temperature. These characteristics make porcelain fragile and give it an attractive translucent look.