Charger plates have been in use since the 19th century. They are sometimes referred to as service plates and under plates. They have both practical and decorative uses. They are used as a base setting to serve dining courses onto and they enhance the dining experience. Due to their use, these plates are usually attractively decorated, adding to the aesthetics of the dining table. They are placed when setting other items of dinnerware – such as silver cutlery and glasses – on the table. Charger plates are kept on throughout the meal to only be removed before desert is served. Due to the fact they need to hold all dining courses, the size of a charger is usually slightly larger than that of a dinner plate.
The practicality of a charger plate is that they prevent spillages and staining of the tablecloth. They also retain heat in the dining ware therefore keeping the heat of the food, therefore also protecting your table from heat damage. Due to this the dinners are also protected as if the main plate is hot it can be safely turned by the rim of the charger plate. The more luxurious charger plates were crafted in metal, such as the silver plate below.
The History of the Charger Plate
The name comes from 13th century middle English and Scottish texts ‘chargeour’, meaning large plate. It also comes from the Latin verb ‘carricane’ which means to load. Back in earlier centuries, original chageours were big enough to serve large roasts at royal feasts. Individual dining took hold over time and a charger changed as a base to hold other dining ware. They are typically used for events and occasions such as weddings, banquets and fine dining.
Other Uses for a Charger Plate
There are other uses for the charger plate such as a tray or platter to serve appetizers (but always on top of a linen napkin as charger plates aren’t meant to come into contact with food). You could also use them as a base for floral centerpieces.
The image above shows the charger plate in use. This particular service was set for the Japanese Prime Minister whilst at a visit to the White House. It shows how a charger plate is used as a placeholder. You can see how the plates are smaller than the charger plate, this makes removing the plate in between courses easier without removing the charger plate until the dessert course.