Paper plates are in our lives for a number of reasons; outdoor parties, on-the-go events, a lack of dishwasher, not wanting to use the dishwasher, and children’s sporting events are just some of the occasions when this disposable dishware seeps into our daily routine. But we're all wondering the same question — which is the best brand to use? And even more importantly, which is the most cost-effective option?
With these questions in mind, we tested some of the leading national paper plate brands and a few store-brand varieties to see which plate would hold its own in three tests. We modeled our tests after those conducted by Good Housekeeping, and tested for soak-through resistance, microwave performance, and strength.
We selected the standard dinner plate size from Chinet, Dixie, Solo, Hefty, and two store-brand varieties — in both decorated and standard white versions. Diameters ranged from 8.75 inches to 10.38 inches, and the brands boasted characteristics such as "eco-friendly," "soak-proof," "heavy duty," and "grease-resistant."
To test soak-through resistance, each plate was placed on top of a paper towel, after which 1/4 cup of oil and 1/4 cup of water were poured onto each plate's surface. We let these plates sit for one hour, after which they were assessed for oil and water seepage onto the towels below the plate.
Best performer(s): Dixie and Hefty
Worst Performer(s): Chinet and Store Brand
To test microwave performance, we filled each plate with a slice of pizza and half a can of baked beans. Plates were then placed on top of a paper towel in the microwave, and heated for two minutes. Plates were assessed for temperature, shape, moisture on the plate, moisture that seeped through onto the towel, and if the plate had degraded.
Best Performer(s): Chinet
Worst Performer(s): Hefty and Store Brand
In the strength test, plates were held with one hand, while a steady stream of water was poured onto the plate. Each was timed for how long it took for the water to seep off the edge and the plate to warp or bend.
Best Performer(s): Solo
Worst Performer(s): Hefty
Overall Best Performer: Dixie
While Dixie only won one test outright, the brand ranked just behind the best performer in each other category, making it the best all-around performer.
Overall Best Performer for Cost: Dixie
At $0.17 per plate, Dixie is not the cheapest plate of the bunch, but as it ranks higher than both Solo and Chinet in performance, its middle-of-the-road price makes it the most cost-effective. The least expensive options, purely for cost, were both store-brand varieties, at $0.07 per plate and $0.08 per plate, as well as Hefty plates, which were also $0.08 per plate.
Overall Worst Performer: Store Brand
The store-brand varieties ranked worst in two categories, and second-to-worst in one category, making them the overall worst performing lines of paper plates.