Editor's Note: Products featured on Wide Open Eats are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
If you're looking to outfit your outdoor kitchen or dining space with a new collection of dinnerware, there aren't many materials better suited than melamine. According to Webstaurant Store, this nitrogen-based compound is highly durable, affordable, and can mimic the look of other materials that present risks of breakage (like china or stoneware, for example). Melamine resists temperature transfer, keeping your food hot without taking on that heat itself, so with this material making up your dinnerware, you'll avoid any unexpected burns from a hot plate. What makes for the best melamine outdoor dinnerware sets can often be subjective, though there are a few things to look out for.
First of all, consider the style of dinnerware you prefer. Does your outdoor area need a splash of color or something classic that looks similar to expensive (and breakable) dining sets? Melamine outdoor dinnerware sets come in nearly any pattern, print, or design, so if you've got an eye for something specific, then it's likely you'll find it made from this material. Another thing to consider when shopping for an outdoor dinnerware set is the price point. While this material is good for helping you save some cash, there are undesignated grades of melamine. Thus, inexpensive sets may be composed of cheaper, poorly-made melamine which can increase the risk of chipping, cracking, or overall deterioration. Heftier weights often suggest a stronger composition in the material. We chose the sturdiest and most attractive options for your next outdoor summer gathering here:
1. A Classic Option That Mimics Ceramic Stoneware
Bryce Melamine Stoneware Dinnerware Set (12 pieces) - The Home Depot, $59.99
Consisting of four dinner plates, bowls, and salad plates, this melamine dinner set offers shatter-proof construction with modern aesthetic. Speckled print mimics a classic piece of stoneware, but the material is BPA-free, and only 1% melamine, which the brand touts as making it "virtually unbreakable."
What we like best about this set (besides the stunning look) is that the proportions are well balanced. The dinner plates have an 11-inch diameter and a small lip that is perfect to use as a backstop when scooping up the last delicious bite of your next outdoor meal. The bowls can also fit up to 34-ounces -- which means a lot of ice cream or watermelon chunks throughout the rest of the season. Plus, they're top-rack dishwasher safe for easy clean up.
2. Our High-End Luxury Pick
Kinto Bamboo Blend Melamine Dinnerware Set (12 pieces) - Williams Sonoma - $79.99
It's not often that you find such a great price on outdoor dinnerware sets, and maybe even less so at specialty stores like Williams Sonoma. However, this deal should not be passed on. Coming in either black or white, this Kinto set has a realistic porcelain feel that's smooth to the touch but infused with a blend of melamine and bamboo fiber that makes your next outdoor dining set shatter-proof. As a standard set of 12 pieces, the Kinto melamine kit has four dinner plates, salad plates, and bowls. Overall, this is a beautiful array, and although is priced higher than a typical 12-piece set, this outdoor selection is dishwasher-safe and well suited for longevity.
3. A Bamboo-Inspired Set
Gibson Home Woodfern Melamine Dinnerware Set (12 Piece) - Bed, Bath & Beyond, $49.99
As we mentioned, one of the best things about using melamine is that the compound can be a skilled substitution for many other materials that are risky buys for your hard-earned paycheck. This outdoor-safe set from Gibson Home is a perfect example. The look and feel of these melamine plates and bowls resemble the grain and texture of real wood while being made from incredibly strong plastic.
Already a good deal at $20 off, a set of wooden-adjacent dinnerware such as this is a sure bet for adding a summer vibe to your al fresco dining. According to Central Restaurant Products, melamine has a significantly smaller replacement rate than common materials like porcelain, meaning you'll save money on the initial ticket price of this set, and keep money in your pocket as the years go on. Plus, at a total package weight of five pounds, these dishes are lightweight enough for the kids to carry and durable enough to let them set the table without breakage. That's a win-win-win.
4. An Outdoor Dinnerware Set That Includes Cups
Tranquillo Melamine Dinnerware Set (26-Piece) - Amazon, $79.99
This stoneware-inspired dinnerware set includes your typical collection of bowls, dinner plates, and salad plates for four -- but also comes with fun extras, like a dessert dish, serving spoons, and even a set of cups. The texture of this collection is a real winner, too. Ridges along the bottom of the plates will keep you from having to chase food all around your plate -- an especially annoying challenge when you've been cooking all day. At 100% melamine, you will have to be cautious about how much heat you use when placing these in the dishwasher. However, the inexpensive cost of such luxurious-looking dishes makes the extra attention worthwhile.
5. A Set That Serves Eight People
Joviton Home Outdoor Melamine Dinnerware Set for 8 (24 pieces) - Amazon, $69.99
Now this is a set that can feed an entire crew. Complete with eight large dinner plates, side plates, and deep bowls, the rippled pattern resembles high-quality porcelain. It's 100-percent melamine but dishwasher-safe, although we recommend you place them on the top rack. With eight settings, you can invite the neighbors, extended relatives, or your family friends. This set can serve them all.