Resources > Kitchen Tools and Equipment > Bowls > Bowl

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A bowl can be a post-season football game, but that is not what we mean here.

In the kitchen, the term "bowl" is almost a generic, used to describe chinaware that is a wider than it is deep. As such, the term can cover a wide range of items that vary dramatically in both size and volume. Bowls are hemispherical vessels / plates (technically) which hold foods or liquids, or even "liquidy" foods. By the way, Bowl can also mean the contents of a Bowl, or the circular portion of a Spoon but those are beyond our scope.

Picture any Bowl and you will be able to its geography.  They typically consist of The Well, The Lip, The Rim and The Base.

The Well is the part of the vessel where the food is placed.

The Base is the underside of the well. The part that rests on the table.

The Lip, if present, is a flat surface, almost like a flange, that runs around the opening of the well. It is frequently and incorrectly called "The Rim." The most notable incorrect use is in the description of the category of Rimmed Soup Bowls.

The Rim is the narrow, outer edge of the Lip. It is only found on some Bowls.

Now that we understand the parts of a bowl we can discuss the many different types of Bowls (See Varieties Below). They each have their own purposes and benefits. The main categories of Bowls include: Mixing Bowl, Soup Bowl, Ramekin, Finger Bowl, Dessert Bowl, Rice Bowl and Pasta Bowl.

 We explain the specifics in the particular Resource Pages, but in general, the size of a Bowl will determine its use, if it is for cooking, or for service, or for both. For example, the largest bowls are for mixing (Mixing Bowl), and serving multiple portions (Serving Bowl, Soup Tureen, Punch Bowl, etc.).

Tableware bowls, used at table by guests, are smaller and can be designed to be picked up or left on the table. Smaller bowls are easier to lift. Bigger bowls stay put. The presence of handles also helps determine how to use a bowl. Vertically placed handles, like those on a Bullion Soup Bowl, indicate that the bowl is meant to be picked up. Laterally placed handles, like on a Lugged Soup Bowl,  indicate that the bowl is meant to be tipped. No handles means that you should use your judgment, though formal manners will usually frown on slurping.  

The shape of a soup bowl can also affect its purposes. Deeper Bowls with thicker sides retain heat more efficiently than shallower bowls with thinner sides. Chefs use shallow, wide bowls to dissipate heat from too-hot items, like chunky meat soups, that can use cooling. Smooth soups, like Puréed Soups, tend to cool quickly. They do better in a deep bowl with thicker ceramic sides that retains heat. Narrow Bowls are used to serve clear soup, (they also help preserve heat).

If the bowl gets too small, it becomes a Cup.