Plating Your Meals: The Basics

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It's all about plating your food. It starts with great, fun dinnerware.

If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it 100 times. If you artistically plate your food, it will be perceived as yummy. A concept that anyone new to cooking should understand. Part of serving food is presentation. That is lesson 101 in six words. The food you present should appeal to ALL your senses. This means nose, eyes and mouth.

You don’t have to be a culinary specialist to learn how to plate food. You just need the right tools and the willingness to learn how to present your food in an attractive way. Here are a few pointers to help you get started.

  1. Choose plates that will complement your food. For me, that is white. Nothing shows off a sauce or a colorful food palette like white dishes. Make sure the plate size fits the portion sized being served. Don’t use a large dinner plate to serve a small salad. The salad will look pathetic when overpowered by too much white space.
  2. Learn table setting etiquette. The short version, learn how to set a table properly. Know where the salad forks go, which side to place water glasses, salad plates and dessert utensils. I will be doing an upcoming post that covers all these basics.
  3. If serving a hot dish, make sure the dish/plate is hot. The same is true of cold dishes. If serving a side salad, briefly chill the dishes in the fridge or freezer before plating.
  4. Varying heights can add interest to your plates. If you have a mound of mashed potatoes (which by the way, I suggest you use an ice cream scoop to make your potato mounds) then plate the meat so that it slightly overlaps the taters. The veggies could be fanned out at a lower level. Don’t be afraid to play with the food. Arrange, play with it, arrange, play with it. You can always reheat the food before serving to ensure you’re not wasting any portions. As shown below, this salad was placed inside a tin can (top and bottom removed). The salad was stuffed and packed in the can and then the can removed. Look at the nice height.

    Adding height and dimension to your plating.

    Who said salad couldn't have some height?

  5. Pair color and texture. If you’re serving a zucchini soap which is mainly green in color, then pair it with something red, like minced red peppers. Sprinkle on top of the soup for a splash of color. Crumble low-fat feta on top of a steak.


    Plating Your Meal

    Color and texture add interest when plating your meal.

  6. The oddball wins the prize. Consider plating in odd sizes. If you have 6 shrimp per guest, plate 5. Why? It adds interest.
  7. Always garnish. A leaf of romaine, a lemon wedge, a side of parsley, an apple or tomato wedge. It should always be edible, colorful and functional.

Remember, you eat with your eyes. If the plated food looks yummy, your guest will believe it’s yummy. Put that little extra effort into making your meals looks like you put some thought into what is being served.

Finally, if you’re looking for a great starting point for finding fun and creative serving dishes. Start here CB2. This is one of my all-time favorite places to shop online for dinnerware, linens and serving dishes.

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