Food Plating & Presentation Ideas for Dinner at Home
A memorable meal can be defined simply as one that tastes great, though we all know we also eat with our eyes. Think of all those social media posts of beautiful food, creatively composed with visually stunning bursts of color and inviting arrangements that make you crave a dish you may have never tasted before.
Wouldn’t it be great to have a few food plating and presentation ideas to use at home? Let’s face it, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, more and more of us are eating dinner at home. And whether it’s food we cook ourselves or meals we take out from our favorite restaurant, it’s a nice touch to plate servings well to enjoy the entire dining experience.
Want to know the top ten secrets to creating a beautifully plated meal? It’s easier than you think.
There are several food presentation and plating formulas, serving rules and even complete culinary courses on the visual aspects of the dining experience. For now, let’s focus on some fundamental ways to make dinner at home appear even more appetizing. You can show the ones you cook for how much you care by preparing pretty plates of food.
Start with a Visually Pleasing Menu
The secrets to professional–looking food presentation and gorgeously plated food begins with planning the meal. Before cooking begins, be sure to:
- Choose foods with different textures and colors. When planning on silky mashed potatoes or a velvety parsnip puree, compliment their creaminess with a crispy element on the dish such as frizzled leeks or crispy bacon bits.
- Chop or slice vegetables in similar sizes but use various shapes. For example, if carrots are cut into coins then chop celery at an angle into batons.
- Consider the color a food might transform into after the cooking process. Planning on using vibrant green vegetables? Make sure to prepare them by using a method like steaming and not overcooking them, to ensure they keep their gorgeous green
Decide on a Plating Method
There are several ways to lay out different components on a plate:
- Classic plating begins with looking down at the plate and visualizing the face of a clock. On the upper left, at approximately 11 o’clock, place carbohydrates such as rice, pasta or potatoes. Moving to the upper right, at 2:00, position vegetables and arrange protein along the bottom, at 6:00.
- The landscape design is recognized by keeping the food low, long, and linear in appearance.
- Imagine the bold and colorful dots, swirls and curlicues of a modern art pain
Choose the Right Dish
Just like you carefully choose pieces to put an outfit together, you can mix and match tableware intentionally.
- Whether you choose a square, round or elongated plate, be sure to leave some blank space (areas that are not completely covered with food) to prevent crowding, allow for balance and really let the food be the focus.
- A classic large white dinner plate is often the chosen culinary canvas for its ability to let the food be the focus. A spacious, flat area allows for easy cutting.
- Colorful tableware is best suited for dishes with little color of their own, or monotone menus.
- Bowls of varying sizes, grades and designs are best suited not only for obvious choices (like soups which are eaten with a spoon) but are also perfect for anything which may be dipped or scooped.
Tools for Food Plating & Presentation
The utensils you have in your kitchen right now are probably great basic tools you can use to carefully arrange foods for plating and presentation for dinner at home. To really raise your game, however, consider adding the following items:
- Reusable squeeze bottles for sauces, condiments and olive oil
- Pastry brushes to spread sauces artistically over plates
- Various sized tongs for careful placement of food
- A ring mold to be used for plating rice or other starches
- A grater or microplane for zesting and garnishes
- Vegetable peelers to create edible veggie ribbons or chocolate shavings (pro tip: chill chocolate prior to garnishing)
Garnish with Purpose
Simply sprinkling parsley all over a dish might often be the perfect familiar garnish – but consider other alternatives.
- Sauces not only add dimension and moisture to a dish, but they can be carefully arranged to create visual interest. Include two sauces of complimentary and contrasting colors and flavors. Examples can even include swirled condiments, like steak sauce and mustard, or prepared barbecue sauce and ranch dressing.
- Finely chopped, minced or grated ingredients added after the dish has been plated are common garnishes. Consider green onions or chives, grated hard cheeses like parmesan or Romano, or lemon or lime zest as a finishing touch.
- Seasonings such as freshly cracked black pepper, a sprinkle of vibrant paprika, or a pinch of dried spices like oregano can also be colorful as well as delicious.
- Herbs including classic parsley, dill, cilantro or mint are all flavorful garnish options.
Stacking servings is a trick many restaurants use to create a little drama.
- When building a plate from the bottom up, begin with a sauce or broth.
- The next layer is usually a carbohydrate (like rice), but any component that would taste great with the base is best (such as spinach souffle).
- Finish with a protein either directly on top or leaning slightly over the middle layer. If the protein is steak, consider placing horizontally cut slices as the last step.
- Top with some slivered herbs or a sprig.
Control Portion Sizes
Take a moment to consider portion sizes for the plate. Doing so can prevent overfilling the plate as well as overeating. Recommendations vary according to the dish, but for the most part aim for half the plate to be vegetables, one quarter carbohydrates and one quarter proteins.
Odd Numbers Are Even Better
When plating foods that may either be counted or noticed by number, choose an odd number for visual impact. Just as the suggestion for the classic food plating method is broken into three areas on the plate, it is recommended to serve three or five jumbo shrimp rather than four, and five rather than six spears of asparagus.
Hot Should Be Hot & Cold Should Be Cold
Keep the temperature of the dish appropriate for the meal being served. A warm dish can ruin the presentation and food plating of a cold dessert and conversely, a cool dish can bring the temperature of a dish down enough to make it unappealing or even cold when served. Chill dishes for cool foods in the fridge and warm dishes for hot foods in a low oven.
Is It Practical?
The final consideration when plating food for others is whether or not a person can easily eat it. A meal composed of tasty ingredients displayed in an artful way is lovely, unless it’s nearly impossible to enjoy. If any element on the plate needs to be sliced with a knife, the plate should be flat and with a large enough area for cutting. As mentioned earlier, foods with a lot of sauce or an accompanying broth should ideally be served in a bowl.