Plating Food Tips : Tips and Tricks for Beautiful and Tasty Food Presentation. Plating food is an art that takes skill and practice to master. How food looks on the plate can make a big difference in how appetizing it appears and how much someone enjoys the meal. Follow these tips and tricks from professional chefs to take your plating skills to the next level.
Plating Food Tips
Before getting into fancy techniques, it’s important to nail down the basics. Here are some plating 101 rules to follow:
- Make sure the plate is clean. Wipe away any water spots, smudges, or food debris before plating.
- Pay attention to color variety. Use ingredients with contrasting colors for visual appeal.
- Alternateplacement of items on the plate rather than grouping similar items together.
- Use odd numbers rather than even pairs of items. Three scallops looks better than two or four.
- Fill the plate but leave some negative space. Don’t overcrowd the plate or fill it edge to edge.
- Vary heights and textures. Add crunch with nuts or chips, height with stacked food, etc.
- Garnish sparingly to complement, not overwhelm. Choose one or two simple garnishes.
- Check that the temperature is right before serving hot or cold dishes.
Follow these foundations and you’ll already achieve more appealing plating. Now let’s look at some more advanced techniques.
Saucing Techniques – Plating Food Tips
Artfully saucing a plate can take it to the next level. Here are saucing ideas to try:
- Drizzle thin lines or dots from higher above the plate for delicate designs.
- Make abstract shapes or swirls with squeezable condiment bottles.
- Use the back of a spoon to smear sauce across the plate.
- Spoon sauce below or beside foods so it interacts but doesn’t drench or soak in too much.
- Create vertical or angled smears of sauce on one side of plates.
- Make a quick sauce “painting” on the plate with a brush before plating food.
- Drizzle vinaigrettes around salads rather than directly on top to avoid sogginess.
Don’t oversauce or plates can look messy. Start with small amounts of sauce and add more if needed.
Stacking and Height – Plating Food Tips
Use these techniques to create stunning vertical dimensions on plates:
- Stack sliced foods like lasagna, enchiladas, or sandwiches for striking results.
- Alternate or spiral stack ingredients of contrasting colors.
- Lean long asparagus or green bean bundles against proteins at an angle.
- Build structural tower or pyramid shapes with stacked vegetables or fruits.
- Skewer foods like meatballs and place skewers diagonally across plates.
- Use ricers, food molds, parisienne scoops, or ring cutters to shape mashed potatoes or other foods into mini towers.
- Prop spoonfuls of rice, risotto, or purees against proteins or wedge between vegetables.
Don’t just lay food flat. Create architecture and drama with height!
Plating meat, fish, tofu, and other proteins beautifully is key. Here’s how to showcase these stars of the plate:
- Angle longer proteins like steak or salmon diagonally across the plate for a dynamic look.
- Curve crescent-shaped fish fillets around sides of plates.
- Cut meat or fish into medallions and fan or shingle them out like roof tiles.
- Prop up whole fish to look like they’re still swimming upright.
- Cut into thick slices to show off beautiful interior layers of grain and fat marbling.
- Bread or coat proteins before cooking for a crispy texture and golden exterior.
- Add slices of lemon or other fruits and herbs on top of fish for bursts of color.
- Make sure whole proteins aren’t crowded or hidden by other ingredients.
When plating proteins, think about creating visual interest through shape, carving, layering, and angles.
Geometric and Symmetrical Plating
For an eye-catching, modernist look, plate food to look geometric and symmetrical:
- Cut fruits and vegetables into equal sized wedges, cubes, rectangles or circles.
- Line up or stack pieces in columns.
- Arrange multiple components into repetitive patterns.
- Place foods into yin yang style circles.
- Fill circular bowls with food and create perfect round shapes.
- Divide plates into equal halves, thirds, or quadrants and place a different ingredient into each section.
- Use odd numbers (like 3 or 5 pieces of each item instead of 2 or 4) to break symmetry.
- Alternate direction of each piece (one pointing left, one right)
Geometric plating works well for vegetarian dishes, seafood crudos, desserts, and appetizers. Keep it clean and structured.
Textures and Colors – Plating Food Tips
Remember to utilize multiple textures and colors on a plate:
- Incorporate crispy, crunchy bits into dishes for texture contrast (toasted nuts, crispy fried shallots, chips, crackers).
- Alternate placement of smooth purees and creamy sauces with chunky vegetables or proteins.
- Make sure not all components are soft or mushy unless intentionally doing a smooth “monotexture” dish.
- Scatter fresh herbs over dishes at the end for pops of color and flavor.
- Use ingredients with naturally vibrant colors like carrots, peppers, tomatoes, and greens.
- Include bright garnishes like edible flowers, microgreens, or shaved radishes with their greens.
Varying textures and colors excites the palate and makes food more appealing and appetizing. Don’t create a monotonous looking plate.
Don’t forget to use negative space, the empty areas on the plate. Negative space helps highlight key components and makes plates look cleaner. Here are tips:
- Leave wider swaths of empty plate around a central mound of food rather than scattering all over.
- Group ingredients to one side of the plate rather than covering the whole surface.
- On rectangular platters, place food toward one end to create visual balance.
- Frame foods with negative space like placing a pile of risotto inside a ring of sauce or greens.
- Clean negative space around food piles or smears also helps sauces look more intentional.
Getting comfortable with more minimal plating and embracing that “less is more” negative space philosophy takes practice!
For great looking composed salads and veggie dishes:
- Place dressing on bottom of plates or bowls first, then use tongs to artfully arrange greens and other salad components on top.
- Alternate leaf shapes and colors by mixing lettuces.
- Make sure vegetables and proteins are evenly distributed, not clustered.
- Place heartier vegetables and proteins on bottom, delicate greens on top so they don’t get crushed.
- Scatter small garnishes like nuts, seeds, and shaved cheese around for texture.
- Mound ingredients like potatoes, grains or beans to give height and shape.
- Fan out ingredients like sliced peppers, carrots, and radishes for asymmetry.
Salads offer great freedom to get creative with colors, textures, and positioning of mix-ins.
Plating Soups and Stews
Soups and stews require some special plating considerations:
- Pour soups and stews carefully into bowls, holding ladles high above bowls for clean pours.
- Garnish with any mix-ins after pouring, otherwise they may sink or get lost during pouring.
- Top soups with nicely fanned out ingredients like mushrooms slices or thin greens.
- Float a layer of cream, yogurt, or sauce on top of opaque soups for visual intrigue.
- For clear broth soups, neatly place solid ingredients like dumplings, wontons, or proteins in the bottom of bowls before ladling broth over.
- Choose wide, shallow soup bowls to better showcase mix-ins and layers.
- Sprinkle a few artistic drizzles of infused oil or tangy sauces atop finished soup bowls.
Proper soup and stew plating helps diners appreciate all the components and flavors.
Tools and Serveware for Plating
Having the right tools helps unlock plating potential:
- Invest in quality, attractive plates, bowls, and platters in a variety of shapes and sizes.
- Use tongs and tweezers for precise ingredient placement.
- Store squeeze bottles for drizzling sauces in different widths and patterns.
- Get piping bags to make sauce dots, smears, and decorative shapes.
- Use small ramekins for pre-portioning and neatly placing condiments and garnishes.
- Cover platters with wax or parchment paper for easy transport from kitchen to table.
- Opt for wider, shallow bowls which showcase layers better than deep bowls.
Build your plating toolkit over time to level up presentation. The right serveware also elevates plated dishes.
Plating Dos and Don’ts
To sum up plating best practices:
- Use height, asymmetry, contrast, and balance
- Allow negative space on plates
- Alternate textures and colors
- Plate hot foods on hot plates; cold foods on cold plates
- Check seasoning and portion sizes
- Garnish minimally with purpose
- Wipe rims and edges of plates when saucing
- Overcrowd plates
- Sauce foods directly on serving plates
- Overcomplicate with too many components
- Serve foods on same plates used for cooking
- Plate all meal components atop each other
- Drench foods in sauce
- Garnish haphazardly just for the sake of garnishing
Follow these dos and don’ts as a checklist whenever plating dishes to help enhance presentation.
FAQ About Plating Food Tips
Here are answers to some common plating questions:
Why is plating food important?
Artful plating makes dishes inherently more appetizing and enjoyable to eat. It adds visual appeal, entices flavor anticipation, and enhances the overall dining experience.
How do you plate food like a chef?
Professional chef plating balances simplicity and “wow” factor. Use height, overlapping ingredients, clean negative space, artful saucing, geometric patterns, and play with textures and colors.
What do chefs consider when plating food?
Chefs think about eye-appeal, aromas, architectural shapes and stacking of food, thematic colors, harmonizing flavors, and practical concerns like keeping foods at proper temperatures.
How do you plate rectangular dishes?
On rectangular plates, offset placement of food to one end creates a nice asymmetrical look. Angling ingredients across the long axis also adds movement.
Can you plate on the serving dish?
It’s best not to plate directly on serving casserole dishes or family-style platters since moving food after plating can ruin the presentation. Plate on individual plates, then transfer to serving dishes.
What are the 5 elements of plating?
The core plating elements are: 1) Dish presentation 2) Placement 3) Balance of ingredients 4) Simplicity or complexity 5) Harmony of flavors, textures, and colors.
How do I improve my plating?
Improving plating takes practice and experimentation. Look at plating ideas from cookbooks, restaurants, food magazines and blogs. Study plating styles and techniques you admire then apply those to your own dishes.
What kitchen tools help with plating?
Useful plating tools include offset spatulas, tongs, squeeze bottles, piping bags, ramekins, rulers, stencils, clean paintbrushes, food molds, parisienne scoops, and different serving pieces.
Having the right tools, serveware, and understanding of core techniques allows you to plate dishes like a professional. Use these tips the next time you cook to transform your homemade meals from drab to fab with beautiful, mouthwatering food presentation.