How to plate your dishes like a pro

Updated: Nov 20, 2020

Isn’t it funny when you look at how dining has changed over the past few years. In times gone by we would have enthusiastically tried to describe to our friends about our latest fine dining experience and that would have been it. However times have changed since then and we now find ourselves in a cafe or restaurant with fellow diners doing exactly what we do, which is taking photos of the meal which has just been placed on the table by our waitstaff. The next moment we are uploading our photos to Instagram with #amazing dining experience or #Indian tonight or #food envy. It is a way of sharing our food experience with our family and friends.

It does put more pressure on us amateur cooks to try and present food like a professional when entertaining guests at home. Us foodies have also been influenced by tv shows such as “Master Chef” and “My Kitchen Rules” where the contestants are often told that “less is more” or to “tell a story with the food on your plate”. It puts us under enormous pressure to not only cook a dish which tastes fantastic but to also create which could be described as a work of art on a plate. Obviously you don’t have to take things to that extreme but considering that we do eat with our eyes would make us want to give our guests that wow factor! Below are a few tips on how to plate your food so that it is pleasing to the eye and earns you compliments from your dinner guests.

  1. Start with a blank canvas which is your plate. White is best as the colours from your food will pop on your plate. Avoid using patterned dinnerware as it will distract from your masterpiece.

  2. Think about the meal you want to present and the portion size. Huge sloppy portions of lasagne or big portions of meat pie will not cut it. They may taste amazing but will not have that visual impact you are hoping for.

  3. Look at putting smaller portions of the main protein on your plate because that way you have more space to surround it with colours of the rainbow. Ideal vegetables would include broccoli, green beans, carrots, red capsicum, beetroot and pumpkin. I’m not suggesting you use all those vegetables together but anything which adds a vibrant colour would be the best choice.

  4. If using mashed potatoes or pumpkin lay them on the bottom of the plate spread across the centre with a fork and then layer your protein on top, surrounded by your colourful vegetables. The accompanying sauce can be dotted around the plate. Using a herb garnish to sprinkle on top will add that finishing touch. If you are looking at including rice as part of your meal look at using a rice mould to add shape to an otherwise flat dish.

  5. If you want to be creative with your dessert look at using biscuit crumbs and crushed nuts as a topping. Even a chocolate soil can give a great base layer if you are looking at serving a panna cotta or ice cream. Scatterings of berries or passionfruit pulp is very pleasing on the eye.

  6. Lastly use a paper towel to wipe around the edges of your plate.

  7. Remember that practice makes perfect so don’t be too hard on yourself if you are disappointed with your finished dish. As long as it is flavoursome you can be forgiven.

Let us know at Food Explorer if you would like to learn more about food presentation.