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Plating Techniques

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Why not take the opportunity to practice your Plating Techniques? When you host your first post lockdown party you can be sure that your guests will enjoy your great-tasting food visually.

A study from Oxford University has shown that beautifully presented food really does taste better! Using experimental psychology they recorded people’s reactions to salads presented in different ways. Each 30 male and female participants were given a salad of the same ingredients but plated in three different ways.

Each person was asked to rate personal factors such as saltiness, sweetness etc. All three salads were given a similar rating. However when asked to rate as “tastiness” the artfully prepared salad always outranked the others!

Would you prefer this steak and chips ?

Would you prefer this steak and chips?

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OR this steak and chips ?!!


Food Plating Techniques & Tips

Importance of Choosing the Correct Plate

Think of your plate like an artist blank canvas. Choose the size of your plate carefully. It must be big enough to allow your food to stand out but small enough so your portions don’t look small and mean.

Color of your Plate Matters

White plates are always a good choice at it allows for high contrast and a neutral background for color creations. However, the use of colored plates particularly in earthy tones is popular today. Try a quick “dry” run before deciding on your final color choice.

Importance of Arranging your Ingredients

  • The biggest rule is DON’T overload your plate. Focus on one main ingredient and then arrange the other foods in a complementary fashion.
  • Plating by the Clock: It long been considered that plating should be planned to keep a clock face in mind. Your protein should be between 3 and 9, your starch or carbohydrate between 9 and 12, and the vegetable from 12 to 3. Have a look at the picture below.
  • Tiered Plating with Height: This isn’t as popular as it was a few years ago but stacked ingredients can enhance the visual appeal. Consider balancing long flay items against the stack. i.e Steak on top of the polenta and then lean long asparagus against them at a 45-degree angle., Free Cooking and BBQ Magazine
  • Moist Ingredients should be at the Base: The moist runny ingredients can spread untidily when you are serving the dish. One way to control this is to place other foods on top of them. For example, place at an angle carved meat or vegetables against purees and mashed vegetables.
  • Flavor Bites: This is when forkfuls of food combine all of the ingredients into your dish in one bite. Not only do you enhance the taste but it also pleases the eye!
  • Color and Contrast:-Whilst focus is often on the protein it is important to think about how the other elements will look on your plate. You can create a beautiful background to your plate by adding colorful vegetables or sauce dots ( see below )., Free Cooking and BBQ Magazine
  • Use Different Textures to enhance your Dish: Contrast a smooth puree with crispy onion or noodle straws or crumble some blue cheese over your protein. This will give your dish a classic fancy feel., Free Cooking and BBQ Magazine

Consider plating smaller food bites on the plate in uneven numbers … trust me it somehow looks more appealing.

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Creative Sauce Plating Techniques

When you have taken the trouble to plate your main ingredients don’t just slosh a sauce onto the plate. Invest in a squeeze bottle and use this to enhance the ingredients on your plate.

One way to do this is to create accent dots. Consider lightly drizzling the sauce over the ingredients so that the sauce is available in each bite.

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It is possible to even buy silicone brush plating tools which will help to attain that perfect effect.

Garnish for Effect

    • Choose edible garnishes. They should relate to the dish ( not thrown on because parsley looks pretty !)
    • Place your garnishes carefully. Don’t place the garnish on one side of the plate. Disperse them carefully so that they add color or texture.
    • Don’t use any garnishes with a strong odor like raw onions.

Garnish is an easy plating technique

Decorating Brushes and garnishing kits to improve your plating techniques: There are many kits available that will help to perfect your presentation. If you are artistic, it is worthwhile to purchase a set of plating tools.

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There is no need though to get that fancy – just a few squeeze bottles and a small delicate set of tongs will help you with the presentation.


 Buffet Presentation Tips

If you have decided to host a buffet for your guests, you can use the above tips to help present your food items on the buffet table. In addition, there are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Choose colors that compliment your room or outdoor décor.
  • Dress each table in table skirts to hide ugly table legs.
  • Place a few visually appealing plants/items on the buffet table but remember the food should always be the star of the show.
  • The Buffet table should be organized into groups as though they were being served at a sit-down dinner.
  • The first table should be reserved for appetizers followed by tables for salad and soup selections., Free Cooking and BBQ Magazine
  • The next table would be the entrees with a final table offering desserts.
  • Use wicker baskets to display artisan bread and breadsticks.
  • Use risers to create appealing levels for finger foods or salad bowls., Free Cooking and BBQ Magazine
  • Mix up different sized and shaped dishes to make the food more appealing.
  • Set up an end table with cutlery and napkins. This way guests don’t have to carry these whilst trying to hold plates and dish up food.
  • Keep the drinks table in a separate area away from the food buffet to avoid congestion.


Practice your plating techniques and presentations whilst at home. Ready for that first post lockdown BBQ buffet?

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About the Author:

Hi, I am a writer based outside Cape Town in South Africa. I come from a Barbecue obsessed family. With the great weather we have in Cape Town ( most of the year) we enjoy Cooking Outside in our Backyard as often as possible. South African's love to "Braai" anything! The trick to continuing to enjoy Barbecuing is loving the old favorites but experimenting with new foods and methods often.

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