image of plate with question mark

Plating 101

What is plating?

Plating is the art of presenting food in a way that enhances and improves the appeal of the food itself.

It involves many different aspects of food preparation and presentation, starting with the combination of foods that make up the meal, to how the food is cooked, to the plate that is used to serve it, to how it is arranged on that plate, to the garnish decorating the dish.

​Plating can take a dining experience from good to Incredible! Spectacular! Unforgettable!

image of example of fancy plate held by chef

Turns out, not only do we enjoy eating beautifully presented food more, we actually get more nutrients from food that is sensually appealing. Who knew that the old saying, “you eat first with your eyes,” was so literally true?

Julia Child

It's so beautifully arranged on the plate - you know someone's fingers have been all over it.

Basic Plating Concepts

Let me state right off the bat that I am not a pro. I am listing here what I have observed and learned from research. Any readers with plating experience, please chime in and let me know what I am missing or misstating!

Balance is key

image of food pyramid

A perfect plate is a balance of proteins, starches and vegetables. The traditional standard of “50% protein, 25% starch, 25% veg” has changed as our understanding of health and diet has improved. A good guideline today might be more like 30% of each, or 50% veg, 25% grain and 25% protein. Obviously, it will depend upon the type of dish you are making, but a balanced plate should always be your goal.​

image of a platter with bowls of tomato soup and heart shaped sandwiches


Taste & Texture

Taste and texture are critical components for an unforgettable meal. Flavors should accent and enhance each other. For example, spicy foods are best accompanied by cool or neutral; a soft and sensual food asks for something crispy. Plan for a balance of taste and texture as you plan your dishes.

image of salmon dinner
Visual Appeal

This is the main focus here on Pretty Tastes Better (though I expect to touch on all of it at one point or another). It’s well proven that the eyes truly do eat first – how our food looks and smells affects our enjoyment and even our absorption of a meal.

Your takeaway

So what makes an appetizing plate? One that appears full and satisfying, not sloppy or overblown, has varied spacing and height for interest, without being overly contrived, and includes complementary colors and textures, rather than a boring monotone. Bottom line? A plate that is carefully composed is just more appealing than one that is slapped together.

​It may seem like a lot of things to consider, but your plates will improve if you do nothing more than think ahead and keep these points in mind as you plan what to make and how you will make it. Just that simple consideration will help you put together a more beautiful plate.

​I’ll be posting in much more detail about specific plating styles and techniques, so watch for those posts soon. Please comment below and share your favorite plating methods, or tell me if there’s something specific you’d like to learn!

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Garnishing 101

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